I hope I break my leg

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21st CENTURY ENTERTAINMENT * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Mouse/Keyboard * Out now

Midway through the 21st century, man has finally mastered the technology required for travel to, and colonisation of, distant planets. The first starship, Deadalus I, set off in the year 2052 heading for Wolf 359, a small red star some 8.1 years away from Earth.

As the scientists arrived some generations later they discovered that the dual star solar system was entirely devoid of planets. There was no more in that solar system than a large number of asteroid belts. On closer inspection it appeared that among the asteroids there flew thousands of tiny craft, automatically controlled mining vessels. It seems that previous colonists has destroyed all the planets so they could mine more efficiently.

Deadalus I headed for the only lump of rock bigger than an asteroid but smaller than a planet, a moon that no longer had a planet to orbit. This moon, christened Frontier Alfa, was inhabited by a race of independent capitalist and unscrupulous robots and their creators the Remusians. The Remusians were small bug-eyed humanoids who took a much less active role in the colony than the Roboforms.

The Earth starship was soon captured by the Remusians, who enslaved the human habitants. Some of them escaped capture however, and established a small colony of their own. They set you up as a trader, with the ultimate aim of making enough profit to be able to buy the whole colony and become supreme leader, thereby being able to free the enslaved humans.

This 3D vector graphics-based game combines violence and trading on a planet's surface, in the classic formula that was pioneered by elite in deep space. In Moonfall though, the gameplay is more regimented than the random nature of other games.

Ten missions lie in wait for you, ten objectives that must be completed very successfully so that the maximum gain is made from each, whether it be a reward for capturing an outlaw, or profit for some shrewd trading.

Outlaws are something of a problem. They are all too keen on trying to hijack your cargo and possibly your ship. The reason the moon attracts so many outlaws is that the Roboforms don't care what they buy and sell, immoral, amoral or just plain dirty. If it presents a chance to make a profit they will go for it. The majority of the missions consist of some reasonably derring-do type stuff - rescuing hostages, meeting avengers from a crime organisation, all sorts of stuff. But the trading remains the bread and butter of the gameplay.

Gameplay is the main problem with this game. There is far too much long distance flying involved as you travel from city to city, base to base, with nothing of interest in-between save for loads of stone pinnacles. Trading is slow and laborious and if you do occasionally happen across another vessel and try to engage in battle it turns into a stand off.

Just facing each other and shooting is hardly the most enjoyable shoot out I've ever seen. The simplicity of the vector graphics is forgivable if they have been deliberately sacrificed for speed, but sadly this is not the case.

Speed seems to have been sacrificed for something else, but I'll eat my horse if anyone ever finds exactly what it is. The landscapes are drab and boring and the interiors of the bases are drab beyond belief. You enter the 'pub' to glean some info but it looks just like every other room - only when you log on to the computer do you get asked for a drink, in a separate interfacing screen. Surely a sprite-based sequence would have been better than an empty room with a computer at the far end?

Moonfall is essentially a wasted idea. The theory behind it is good but it is so poorly implemented that it just does not bear thinking about. But if you are in the mood for something restful this may be the one to consider. Did I say restful? I think I meant sleep inducing.


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HEWSON * £24.99 Joystick

Ever since Elite arrive on the 8-bit scene all those aeons ago, there has been a plethora of space-trading games, aimed at creating a futuristic world where only the rich survive. Moonfall is set on any unruly moon populated with jaded space pilots and product-consuming terraformers.

You are a crew member of the starship Dedalus, which has been forced to crash-land on a moon called Frontier Alpha. The crew have been taken hostage and you've been given a job; completing dangerous missions for trading of bounty-hunting purposes.

The game-world is represented in full colour 3D. The screen updates are fast and there are some nice touches in here, for example the sun rises and sets plunging you into a deathly night in which rotten pirates enjoy robbing you of your hard-earned cargo.

Hey, pssst, buddy got any water?
Powerplants, factories and moonbases pepper the surface of the planet. These are represented on a navigation screen which enables you to chart your course around the moon. Each settlement has landing pads. Plonk your skimmer craft on one of these and you can enter the settlement. Enter the trading room to re0equip your ship, get some information or simply have a beer in the pub.

The trading screen enables you to buy a host of consumer desirables such as plankton, ant farms or just plain old water. The graphics at this stage show an alien chappie, who mouths off when you ask for something. He's the bloke that you've got to buy everything off, buy you can't judge whether he will drive a hard bargain just by looking at him.

The prices of goods varies from place to place, which is one of the ways you can make money. On the trading screen you can also equip your ship. Armaments include mines, add-on lasers and missiles. These are essential if you're to survive more than five minutes outside the settlement. However don't expect to be able to afford the latest in the state-of-the-art weaponry at your first outing.

Where's your indicator, scum?
Flying around the planet is simple. Simply work out where you want to go according to a compass, gain altitude and kick in the engines. Once you've cleared a settlement you can turn the booster rockets on. These let you zip between trading posts and are handy when there's a pirate on your tail.

There are plenty of pirates on Frontier Alpha interested in your cargo. The speed and resilience of their ships varies, so no two battles are the same. What's more, they're cocky sods, who enjoy hiding behind rock outcrops and then sticking a large missile up your bum, just as you're about to kick in the boosters. Your ship's plasma lasers are pretty ineffective against everything. Stock up on missiles however and you can ruin their day.


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Handelsspiele gibt es viele: Egal, ob Reederei oder Kohlebergbau, fast jeder Wirtschaftszweig hat inzwischen seine eigene Simulation. Das gilt natürlich auch für Weltraumkaufleute - bloß, daß die nun wieder eine mehr haben...

...und zwar nicht die schlechteste! Denn, ob man sich nun das nahezu unspielbare "FOFT", das unsägliche "STAG" oder das actionbetonte "Awesome" (wo der mickrige Handelsteil nur als Vorwand für zünftige Weltraumschlachten herhalten mußte), nie wurde auch nur annähernd die Klasse des Genre-Anherren "Elite" erreicht. Sicher, das schafft auch Moonfall nicht so ganz, aber es setzt die Tradition doch sehr ansprechend fort!

Dabei beschränkt sich das Geschehen hier auf einen einzigen Mond. Der befindet sich in einem weit entfernten Sonnensystem, das von den ersten menschlichen Raumpionieren zur Besiedlung auserkoren wurde. Als ihr "Generationschiff" nach jahrhundertelanger Reise am Ziel ankommt, ist die Enttäuschung groß: Der Siedlungsplanet wurde, inzwischen von außerirdischen Bergleuten in viele, kleine Meteoriten zerbröselt. Tja, und zu allem Überfluß wurden die Kolonisten dann auch noch gefangengenommen und mußten fortan auf besagtem Mond Sklavendienste verrichten.

Flucht ist unmöglich, Kampf ist ausgeschlossen, also wird das Gestirn halt kurzerhand verkauft. Dazu muß der Spieler (der einzige Mensch mit Handelslizenz) nach und nach alle Fabriken, Kraftwerke oder gar Siedlungen erwerben. Ähnlich wie bei "Elite" läßt sich der größte Profit durch Handel mit vier unterschiedlich spezialisierten Stationstypen und deren Produktionsgütern erzielen.

Das eigene Raumschiff kann hier auch gleich vollgetankt bzw. mit Zusatzlasern, Solarzellen und anderen Extras bestückt werden; auch halten die ansässigen Barkeeper und Wissenschaftler gegen bare Münze nützliche Informationen bereit. Wer lieber raubt als handelt, kann einem der zwischen den Stationen pendelnden Frachtraumern auflauern und ihn per Laserbeschuß um die kostbare Ladung erleichtern. Ebensogut ist es aber möglich, selbst zum Opfer von Space-Piraten zu werden. Ohne Zusatzbewaffnung stehen die Chancen dann schlecht, denn die Schutzschilde halten nur wenige Treffer aus, und das einzige Leben ist bald dahin. Nur gut, daß sich bis zu zehn Spielstände saven lassen!

Optisch sieht das alles sehr ordentlich aus: Die 3D-Vektorgrafik ist bunt, flott, und ausreichend detailliert, sogar die Sicht läßt sich nach hinten und zur Seit schalten. Auch die Handhabung ist prima, ein praktischer Navigationscomputer und eine unkomplizierte Steuerung garantieren problemlose Orientierung. Und die ist wichtig, denn das Spielareal ist groß, allein die Stationen sind bereits so verzweigt, daß man sich leicht verlaufen kann.

Alles in allem ist Moonfall daher eine komplexe und gut spielbare SF-Handelssimulationen, bei der eigentlich nur eines fehlt: Musik. Daß die wenigen Effekte nicht gerade spektakulär sind, ist ebenfalls schade, aber was soll man machen? (rl)


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Hewson, C64 and Amiga prices to be announced - see Word

After decades in flight the starship Dedalus has finally arrived at the star system Wolf 359 only to find little more than debris. Earthh-sized planets that the crew had once hoped to colonise have been reduced to asteroids by thousands of alien machines. All that survives are two gas giants and the former moon of one of the planets. The latter is christened Frontier Alfa, but a scientific investigation misfires when ship and crew are captured.

Alfa is populated by Remusians and Roboforms. The Remusians are bug-eyed humanoids who created the Roboforms as their servants, only to see them rebel and pursue their own objectives - 'explore, produce make profit'. It is the Roboforms who have captured the Dedalus. Some humans are rumoured to have escaped and set up their own secret colonies, but for the majority of life of slavery seems inevitable. You are determined to escape, though, and have worked so hard the Roboforms have given you a trading licence and an X-terminus freighter.

It turns out Alfa is very popular among pirates who appreciate the Roboforms' habit of selling anything to anyone with no questions asked. In fact, your final objective is to earn enough money to buy every factory, power plant, moonbase and Remusbase on Alfa. This is no easy task with hordes of pirates constantly on the lookout for a lightly armed freighter to hijack.

The X-terminus is a curious beast which is extremely stable, making rocksteady turns without ever banking. It also has two separate engines; one for manoeuvring (in colonies and during combat), the other for high-speed travel between colonies. Unfortunately the latter engine automatically shuts down if another ship approaches, so you cannot outrun the pirates.

The freighter comes with a forward-firing gun, plus homing missiles and mines (dropped from the rear). Additional weapons which can be bought include a drone to distract enemy fire and a stunner (which briefly paralyses enemy forces). You can also buy solar cells (to reduce power consumption), extra shield units (a maximum of four) and attractors (which attract massive sandworms to be captured, and then sold).

Most of this hardware is essential for a long life trading between the various colonies. Bases only have a couple of rooms generally, but besides the trading computer there is occasionally a pub where information can be obtained. There are 18 types of object to buy and sell, ranging in price from three to 7453 lunariums. As you progress you can be offered missions - there are eight in all. You are also given the option of saving the game at base computers.


Phil King Moonfall was written on the C64 and it shows, oozing quality presentation from every pixel. The superb skyscapes and varied bases establish an involving sense of being there which is perfectly backed up by a good range of sound effects. The spaceships are wireframe, but move very quickly and can come in very close, very fast. Although the system is quite happy throwing two ships, plus six mines and cargo at you, unlike the Amiga enemy attacks aren't so frequent that they become aggravating. On the C64 it is quite possible to complete a few trading runs without being forced to defeat an armada of pirates. But when combat does happen it is good fun, not quite ambitious as Elite, but faster.
The heart of the game isn't incredibly complex, and although the underground rooms give a Mercenary-feel, there aren't that many of them and all you are looking for are computers to log onto in search of hints on good trading bases and, of course, missions. Eight missions aren't that many, but they seem good fun and upgrading your ranking to access them adds to addiction. Though not in the same league as the Gold Medal-winning disk-only Space Rogue, Moonfall is well worth giving a go if you have not got a disk drive or simply love the Elite-game-style.
On the Amiga there is an attractive and rapid 3-D system, but here the lack of banking is pretty poor and the nowadays almost essential exterior views are sadly lacking. It is a slick conversion of the 8-bit original, but adds nothing new and doesn't compare to the massive scale of say, FOFT.
Stuart Wynne Moonfall is an interesting Elite variant with a hint of Mercenary thrown in. As in Elite the basic aim is making money via trading, buying low and selling high. It is fairly simplistic, but excitement is added by pirate attacks. Once an enemy ship comes onto radar and the boost engine cuts out until it has been defeated - often if you take too long another ship will join the fray
Combat is again fairly simplistic: Turn to face the enemy, blaze away with lasers and chase when he runs (a nice touch is the mines dropped by fleeing ships to make pursuit difficult). Sadly the inability to bank gives an unrealistic feel which dampens the action somewhat - Elite was more exciting. Where Moonfall does score is in the graphics which are simply gorgeous on the C64. As the day progresses the sun rises and falls, the sky lightens and darkens going from turquoise to pink to black.
At high speed, mountains whip by, taking you closer to a varied assortment of bases, most glittering with atmospheric lights. Enemy ships have a bit of variety and move very quickly - it is great seeing missiles detonate on the sides of ships and when ships finally do explode the scattering of debris is impressive. After the solid 3-D of Space Rogue the graphics aren't state-of-the-art, but their speed and atmosphere help compensate. Furthermore there is a brilliant range of sound FX, everything from the basic engine drone to lightning storms to explosions are top-notch.
Amiga Moonfall isn't in quite the same class: nicely shaded mountains, attractive spaceships and good FX are nice here, but after Midwinter, F-29 and so on it seems rather limited. Another disappointment is that the eight missions secreted away in the C64 game haven't been increased for the Amiga. It is an okay game, but at £25 it seems to lack ambition, and polish - something which the C64 game has in abundance. Attractive graphics here compensate for somewhat repetitive gameplay, contributing to an involving atmosphere which should have you playing for many long nights.
THE WORD - MAY 1991
After a long career as one of the most successful and innovative independent software houses, Hewson Consultants have suddenly gone into receivership. Despite a turnover of approximately one million a year, financial problems led to receivers being sent in to recover debts owed. Currently it is hoped the company won't be broken up, but rather sold in complete form to continue its development of ongoing games such as Rubicon and the long-awaited Nebulus 2.
Once of the oldest companies in the business, Hewson has had a string of hits with games such as Gribbly's Day Out, Paradroid and Nebulus. recently releases have slowed down, with the company determined to make future releases all-format, and also due to work on console conversions. Nevertheless, we hope to see the Hewson label back in some form soon, and not much delay in the release of the impressive Moonfall, reviewed this issue.