Those of us who have access to other, inferior platforms know all about the existence of what are called RTS, or Real-Time Strategy games. Names like Command and Conquer, Warcraft II, Star Craft, Total Annihilation and KKND are bandied around in PC land like nobody's business. Unfortunately, it's also meant that the genre has become rather stale on those platforms and people on the PC say, "Oh look another RTS game, how quaint."
Part of the reason is that these games don't really offer new stuff over their competitors, apart from new missions and different units and buildings, although the titles I've mentioned are the leaders of their ilk.
In fact, at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that Napalm was nothing but a Command and Conquer clone, old-fashioned and just not that interesting. However, even if you're one of these PC-owning RTS buffs, you'll soon realise that Napalm has much more to offer than a simple rehash of the same old units and scenarios.
There are no animated intros on the grounds that they're only eye candy and you've really lashed out your £30 to play a game, not look at pretty pictures, and yet it takes up 174Mb of the CD it comes on. Don't be fooled into thinking that the CD is only quarter full either - there are audio tracks as well, twenty of them to be precise, that play along with the game's action and punctuate the loading.
There are units that you've never seen in an RTS game before, like tunnel construction vehicles that allow you to sneak past enemy defences as though they weren't there, plus fake units and buildings that cost little to build but which can distract an opponent's attention away from the real deal.
There's a huge sense that each landscape is really a huge picture that gets revealed a bit at a time...
One of the really notable things about Napalm is the fact that the terrain doesn't appear to have been built on the fly with pre-formed graphical building blocks. There's a genuine sense that each landscape is really a huge picture that gets revealed a bit at a time because of the meandering of your units, especially when you come across huge derelict skyscrapers or meteors that have ploughed into the ground giving the game something of an otherworldly feel.
In addition to this, although most of the missions are on the order of staying alive for as long as possible and, oh yes, if you can, wipe out the enemy, it's not all trashing your opponents' joints since you'll have to take over buildings or use special units to destroy them and so on.
As for the differences between the good guys (the UEDF, or United Earth Defence Force) and the unnamed robot rebellion, they're slight and mainly limited to different units. However, you might imagine that robots would have no need of 'barracks" or even vehicles (why not build intelligent vehicles?), but they do give a feeling that the robots are an implacable enemy, especially when you see the all-too red blood of a UEDF soldier staining the snow.
The game itself is pretty tough, as players of the demo on our CD (again, for those who missed it the first time around) will attest. The enemy really hound you and will happily run away at the first sign of serious trouble to get more units to come back and punish you for your indiscretion. As such, I reckon it'll take quite some time to get through them all, and then you'll have to start again from the other side...
There are tactics that seem to be quite effective and there's the usual problem of units all wanting to be on exactly the spot you clicked on, so you still have to do the micro-management thing where you have to adjust each individual troop or vehicle until it's in exactly the right place for you.
One of the things that's really nifty about the game is the quality of the animation and sound effects. The units all move nicely and the designs for some of the bigger weapons are superb, like the UEDF's Bastard Tank which has four revolving barrels that chuck out grenades.
The units all move nicely and the designs for some of the bigger weapons are superb, like the UEDF's Bastard tank...
As your vehicle takes damage, fewer grenades come flying out of the barrels per revolution, until you're down to a measly one every couple of seconds and the unit dies. The UEDF don't have it all their own way, though - the robots' Predator tank can curve a football like no other boot... sorry. I mean that it too has a revolving mini-gun-style barrel mounted on top of its chassis that spins at high speed as it chucks hailstorms of lead upon its enemies.
The robots also have one of the best units on the battlefield that the UEDF can't cope to compete with - the spy satellite, which uncovers all the terrain there is. That means you don't have to scout, but you'll have to wait until later in the game to get that and it doesn't come cheaply, or quickly.
Overall, this is an absolutely cracking original Amiga game. You'll need a highly powered Amiga to play it, but it's worth your while since Napalm will keep you engrossed for hours on end in every session. Here at Amiga Format we can only hope that the TCP gaming facility doesn't come out because it may well make this game the biggest threat to bringing out a new issue on time since SWOS first tore the team apart over dodgy offside goals.
For gamers who like a bit of thought to their strategy games, this might not appeal quite as much as the Avalon hill favourite Squad Leader, but those who like the appeal of a game that's easy to get into, hard to complete and incredibly fun to play, Napalm really has it all.