It's my baby now, JR

Oil Imperium logo

HE walks through the swinging glass doors and smiling ag the receptionist, doffs his cowboy hat and neatly throws it to a nearby hook before opening the panelled oak doors to his office.

"G'morning GR, I've got the president on line one for you."
"Put him on hold Marybeth, I have to put out a contract on the head of Rockman Oil and then I'm jettin' out to Oman to show those Johnny-Arabs how a Texan puts out a rig fire".

It's just another Monday morning in the life of one of those breed of men whose wealth comes out a hole in the ground, or sometimes the sea bed. He's rich, he's mean, he's got big boots and he's not afraid of stomping all over people with them.
With the moral judgment of a Pershing missile and the playfulness of a rattlesnake, he means business and he is mean business. He is an Oil Man.

With five million greenbacks at your disposal you take over as MD of a newly formed oil business, hoping to wherever it was the Cobys came from. And why stop there when there is a whole world to exploit, er, explore? Buy up parts of Europe, Malaysia, the Middle East. Turn Alaska into one giant well, grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.

But be careful. In the oil business everybody is a slippery customer. You may find you're out in the Ukraine putting out malicious fires when you discover someone back east is stealing your money. Get back home and put the screws on before they put you to the wall.

The opening sequence determines your preferences for corporate logos and office furnishing, which provide the backdrops for the rest of the game, so make sure you pick one you like. It is not compulsory to smoke cheroots, but an ashtray is provided anyway.

Activating the computer icon treats you to a very nice simulated Amiga Workbench, where most of your transactions take place. You can buy and sell the world from here, provided you have the necessary. Everything done by modem. Perhaps MicroLink will open an Oilnet gateway soon.

After prospecting around and finding a suitable site for your first black gold mine, you can elect to farm out the actual drilling to subcontractors or get the bit between your teeth, or rather into the ground, yourself. This leads into one of the three arcade sequences in OI, the drilling scene.

It looks quite pretty, with lots of stuff going on and numerous gauges telling you everything you wanted to know about drill bits but were too cool to ask.
Actually this is one of the simplest parts of the game. Just keep the drill bit in the middle of the circles displayed top right and everything should come up rosy, or more preferably black, since red oil might be difficult to unload, except maybe to make pink paraffin. And you've saved yourself around $1.5 million into the bargain.

Open your desk drawer and you will find papers enabling you to contract a little subterfuge. Think those guys are getting too big for their cowboy boots over at All American Oil? Go see how they like their storage tanks being blown up!

If your own rigs catch fire you can either jet out there yourself, saving some cash, or give the job to the strangely familiar sounding Ted Redhair. Doing it yourself means parachuting out of an MFI transport plane into the affected area. Obviously more than just a nose for hydrocarbons is required to be a successful oilman.
This second arcade sequence has you running up and down tossing sticks of dynamite down bore holes and running for cover before they blow.

Soap fans will be disappointed to note that the final arcade sequence is nothing to do with kidnapping rivals' children, nor is there any provision for alcoholism or killing your own grandfather to pay back your cousin for running away with your wife. Please, this is a serious simulation.
No, you have to connect two sides of the screen by putting together pieces of prefabricated plastic piping.

Occasionally someone will phone up and offer you a contract for supplying a particular region. Long term contracts can be very lucrative and may mean the difference between survival and corporate takeover, but the penalties can be great.

Graphically stunning, this game exhibits a degree of polish which is far beyond that of the average offering, while the gameplay - taking a poor second place - is sufficient to sustain interest at a reasonable level. The only major failing is the time taken between screens and the bad structuring of some of the menus.

ReLine, after their last hit, Hollywood Poker Pro, proves once again that a mixture of good graphics and loose morals can produce a highly playable product.



Oil Imperium logo

RELINE £24.99 * Mouse and Joystick

A one-to-four player money-making game based on the glamorous life of an oil company tycoon, where time is oney. Playing solo, the first thing to do is decide which company to head and then think about how to spend the juicy five million dollars you're given at the start of the game. Buy a yacht? Pay your Poll Tax? But five 'very, very big ones' don't get you too far: in fact, they just about buy you permission to drill in one of the eight available regions of the world.
Fortunately you'll have enough change to set up a derrick and a storage tank.

By this time it'll probably be the end of the month (game time) and as the game runs in monthly turns, that means the other companies get to make their moves.

Now you're in business. The field is producing and it's time to sell some of that black gold and turn it into greenbacks. The price of the oil depends on supply and demand and can range from about $3 per barrel to over $20. But selling it isn't always easy; you'll have to get it to market by entering one of the arcade sub-games, in which you have to build a pipeline from a-b before the computer builds one from c-d. Complete it, and the dosh starts rolling in, allowing you to think about setting up new rigs and more storage tanks. Then it's a case of increasing your profits and becoming rich.

This is all well and good when things are going smoothly, but accidents happen and occasionally you'll be informed that either your storage tanks have blown up or some oilfield is on fire. For the latter case you can send in fire-fighters - there's no guarantee they'll put it out - or play another arcade sub-game where you run around planting explosives to seal the burning wells. And if you want to get nasty you can hire saboteurs to do some evil deeds aimed at your competitors, or hire investigators to protect yourself.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Sound effects are limited but are OK, as are the infrequent, but jolly, tunes. The graphics are fine, everything is well drawn and the animation in the sub-games is satisfactory. It's not a visually or aurally stunning game, but then it's not designed to be.

JUDGEMENT

Initially, Oil Imperium is good fun. The computer players are tough but not as devious as real human players and if you play with a couple of friends you'll have a great time. There are several games to play - different victory conditions but even so it soon becomes boring and after a couple of good sessions you'' find the gameplay very repetitive. Nicely done and highly enjoyable in the short term, but lacks the detail to keep your interest up.



Oil Imperium logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Reline
Price: £24.95

It's time to polish up on the dirty tricks and perfect that evil sneer again for a game that will bring out the nasty streak in everyone. In Oil Imperium you are an oil magnate trying to wipe out your opponents and gain a monopoly on the world's market. To start with you must establish yourself; build an oil field or two, buy a storage tank and you're all set to reek havoc on your rivals.

Once you've got a bit of money you can hire mercenaries to set fire to oil fields, rob a competitor's bank, blackmail rival agents or blow up storage tanks. Of course, your opponents will be trying to do the same to you, but there is a way to stop them. Detectives can be hired and if they uncover any illegal dealing then a court case ensues where some of the offender's oil fields can be confiscated.

The normal day-to-day running of the company is done from the office, but sometimes you may have to pop out to extinguish the odd fire, connect the occasional pipeline or drill for oil. These three events make up the arcade action part of the game.

It's been a long while since I've seen a game that's as well presented as Oil Imperium, every part of the game is very slick (Good pun, Mark! Ed) and easy to use.

The graphics are very impressive in all respects, right throughout the game, and because of the multitude of possibilities they are also extremely varied. There are very few sound effects but the excellent music more than makes up for this.

You can choose to play against the computer, friends or a combination of both, and what's more, there's four variations of the game to test the budding tycoon to the full. Each time you play is slightly different because of the random distribution of oil.

Oil Imperium mixes strategy with arcade action and the result is a real winner that will have you hooked for weeks. If you want something to get your teeth into then this is the game for you. By the way, don't worry if all this sounds a bit like Dallas, it isn't a dream, it just plays like one.



Oil Imperium logo

Well 'oil' be jiggered. We always thought oil drilling was done Dallas style complete with evil oil barons, champagne lunches and, of course, accompanying bimbos. But Sean Kelly found different when he loaded up Oil Imperium.

Who wants to be a millionaire? Er... me, actually. So long as it doesn't involve any ahrd work or selling various bodily organs that is. And now I've found the perfect way to become one - without risk to life or limb - by playing Oil Imperium. The basic aims of Oil Imperium, the latest game from Rainbow Arts is to make piles (or barrels, in this particular case) of moolah b becoming a JR Ewing clone and exploiting the worlds' natural oil resources.

You play against three other opposing oil barons (either computer or player operated) and can choose to win in one of four ways: by becoming the richest oil baron after three years; by making over $80 million dollars in liquid assets; by bankrupting all three other players or by taking over 80 percent of the market share.

Having made your target choice, you begin with five million dollars (gimme), seated at the office desk.

WHEELIN' 'N' DEALIN
' Now it's time to start wheelin' and dealin'. Pick one of the daunting array of options available and dive in. Each option is chosen from a number of icons which either bring up a further menu of choices, a report, or, erm, something else.

The first thing to do is buy an oilfield (seems logical), and some oil rigs to stick on it. Next invest in some advice on the probable oil yield.

Once you've bought your land, drilling rights and oil rigs, it's time to start drilling. This'll lead you into the first arcade sequence of the game. If you've got the JR touch, then a column of oil will rise up the shaft, and fountain from the top. On the other hand if you're more like Cliff Barnes then you'll probably be presented with a message along the lines of 'Drilling a fiasco. Cost $80,000'. Just the sort of encouragement that a budding oil baron like yourself needs really.

This isn't the only arcade section to the game, two others crop up later on too. The first involves putting out fires on oil wells by chasing round like the proverbial blue bottomed fly, and placing the right amount of dynamite on each well. As for the second arcade sequence, that'll arise when having solid some of your oil, your workers cock it up and you're required to help them put things right. Yup, life's tough at the top.

WHAT A BORE
Throughout the game, seasons will come and go, your pet dog will die, Aunty Mabel will need a new colostomy bag and you'll attempt to expand your empire in any number of ways. Should you, for example, tie half of your output in a supply contract? Get the oil out on time and you will get an excellent price for it. Fail, and as well as looking a bit of a pillock down the 'Wheeltappers And Oil Refinery Owners Social Club'., you could get fines of over $1,000,000.

Alternatively, you could employ spies and saboteurs. They're pretty pricey. But if your rivals' oil wells are destroyed, then you can steal the march and pick up their contracts and trade. If your saboteur is discovered though, then your oilfields will be confiscated, given to the opposing companies, and you won't get 10 percent discount at Shell Garages any more.

You won't be alone in your conniving however, for throughout the month your other three rivals will be hiring spies, buying land, signing supply contracts and selling oil too.

Fortunately, every month a report will tell you each of the other companies' dealings - how much they've invested and how many oilfields or wells they've bought. Checking the newspapers each month will provide more news of the dirty tricks your competitors are up to, and examining the maps will give an indication of who owns what, and what oil wells are up for sale. All vital info to the budding baron.

Have you got the speed, skill and determination to out-JR JR? Would you rather be burning down the opposition's oil rigs or beating them by supplying the best grade of oil and at the fastest speed? Now's your chance to prove that when it comes to oil, you're as slick as the rest. Oil! Slick! Geddit? (You're fired. Ed)

Atari ST reviewJonathan: I was understandably unimpressed by the prospect of struggling through an oil drilling simulation. More accurately. I refused point blank. "It's really good, honest!" they told me, so after checking that their fingers weren't crossed I decided to give it a go. But I couldn't. No way, Jose. So I went for a walk round the block, had some lunch and then came back to it.

Blimey! Monstrously good music, graphics nothing short of awesome, heart-stopping action - and not an oil rig in sight. Then it dawned me. Ooops, I'd loaded Xenon II by mistake!

Flogging oil, as it turns out, is a pretty vicious (or should that be viscose?), business. My attempts tended to go up in flames after a couple of months, at least for the first 82 goes anyway. But I loved every minute of it, or most of them anyway. The ones spent swopping disks were probably the worst, the rest were, on the whole, okay.

Oil Imperium has been heavily dressed up I flashy graphics and loads of unnecessary, but desirable features. From the range of offices available, I plumped for the one with the airliner flying past outside and a plastic USS Enterprise on the window shelf. From the comfort of my swivel chair I then set about disposing of the five million in cash I found myself with.

I bought a pleasant little plot in South Wales, which I was assured was rich in 'black gold', as we in the biz call it, and drilled a hole in the middle. Next thing I knew, the whole thing was in flames and I was frantically trying to work out how the fire fighting bit worked (or didn't, and still doesn't as far as I can see).

Definitely the most unnecessary and hence most desirable bit of the game is the simulated ST on which you can carry out your transactions. I'm not quite sure what the head of a multinational oil business would be doing entrusting his entire worldly wealth to an ST, wonderful though they are, but I liked it anyway.

The next best bits are the little arcade games. These usually spell disaster for a strategy game, but in this case they work quite well. Apart from that wretched fire fighting one of course! Actually, I wasn't too keen on the pipe-laying one either - one slip and you've had it. The drilling bit seemed fine, though, mainly because I didn't muck it up once.

Stripping away all the flashy graphics and gimmicks, and examining the strategy at the heart of Oil Imperium, reveals a game a lot simpler than it first seems. All you really have to do to make any progress is invest as much as possible in as many productive-looking oil fields as you can. And if you think it'll help - send out saboteurs to wreck everyone else's.

The rest is really down to how many millions of pounds worth of gear gets blown to smithereens each month. Quite a lot, usually, when you're playing with several players, however, everyone's too out of breath from rushing in and out of the room to avoid seeing what their competitors are getting up to.

Oil Imperium makes are freshing change from shooting things. Although the little 'game' present on the pretend office computer could be called overkill, it manages to turn selling oil into a fun pastime. Unbelievable, but true.

Amiga reviewSean: This is an excellently programmed, thoughtfully presented and addictive game, with quality oozing from every leak. Oil Imperium is not exactly going to get your trigger finger pumping like an Exxon dead bird remover, but it will provide a good few weeks of entertainment. In the short term, it takes quite a while to get the hand of what's going on in the developing stages. Once you've found your way round the various icons though, and have begun to suss out just exactly what's going on, the game really starts to pick up.

Control wise, Oil Imperium is designed so that you use your mouse much more than your joystick, and barrels of thought went into producing a very user-friendly game. The ease with which you can carry out fairly complex actions with a minimum of mouse clicking is certainly one of the pulling points of this game.

The simplicity of the controls, however, belies the fact that Oil Imperium is still a lot more sophisticated than the couple in the Gold Blend Advert. There's tons to do and billions of decisions to make, all of which effects the development of the game.

Surprisingly, the arcade sequences fir in very well. Whereas in most games of this nature the arcade sections are about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit, here they serve to provide a welcome break from all the brain scrambling involved in the game proper. They're well programmed and funny, and failure in these sequences won't affect your progress in the main game to any great extent.

The graphics are also incredibly attractive throughout. Whether you are putting out oil rig fires in Alaska, drilling in the Middle East, or simply collecting the end of month report on what the other oil barons have been up to, you can be sure that the graphical representation will be nothing less than excellent. The tunes, likewise, are perfectly suited to the mood throughout.

My one worry is that there is not enough there to keep you playing for more than a month or so, and that even with the variety of options, it could become a little repetitive over time. This aside, Oil Imperium is a highly playable and professionally presented game that serves as a lesson to other software houses on how a good game should be presented. Now if only all Amiga games were like this.


Oil Imperium
  1. SUITCASE: Man in a suitcase? Nope, it's a contract for hiring a John Wayne chappie to put out your oil well fires, or aeroplane tickets if you decide to do it yourself.
  2. TELEPHONE: It's for yoohoo! Any telephone messages which arrive will be put up on screen when you click on the telephone.
  3. SPY: Hire Tocket and Crubbs to do your detective work? With stupid names like that, not a chance.
  4. SABOTEUR: Or get a saboteur to destroy Transoil's oilrigs, porchante? Lumme! It's just one decision after another!
  5. DRAWER: Only one person's gonna get their haands in your drawers, and that's you. Why? Because here's where you do all your illegal deals.
  6. THE MAIN OFFICE: Right at the start you get to choose your style of office. Being the cuddly-wuddly pipe and rocking chair type (Eh? Ed), I go for the nice leather chair and fire jobbie.
  7. WORLD MAP: Want to chek who's bought what land? Who's putting up oil wells where? Check out this map.
  8. COMPUTER TERMINAL: Here's where you do most of your wheeling 'n' dealing.
  9. BUY: Get yer oil fields here! Special offer this week.
  10. SELL: Off loading your oil supplies can keep the bank balance topped up nicely.
  11. DRILL: Blimey, this is really boring - boring, geddit? Select this to tap the oil. Leads to arcade sub-game.
  12. STATISTICS: All the latest investment info in pretty graph form, and pretty indecepherable too. (Not on ST).
  13. COMMISSION REPORT: Before you go buying land, it's best to check whether it's got more oil than a bag of McDonalds' large 'fries' or if it's drier than a dingo's dongle. (Not on ST).
  14. NEWSPAPER: Read all about it! All the latest greasy info, and 'financial fillies' on page three.

THE ARCADE SCREENS
Oil Imperium
THE DRILL: In the drilling arcade sub-game you must position the drill correctly and attempt to reach oil. Left a bit! Right a bit! Fire! Oops!
Oil Imperium
THE PIPELINE: I hate this section - here you've got to race against the computer to lay down pipeline. I did something like this to our toilet plumbing once. My Mum wasn't too pleased.
Oil Imperium
THE FIRES: Fire! Fire! In this arcade section you've got to put out the fires before they destroy your oil fields. Not quite as easy as it sounds especially when you're completely crap.