Anything for a fast buck...

Mercenary 3 logo Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

Novagen * £29.99 * 512k * Joystick * Out now

You know what I think of people who live in the Gamma system? I'll tell you. They're a bunch of ungrateful camel spankers. Every last of them. Thankless lizard baiters. Lowdown cheating giraffe wobblers, whatever one of those is.

And do you know why? Because after saving the entire system from oblivion in Mercenary II, they awarded our helpless merc by bunging him in a timewarp prison. Makes your blood boil, doesn't it? Scumbags.

So, when they finally let you out again, guess what they ask you to do? Help them out, that's what. The nerve of it all. It seems that a sinister Mr P.C. Bill has risen to power and is on the verge of being elected. Supreme Big Cheese of the entire cosmiverse (and Denmark). If this happens he'll use his new found political muscle to get away with all sorts of underhand shenanigans. So, fellow mercenarers, all you have to do is to scupper his plans one way or another.

There are several ways to throw a spanner in the works, as there always are in these vast exploring-type games. The game rather handily comes with a hint pack that contains much advice on the ways to win. The most obvious solution is to become a presidential candidate yourself and get elected instead of Bill. This involves signing on as a candidate, organizing your campaign and then waiting for the people to choose. However, life in the public eye means that you must keep your nose clean and follow the election rules or you'll be disqualified.

It's a pity that Bill doesn't have the same sense of fair play, really. He'll constantly try to tempt you into a life of rock and roll gambling on his casino planet, Bacchus. The fiend.

This is the easiest route to success, and others involve much more subtle planning and strategy. How about sabotaging his mining operations, bankrupting his casino, locking him in a specially-built prison or taking on his fleet of combat craft and shooting your way to victory?

There's also a secret solution that only the cleverest players will discover, and it's this one that will shower you with the fruitiest dividends. And I've no idea what it is.

As in Damocles (Mercenary II, fact fans), you have complete freedom around the gamma system and all its planets, moons and outside to choose lavvies. The big switcharoo here is that while you were twiddling your thumbs in the clink, they installed a mighty handy public transport system on most of the planets.

These incorporate taxis, hire cars, buses, InterCity shuttle flights and planet-to-planet space cruises. Oh, and as in Damocles, there's a transporter system that zaps you from one planet to the next in the blink of an eye. All you have to do is find it...

All of this means that finding key locations is a lot easier, as the public transport doesn't bother stopping at useless empty buildings. Well, most of the time anyway. It also means that going from one planet or island to the next is a doddle, whereas in Damocles it was an absolute bugger. So straight from the word go, it's easy to pick up the clues and get on with the task at hand.

And there's another advantage to this new twist. It means that there are other characters to meet. Taxi drivers, pilots, receptionists and, er, taxmen. Unfortunately you can't talk to them, only listen to their words of wisdom. Obviously, some of these characters will unwittingly impart vital info, so keep your ears open and don't go and make a cuppa during a taxi ride. You might miss that all-important hint. If you're an independent sort, you can splash out the cash for your own vehicle (or nick one) and explore the world beyond the transport route.

Indeed, this is the only way to progress at some stages so don't rely on public transport all the time, because just like our beloved BR, it will usually zoom straight past the place you wanted to go.

And so, with a whole galaxy to explore but a few vague ideas of what to do, you must once again battle to save the people of Gamma from their undying indifference. Talk about being taken for granted...

The presentation of Mercenary 3 really makes the most of the ST. Despite the almost infinite number of viewpoints and locations, the whole thing scrolls smoother than a greased-up armadillo. Admittedly, things sometimes look a little empty, but most of the time you'll be marveling at the way the buildings tower above you and the various vehicles zip along the roads going about their own business. The atmosphere generated by these new features really makes all the difference.

The number of locations has gone up as well, as the bus and shuttle timetable demonstrate. There's even a strange building called Europress Publications in there somewhere! A lot of thought has gone into creating a convincing and interesting world for you to nose around in. Inevitably , there are plenty of giant building with nothing in them, but if you're on the right track you shouldn't come across too many.

As usual, the sound is fairly basic, but fret not, for the Amiga version also sports average sonics. It's probably something to do with the sheer size of it all. You get the hum of the engines as the vehicles hover up and down, some hissing doors, and a loud thunk when you walk into things, but that's yer lot I'm afraid. It does its job, and Id rather have a brilliant game with a crap sound than the other way round. I'm sure you'll agree.

As far as gameplay goes though, it's a winner - perhaps a bit too slow moving for hard-bitten arcade fans, but for those who like to ponder over problems rather than leaping in feet first all guns blazing, it's the closest you're going to get to virtual reality on your ST. And it's a damn sight more interesting as well. A large, overflowing bathtub of wonderfulness.


BACK SEAT DRIVING
Why bother driving yourself around when there's always some muggins ready to do it for you? That's what I always say. So to allow you maximum convenience and comfort during your mission, here's how to get about the Gamma system without spending a fortune...
Mercenary 3: Taxi Taxis are plenty there when you need them and they'll take you wherever you ask them to go. Unfortunately, they cost a bomb and the robot drivers on Gaea are always going bonkers.
For the Mercenary on a budget, the bus is ideal. It costs nothing, but often takes you all over the place before reaching your destination. If you can get the hang of the schedule, the buses are probably the best form of transport. Mercenary 3: Bus
Mercenary 3: InterCity Shuttle To get from one city to another, you've got to catch one of these InterCity shuttles. You can't miss them, as they'll wait for you to return before setting off again. Fairly expensive and the pilot on the Gaea is a maniac.
Interplanetary travel is achieved via these deep cruisers. They cost an absolute fortune, but you can gleam some handy hints from the pilots if you're lucky. There is a cheaper and quicker way to planet hop, if you can find it... Mercenary 3: Deep Cruiser

Mercenary 3 logo

Novagen return would-be money makers to the Gamma system in a tale of cash and political intrigue. Can the third game in the Mercenary series live up its Format Gold pedigree?

Anyone who played Paul Woakes' last space epic, Damocles, will remember the excitement of the quest to save Eris from the mighty comet. The financial wheeler-dealings, the scat-of-the-pants flying, the geographical and logistical problems of constructing a powerful bomb. Ah, what an interesting life a mercenary leads! Well now Paul Woakes has returned with the next chapter in the Mercenary story - The Dion Crisis.

Following topical matters (as computer games often do), Mercenary III has a more political edge than the previous games in the trilogy. President Margaret (no relation) has been ousted from the government and a new premier is about to be elected. Unfortunately, the man leading he polls... well the only candidate, is a bit of an egomaniac by the name of Mr PC Bill. He bullies and oppresses people who oppose him to get his own way, and his latest venture - an open cast mining establishment on the beautiful North Island of the planet Dion.

This would not only ruin the scenery, but cause untold damage to the ecological system of the planet. The benefits that Bill hopes to gain from this venture are purely monetary. Many people may argue that this greed for power and wealth stem from the suffering he underwent during the Milkway War, but to tell the truth he's just a rotten bounder! Once again you play the mercenary of the title. After rescuing the planet Eris from destruction by the comet Damocles (and being paid 50,000,000 spondulicks for your trouble) you were arrested for illegal activities you underwent during the mission, such as nicking things and flying unauthorized vehicles). Rather unfair to a man who single-handedly saved the world, but the law is, after all, the law!

Going straight
Mercenary III starts with you being released from prison, with a message from PC Bill demanding your presence. After a taxi journey and flight through space to his headquarters, you find out what a beastly chap he is.

There are six ways you can do this, five of which are detailed in secret documents included with the game. However, these don't tell you how to complete every step of the adventure - they just give you hints on how to complete a certain percentage of the quest.


Mercenary III gives too much of an impression that it should be called Damocles II

The first method is to usurp PC Bill's plans by entering yourself in the election, thereby stopping Bill from becoming president so easily. That way he won't be able to get the legislation allowing him to start mining on Dion passed through.

Secondly, you could take the mob-method. This involves winning so much money in the casinos of Bacchus that Bill's empire will not be able to support itself.

The third way is to arrest him and get him locked in a secure prison - which doesn't yet exist! For this you will need to get one built and actually catch Bill.

Another way is to go straight to the horse's mouth and blow up his entire mining operation. His lack of insurance money means he will not be able to continue.

You could also try play and take on his flying troops. That method ought to shake him up just a little bit!

The final method is for advanced players only. This is because the actual course of action is a total mystery, so you will have to put your very best Sherlock Holmes detecting trousers on for this one!

The continuing saga
When the first game in the Mercenary series appeared, it caused quite a stir thanks to its fast wire-frame graphics (gosh, how quaint) and extensive plot. After a long wait, the sequel finally appeared on the Amiga to similar adulation. The same humorous approach was there, but the game system had been massively improved. The graphics were more solid, the playing area was much bigger (ranging over a number of planets rather than just one) and the plot more involved. When the release of Mercenary III approached the horizon, people started getting excited once more - and why not? The first two games in the series were stormers, so the third should be equally impressive, right? Well... er...

Now we hit the crux of the matter. Mercenary III is without doubt an impressive game. The plot is witty and engrossing, the 3D graphics are smooth and solid and the game's scope is huge. But...

The main problem is that the whole atmosphere is very similar to Damocles. Sure, there are new tasks to complete, and the addition of other characters makes the game have a more human feel. However, there is no real interaction between yourself and the characters you meet. It's as if you're travelling around a solar system populated by automatons. If there had been more of a feeling of actually conversing with the other people you come across, then maybe there would have been more to keep you interested. As it stands though, Mercenary III gives too much of an impression that it should be called Damocles II. Comparing the differences between this and Damocles with the leap from the first game to the sequel is like putting a ping pong ball next to a hot-air balloon.

For those of you that haven't played any of the other games in the series, then this will make an excellent space adventure. If, on the other hand, you've played the others to death and are expecting something new to present a challenge, prepare to be slightly disappointed. You've been there many times before.


ON THE BUSES
Completing the adventure in Mercenary III takes quite a bit of travelling, no matter which of the six solutions you attempt. In order to travel around the various planets and locations of the Gamma system, you'll need to make use of a number of types of transport. Unfortunately there is no way of getting a free ship as in Damocles. On this one you either have to get enough dosh together to buy one or use public transport. There are five methods for journeying between locations: Mercenary 3: Shuttle
SHUTTLES
PC Bill lays on a shuttle service for getting between the starting point and his HQ on Tolosa, but this is a strictly limited service. Other trips will sting your wallet heavily, not to mention taking up a lot of time.
Mercenary 3: Bus
BUSES
A cheaper way of travelling on some planets is to nip on the bus. You can use your bus pass to get around on these, but make sure you pay attention to the route, otherwise you could miss your stop.
Mercenary 3: Transporter
TRANSPORTERS
This is by far the cheapest way of travelling between most planets. No sooner do you stop in than you appear at a new location. Watch out you don't get lost in the void between locations though!
Mercenary 3: Taxi
TAXIS
One of the main methods of getting from place to place is by way of the local taxi service. To begin with you can blag lifts on PC Bill's account, but taxis on other planets will quickly nick all your cash.
Mercenary 3: Plane
PLANES
To visit the different islands on a planet, you will more than likely need to grab a ride on an executive jet. These can be costly, but next to the price of a taxi journey this will seem like a miniscule amount.

Paulchens bunte Vektor-Welt

Mercenary 3 logo

Mit gebührenden zeitlichen Abstand zum Vorgänger "Damocles" hat Paul Woakes den dritten Teil seiner galaktischen Sölder-Saga fertiggestellt. Überraschenderweise ist es mal wieder ein Actionadventure mit Vectorgrafik geworden...

Nachdem der Held für seine heldenhaften Taten bereits 50 Millionen Credits kassiert hat, könnte er sich eigentlich zur Ruhe setzen. Aber wer kann schon ruhig sitzen, solange dieser undurchschaubare "PC Bill" herumläuft, von dem keiner weiss, was er im Schilde führt?

Selbst die Anleitung mag ihn nicht, sie zeigt dem Spieler sogar sechs verschiedene Wege auf, wie er den Kerl abservieren kann: Eine Möglichkeit wäre, bei den Präsidentschaftswahlen gegen ihn anzutreten, eine andere, ihn in den Bankrott zu treiben. Oder vielleicht doch lieber einsperren? Seine Mine in die Luft jagen? Warum nicht ein paar Flugzeuge besorgen und sein Hauptquartier angreifen? Die erfolgversprechendste Alternative ist die sechste, aber genau da wird das Manual plötzlich äusserst wortkarg...

Paulchen hat wieder ein ganzes Sonnensystem aus 9 Planeten und 19 Monden voller Handlungsmöglichkeiten, Gags und benutzbarer Objekte (vom Aufzug bis zum Raumschiff) zusammengestrickt. Alte Mercenary-Fans werden darüber begeistert sein, dass man diesmal auch Bus, Bahn und Taxis benutzen darf und viele Personen begegnet, denen man aber nur zuhören kann - erzählen lassen sie sich nichts, Kämpfe spielen auch eine untergeordnete Rolle.

Die Handhabung (viel Stick, wenig Tastatur) geht in Ordnung, dafür ruckelt die Grafik, und der grausige Sound erweckt Tote zum Leben.

Fazit: Gutes Gameplay aber etwas antiquierte Präsentation - ein Söldner für Fans. (mm)


Mercenary 3 logo

The latest slice of Paul Woakes' 3D space epic is here, and it'll find a built-in audience. Newcomers may wonder what all the fuss is about...

That well-worn cliche 'you'll either love it, or hate it' could well have been coined to describe the unique implementation of Novagen's Mercenary and Damocles) is taken a stage further in this latest installment of Paul Woakes space-bound saga of political and military intrigue - Mercenary II looks all set to further polarize opinion.

For those unsure of what the whole Mercenary saga is about at all, it's your prime example of a role-playing, investigative, 3D shoot-'em-up trading game - quite enough to be going on with, I think you'll agree. The scenario is set in the Gamma solar system, in which you play a soldier of fortune with a mission to save civilisation from the designs of an aspiration despot - while at the same time making a fortune for yourself, of course.

This mighty task is presented in a 'treasure hunt' fashion - it's up to you travel the system looking for clues and the materiel (yes materiel, not materials) with which to discharge your duty. The folk you meet on your travels can offer useful information and items can be bought and traded, taking you further towards victory.

There are plenty of planets and satellites to explore and all manner of transport at your disposal, from buses and taxis to aeroplanes and spacecraft. You can hire or buy your wheels or wings and do whatever tickles your fancy, but events have a nasty way of catching up on you in this open-ended adventure.

INTO THE WIDE BLUE YONDER
As for the plot, it's a continuation of Damocles. Many players fell foul of that game's only fatal trap and found their characters faced with imprisonment but - banged up or not - everybody starts out with the same challenge ahead in Mercenary III. Time has passed in the Gamma System and the headline-grabbing character of the day is PC Bill - a rags-to-riches personality whose success in business investment during the system's earliest colonial days has proved meteoric.

PC Bill is now standing for president of the entire planetary system. What's more, his candidacy is unopposed. However, you now have a chance to change all of that because somebody has just given you a Get Out Of Jail Free card - not only that, buy you've received a personal invitation to meet PC Bill himself. Curiouser and (as they say) curiouser.

Imprisoned you may have been, but it seems you weren't kept completely in the dark. You're well aware of Bill's plan to mine the rural world of Dion North, a plan that's as sure to cripple that fragile world's eco-system as a delivery of Sellafield special brew. Your mission is clear - this power-hungry chappie has to be stopped, and you've been given the means to do it.

Along with your freedom comes a bank balance in excess of 50 million credits - the worlds o the Gamma System are thus your to explore (at least, until the point where your money runs out or PC Bill wins the election). And what worlds they are...

THE GRAPHICS ARE SURREAL THING
The first thing you notice is that the perspective applied to 3D objects is surreal. Buildings that look normally proportioned from a distance loom crazily in close-up and consist of massive rooms, wide and low, often with nothing in them.

Most of the time, the only thing that you're playing this on an Amiga is the finely sculpted interface panel occupying the bottom inch of the display. Benson, as the interface is called, enables you to drive or fly vehicles, examine objects you come across and record conversations with the characters you meet. Meanwhile, you develop a good case of myopic vision as you take in a game world that looks not so much as though it belongs on another planet as in a museum.


The best thing... is that there are six ways to complete it

It has to be said that the characters you actually meet are pretty crude-looking too. Rather than using the tried--and-tested 'still portrait and animated mouth' representation, with the occasional blink of an eyelid thrown in for good measure, each person you come across is constructed from filled polygons. As they talk, their drawn-on mouths and eyebrows wiggle furiously, as it living in the Gamma System induces every type of nervous tic going. Is there still a case for such primitive animation and 3D execution after being treated to the likes of Activision's Hunter, Image Works' The Killing Cloud, or any of last year's flight sim releases? I don't really think so.

BACK TO THE FUTURE PART 3D
Of course, getting across the planets and their moons in the system - 19 worlds in all, each with its own orbit and length of day and night - by foot is out of the question. To help you, then, you can hire or buy vehicles or take advantage of - yes! - public transport. The game gives you bus and taxi passes (and a timetable too, for that matter) - taxis, particularly, are only ever a key-press away, and the drivers all chat to you in a friendly enough manner. More than that, they have a system-wide habit of imparting useful snippets of information regarding Mr Bill.

While the driver keeps his eyes on the road, you can check out the scenery, most of which consists of offices (including a certain Future Publishing, though - of course - it's empty!) and can be quite distracting for a while. Watch how many rides you take though - you might think that the cool 50 million you began the game with would cover any eventuality, but it only takes one taxi trip to Bacchus to work out that fares there are clocked up at an astronomical rate - it translates into a seven-figure sum just for getting your bum on to the back seat! Beware - the only tip you should consider is getting out of the vehicle altogether!

Traveling between the worlds is a more complex matter, involving chartering a spaceship. Typically, they are built with transparent hulls, giving you another chance to see what this game has going for it in the visuals department. Once in space, the worlds of the Gamma System appear as variously coloured crescents, as though lit by their sun from the far-side.

You can see the same effect from some planets' surfaces as moons carve their particular arcs across the sky. Unfortunately, though it sounds good it's not actually that impressive - you might want to travel to different planets for a number of reasons, but checking out the scenery isn't one of them.


After five years... they could have come up with a better game than this

So far, so prosaic. Where's the adventure, the excitement, the really wild things? Good question. Playing this game is about as exciting as trying to find the beans in a deserted supermarket. You can spend hours planet hopping without being put in peril by a single polygon. This wouldn't be so disappointing if there were a few more layers of intrigue to peel away, but there aren't.

Mercenary III has open-ended play and exploration alright, but you get the feeling there isn't really much point to it all. All the effort seems to have been directed at the off-beat astronomy - the technicalities of simply creating such a large playing space - with relatively little put into ensuring an involving storyline.

Being impressive from a programming point of view is all very well, but it doesn't in itself do very much for the creation of atmosphere, and nothing whatsoever for enjoyable gameplay.

The best thing about Mercenary III is the fact that there are six ways to complete it, five of which are outlined in hint sheets included in the package (don't read Five Different Ways To Play if you don't want any clues). The sixth is left a mystery, to give you something to puzzle out. You don't get a lot else to mull over in this game - though you do get a lot of time (spent travelling) that'd be ideal for mulling - so I guess not having one possible solution out of six is a kind of bonus.

VERY VECTOR WORLD WEARY
That said though, the concept of alternative solutions isn't really that much of an innovation - a thought that just about sums up the game as a whole. Surely after five or six years living with the Mercenary concept and two previous stabs at executing it they could have come up with a better game than this?

I can imagine that some people will get fun out of the game, but for me life's far too short and precious - I'm tempted to file it, along with the Midwinter games and various others, under 'Yes, it's big and impressive but where's the game?'

Actually. I've got a better idea. You know what I'm gonna do? I think I'll load it up one more time. I'll go to the casino and blow every credit left in my pocket except for the fare back to the planet Mentis. Then I'll walk (yep, walk) back to the jail. And if nobody minds, I'll have my old cell back. Thanks.


TRAVELLING BETWEEN PLANETS, THE MERCENARY WAY
Hang on in there folks, we're coming in to land on Tolosa - I hope that space jock knows what he's doing?
Mercenary 3: User Interface Explanation
  1. Outside temperature.
  2. In-flight elecation from horizontal.
  3. The name of the nearest planet.
  4. Co-ordinates.
  5. Co-ordinates of the nearest city or land base.
  6. In space, the distance to the nearest body.
  7. Compass.
  8. Vehicle speed.
  9. Control panel for object currently in use.
  10. Panel lights, from left: ground proximity warning (eeek!), attack warning and 'run' mode selected.
  11. Credits remaining.
  12. The clock.
  13. Inventory capacity available.
  14. Outside pressure.
  15. Inventory selecion window.
  16. Benson's text messages to you appear right here.
  17. This is the 'Benson' panel. Benson is your friendly computer who tells you where you are, what's going on and even what time it is. Don't you just hate know-it-alls?
  18. The back of the pilot's head. Best not to distract him now, unless you're a committed geologist! Still, at least he's not babbling on.
FIVE DIFFERENT WAYS TO PLAY: BEATING PC BILL
If you've been through the first two adventures in the Mercenary trilogy, don't read this bit. It's a round-up hints for beginners on how to complete the game. There are five ways to go about it...
  1. Beat Bill at his own game.
    You too can run for election. It's a free world (just). You nominate yourself as a candidate easily enough, but how do you convert Bill's votes into yours? If you know anything about politics you'll know it takes TV companies, ad agencies and the like to get your message across. This can have some unusual results, especially when billboards with your face on start being posted on the roadsides! This approach can work - once you have supreme executive power, you can put the lid on Bill's anti-environmentalist activities for good. It's a bit boring, though....
  2. Bankrupt PC Bill
    Among your adversary's businesses is a casino. In the casino there's both a fruit machine and a whieel of fortune. But, as any gambler knows, you can't guarantee to win unless you cheat... Should you clean the place out, Bill won't be able to come up with the money for all that digging equipment - JCB's don't come cheap - but be warned, this approach can easily bankrupt you if things go wrong.
  3. Blow everything up!
    Isaac Asimov once wrote that violence was the last resort of the incompetent - but that was before computer games! Enough explosive is scattered across the system to blow Bill's big ideas to kingdom come. The only thing is, you have to find it...
  4. Put him in jail
    You don't think a guy with Bill's ambition could be honest, do you? Of course not, he's a crook. The problem is, if you're going to have him locked up, you need to find the proof. And if that isn't enough, you have to have a jail built that's strong enough to keep rehabilitating. And if that isn't enough, you have to catch him yourself. Doesn't anyone else do anything around here? (Hello?)
  5. Shoot-'em-up
    Of course, there has to be at least one, opportunity for mega-violence, and this is it. Stellar Factors, a shipbuilding company has just the job - a ship bristling with weaponry. It requires only one minor modification: your opponents are going to shoot back, so you need a shield!

Mercenary 3 logo

Two years after the events in Damocles, and a spell inside, our hero emerges from the Time Warp prison on Metis for a new adventure. With dreams of retirement and a 50,000,000 cred reward for saving the planet he's going to have some fun. Yet things on the world are not as harmonious as he'd like, and industrial mining typhoon P.C. Bill is planning to rip the heart out of the planet the Merc fought so hard to save. Hanging up the pipe and slippers for a while longer, you decide to save the environment one last time.

Aided by a computer sidekick, Benson, you'll quickly realize just how big a task this is going to be. The planet is huge, with 3D polygon buildings littering the landscape, and there are at least four more planets to explore. Transport plays a mayor role in the success of your mission. However, although the public system I easily accessible, taxis and space shuttles are free while enjoying P.C. Bill's legendary hospitality. This 'Hospitality' doesn't last long, though. Once exploring on your own you realize that 50,000,000 creds is not as much money as it was two years ago. A 60 second taxi ride suddenly costs more than a beachside apartment on Venus! You can walk and run but most of the buildings you visit are very far apart and take days to reach.

The main reason for taking a cab around the world is to get information. The various drivers/pilots impart tit-bits about P.C. Bill and drop clues on how to reach him. One driver lets slip that Bill's standing for president and that you would make a great candidate. It doesn't take a genius to work out what to do next! In fact, the programmers have included six separate solutions to the game, five of which are included inside the box in sealed envelopes. Each one gives a varying degree of the solution from 50 to 90 percent. The last solution remains a secret for the player to discover.

Interaction with the virtual world is limited to picking up objects, examining them and talking to people. There are also opportunities to trade and sell objects collected in the Trading Posts with hagglers preferring to operate with commodities although they'll take your cash if you ask them nicely. Slipping inside ground vehicle, spacecraft and aircraft is also possible if you have the right key and/or money. The latter also doubles as a ground vehicle, allowing you to speed across the planet's surface. By suddenly pulling up the nose, it's possible to leave the atmosphere for the occasional dog fight with Bill's private fleet.

Vast the world may be, detailed it's not, and although there are lots of buildings to explore, including Bosher's Bar, the Bank and Space Ports, their contents are as interesting as the complete memoirs of Donald Sinden. Uncle Casino, where you can gamble for the jackpot of up to 50 million and disrupt the economy at the same time, consists of a large four-walled room and a single square machine. Most of the buildings have more than six floors with four of them totally empty!

Apart from the space shoot 'em up much later in the game, it's the usual 'gather object, find clues and progress'. It's feasible to wander around Dion for hours without accomplishing anything. Sound throughout is limited to pings, pops and grinding noises;' nothing is really special and apart from the jet engine noises it's unconvincing and lacking. I prefer a more involved adventure.



Mercenary 3 logo

David McCandless is well-renowned for his mercenary tendencies. This mad him the ideal person to review the sequel to Damocles. It ended up as more than just a one-night stand...

You know those nightmares you have - the ones where everything is a bit weird. The ones where perspective is a bit off, and everything is made of Lego.

Trees look like signposts, buildings are strangely empty and people look like cardboard boxes. If you've had a fairly decadent childhood, you'll know what I'm talking about. You also won't be too disorientated by the Merc III 'world' - as huge as it is weird. The playing area is not just a town, not just a city, not just a country, not just a planet, but a whole solar system - a good 4,000,000,000 km in circumference, packed with 19 planets and 19 moons.

What's more, you have complete freedom. You can do anything, go anywhere, meet anyone and say everything. There's public transport and taxis to mooch about in, there are spaceships and battle craft for interplanetary jetsetting, there are casinos, shops, TV stations, farms, monuments - Legoland.

This freedom isn't for your benefit - you're not a playboy, you know. You have a mission. A power-hungry politician, PC Bill, is operating an eco-unfriendly mining operation on the beautiful planet Dion. He's running for president in the whole system as well, and aims to turn all planets into industrial sludge. He must be stopped. But how?

Just blow him up.
He's got his own heavily-armed personal army to prevent such a tactic.

Okay then, sneak in and pop a few cherry bombs in his works.
Well yes, it's possible. His equipment isn't insured. But you'll need a huge explosive charge and detonator. Tricky to locate in an entire solar system.

Alright then - tell the cops.
Feasible, I suppose, but you'll need to build a high, high security prison to thwart any rescue attempts by his minions and you'll have to capture him.

I suppose I'll have to get myself elected in his place then.
You could. But you'd to have intense media coverage and popular support. Tricky.

All these options are possible. The real man's tactic (going in guns blazing) only chugs up a mere 50%, while tarting yourself up for the TV voters get 100%. I mean, come on.

Amiga reviewMacca: I'm going to tackle this part of the review in a 'relative' newcomer to the Mercenary scene' tone. I brushed shoulders with Mercenary 1 once, and I think I may have met Damocles at a party once. I was a bit drunk. Mind you, you have to be pretty drunk to get off with a computer game. And desperate.

Merc III for me, a virgin (as it were), was a mite surprising at first. Not used to moving about and having all sorts of objects flashing across my vision, it was like having a hangover, in a way. I clambered into a taxi and was surprised to find the rather crudely-drawn driver engaging me in conversation, dropping clues like peanuts. And then, before you could say 'polygon', I was in space! Jetting between the planets, with the rather crudely-drawn pilot chatting amiably to me. Very talkative, these polygons. Then, suddenly, I was facing my evil adversary, PC Bill, who looked like he was made of cornflake packets. He teleported me to another planet, where a not-so-chatty (but still crudely drawn) taxi driver casually leeched away some of my 50,000,000 spondulicks. And that was in the first ten minutes.

I'd have to say that if you haven't snogged Damocles, or at least had an lame conversation about A-levels with Mercenary, then you could be out of your depth with Merc III. That's not to say it isn't accessible or playable. It's just that you won't have the necessary experience or street wisdom to make a dent in such a huge game.