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The year is 2058. Technology has improved so vastly in the last 20 years that every association and company is lined into a common computer network. The centre of the world's technology scene is Tokyo, particularly an area known as Chiba City. This is where the Cowboys hang out.

Cowboys are 21st Century hackers, using state-of-the-art machines called Cyberdecks to 'jack' into the alternate reality that houses the mega-corporations' computer systems. This place is Cyberspace. Fortunes can be made by someone who's expert at traveling in Cyberspace, but the risks are costly. One false move can result in death.

In Neuromancer you play a down-and-out cowboy who has lost access to Cyberspace, lost his money, lost his deck and is fast losing credibility in the hacking world. You awake with a groggy head in a run-down bar called the Chatsubo. From here you have to find your way around Chiba City, attempting to recover your deck and find enough information and equipment to upgrade to Cyberspace entry level.

Walking around Chiba City is achieved by moving a cursor around the screen so that it points in the direction you want to go, then holding the button. When you find someone, you can select an option from a series of bubbles to speak to them. Only by planning conversations, carefully will you glean anything from the inhabitants of the city.

You can also access computer matrices with a deck (once you have one), which could either give you money or useful information to help you further in the game. Upgrade enough and you can regain your status as a top Cowboy and solve the mysteries being penetrated by the conglomerates in Cyberspace.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

One of the main charms of William Gibson's book and the whole genre is the dark, oppressive and generally run-down atmosphere that it evokes. Unfortunately, although Neuromancer the game has some nicely drawn and animated screens, the atmosphere of the whole thing is much too pristine. Where are the rough grebo styles? Where are the deteriorating buildings retro-fitted with new hardware? Where is the shady, smoggy feel of a high-tech city? Left out, it seems. The sound does little to back up the atmosphere either, consisting of a few weak tunes and the odd thin spot effect. The presentation does its job - but unfortunately, that's about all.

LASTING INTEREST

As is the way with most role-playing games, Neuromancer has a fair amount of depth to the gameplay. The clues help you gradually find your way through, but a great deal of thought and memory are required to make it all the way. It will be some time before you manage to get past the problems in Chiba City and jack into Cyberspace, and since Cyberspace is where the serious gamesplaying begins, it will still be quite a while before you complete the game.

JUDGEMENT

Up until now, there has been little in the way of Sci-Fi Amiga RPGs for techno-buffs to get their teeth into, so Neuromancer (despite having been around on 8-bit for some time) has an original edge. The gameplay is involving and should have role players struggling through for some time. Fans of the original book may be disappointed, however, since the atmosphere is rather removed from the gloomy scenes evoked by the novel.

Nevertheless, Neuromancer is still a more than reasonable adventure and stretches the old grey matter for a good while.


Neuromancer logo Amiga Joker Hit

William Gibson's gleichnamige Romanvorlage mit Kultstatus gibt's seit Ewigkeiten, und die C-64 Version des Games hat auch schon graue Haare. Auf den Amiga kommen die Cyberpunks zwar spät, aber gewaltig: Bei Interplay hat man die gesamte Grafik für unsere "Freundin" runderneuert!

Neuromancer spielt in einer nicht allzu fernen Zukunft - ob jetzt im Jahre 2017 oder doch eher 2058, darüber ist sich die Verpackung mit der Anleitung nicht ganz einig. Auf alle Fälle sollen dann wunderbare Verhältnisse erscheinen. Die Welt wird per ZDV regiert, um an Geld zu kommen, versetzt man einfach seine Organe im Austausch gegen billige Plastikimitäte und der Umgang mit dem Computer sieht doch etwas anders aus als Heute. Nicht nur, daß es beispielsweise einen Orden gibt dessen Mönche alte Computerspiele wie "Pong" anbeten - der absolute Clou ist der Cyberspace! Dieses gigantische digitale Netzwerk bildet praktisch eine eigene Sekundärwelt neben der "realen" (Spiel-) Welt. Die Verbindung zum Cyberspace wird von sogenannten Cyberpunks hergestellt, den Daten-Cowboys von morgen. Klar, daß der Spieler in die Rolle eines dieser Cyberpunks schlüpft, und da das Ganze ein (Rollenspiel) Adventure ist, steckt man natürlich auch gleich in Schwierigkeiten...

Unser Held ist total abgebrannt, und in seinem Freundeskreis häufen sich mysteriöse Todesfälle. Aber das schlimmste von allem: Sein Deck, das er unbedingt zur Kontaktaufnahme mit dem Cyberspace braucht, ist auch noch futsch! Also macht er sich auf den Weg durch die reale Welt von Chiba City und versucht Geld, Paßwörter, sowie Hard- und Software aufzutreiben - einfach alles, was man so zum Überleben in der Zukunft braucht.

Die Programmierer von Neuromancer standen vor der Aufgabe, DIE ultimative Romanvorlage für ein Computergame zu versoften. Und alle Achtung, sie haben ihre Sache wirklich gut gemacht. Die Atmosphäre von Chiba City kommt unvergleichlich gut rüber, das ganze Spieldesign ist von A bis Z gelungen. Man begegnet haufenweise andere Spielcharakteren. Konversation wird im Multiple-Choice-Verfahren gemacht. Aber Vorsicht: Ein falsches Wort, und man hat einen Feind fürs Leben! Gesteuert wird mit (abgesehen von Texteingaben) ausschließlich mit der Maus, für besonders flotte Fortbewegung von Bild zu Bild benützt man die Cursortasten.

Die komplett neu gezeichneten Grafiken sind eine Augenweide und prachtvoll animiert - vermutlich läuft das Game deshalb nur mit 1 MB. Die Ladezeiten sind angenehm kurz. Überhaupt wurde in jeder Hinsicht großer Wert auf Benutzerfreundlichkeit gelegt. Lediglich der klägliche Soundtrack der Gruppe Devo will nicht so ganz im schöne Bild passen, aber während des Spiels stimmen die gelungenen Jingels und FX dann wieder versöhnlich.

Also ein absolut empfehlenswertes Spiel - Anfänger seien allerdings gewarnt, Neuromancer ist selbst für Adventure-Experten eine ziemlich harte Nuss! (mm)


Neuromancer logo CU Amiga Screen Star

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Rather than take the easy option of a straight translation of William Gibson's novel, Brian Fargo and his associates at Interplay have created a while new scenario based on the cyberpunk plug in, tune out world of electronic mind hacking. Containing many of the features predicted by Gibson.
Neuromancer is all the more exciting because a number of his ideas are being developed today.

You begin the game in a compromising position (face down in synthetic spaghetti and very hung over) with no clues as to who you are or what you are supposed to be doing. After chatting with various characters the mysteries of the game begin to unravel, along with some very shady characters such as the rather corrupt police force.

There are various levels of communication within the game, the most obvious being the spoken word, which happens in the main part of the game where you walk about in the 'real world'. By logging on to the various computer networks, you can meet many more people, as well as getting a lot more done through clever 'hacking' - such as altering computer records to state that certain overdue bills have actually been paid.

The final and most interesting section, is cyberspace. A completely computer generated world, cyberspace is where you get to meet all the big guys and where all the real things get done in a surrealistic 3D landscape full of strange geometric objects. Played almost as an arcade sequence, you have to try and break into the main computers using ICEbreakers, pieces of high level software designed to crack the security protection, called ICE.

The main problem with Neuromancer is getting started. As you begin almost totally clueless the game seems a little aimless. Once you've progressed further into the game, however, things start to fall into place. The puzzles are varied, yet logical, and unlike most arcade adventures, you never feel like you're in a position where you have nothing to do. The wealth of information you collect means that making notes is essential but, be warned, there are more than a few red herrings.

It has been far too long in appearing, but I'd be mad to say it wasn't worth the wait. A perfect primer to the world of cyberpunk.