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PSYGNOSIS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

Ork - what name! What you don't know is that the work 'ork' doesn't actually mean anything and - more surprising - that it isn't related to the game in any shape or form.

The main character isn't called Ork, there isn't a planet in the game called Ork, the evil baddie isn't called Ork, so why call a game Ork?
Why not, I say! It's better than Mabel or Edith, after all. Ork is one of those words that you can put almost any letter in front of it and make a new word from - fork, pork, cork, dork, mork, york and errr gork - well, that's quite a few, anyway.

I'm sorry, I'm definitely losing it - it's just that when I see a game with a totally pointless name I crack up and can't control myself. Ahem. Anyway, you play the part of Ku-Kubul, a Heyadahl (that's his race, not a foreign swear word), and yu're training to be captain of a star cruiser.

Ku-Kabul has reached the end of his training and he now faces the final test. Other Heyadahls have taken the test, some have passed while most have never been seen again. No-one knows what Ku-Kabul has to do except his examiners. Armed only with basic twin cannons and an empty jet-pack, Ku-Kabul has to go to the planet Ixion to complete his training by passing the feared final test.

The best way I can describe Ork is to say that it's a cross between The Killing Game Show and Shadow of the Beast. Now Psygnosis are famous for producing games with brilliant graphics and sound but they always seemed to forget one thing - playability.

In the case of Ork, they seem to have rectified the problem because there's more playability than you can shake a stick at. Ork's got really nice graphics, even if it looks as though most of them were ripped from shadow of the Beast.

On the sound front there's a lovely little intro tune, but in-game there isn't a lot to shout and scream about. The sound FX are a little boring and don't really do anything for the game.

I think why Ork has succeeded and other Psygnosis games have failed is because Ork has the puzzle factor to it. Shadow of the Beast was just a fancy beat-'em-up after all and all there was to do was hit things and run around.

Ork, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fishies. The puzzle element means that you actually have to work out what to do, rather than just blasting baddies. There isn't a lot that you can really complain about - it's one of those games that looks nice and plays well. However, it's lacking that certain something, if you know what I mean.

It doesn't really stand out from the rest. I mean, Lemmings had loads of little cute green-haired creatures that tried to commit suicide, but all you've got in Ork is a thing that shoots other things. I mean the character looks like a mutant chicken!

Ork is one of Psygnosis' better games, but it's just not Gamer Gold material. I don't think the public will be rushing out to buy this one - they'll probably go for one of the big licensed games that's a load of rubbish, like they usually do.
Never mind, Psygnosis - there's always Lemmings 2!



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Psygnosis * £25.99

Now I really like this latest offering from the Lemmings peeps. Admittedly at first glance, and for the first couple of plays, it seems to be just another scrolling shoot-'em-up. But as soon as you get into the feel of the game, you begin to realise to there's a helluva lot more to it.

You take on the role of the ork in the title, who is a would-be captain in the space fleet. Your mission then, is to complete a number of tasks to win those all-important epaulettes. Cleverly, though, you're not told what you have to do on each level - yes I'm afraid it's a case of wandering about, blasting the wildlife and looking for objects. To be honest, the puzzles aren't exactly going to tax your brains too much, and the game will often supply an, ahem, cryptic-ish clue if you do actually get stuck.

The real fun in the game comes from discovering (a) which bits of the background you can interact with, and (b) just what the quest for the levels. The thing is Ork does tend to get rather frustrating at times, mainly because the bad guys are particularly tenacious and you've only one life with limited energy, but who said the life of an ork was easy? A sleeper hit.



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Was ist das: Es sieht aus wie eine Mischung aus "Beast" und "Leander", spielt sich aber eher wie "The Killing Game Show"? Was soll's schon sein - der neue Plattformknüller von Psygnosis natürlich!

Jawollo, Ork kann sich sehen lassen. Und das, obwohl die Voraussetzungen nicht gerade die allerbeste waren, kam hier doch jenes Programmierteam zum Einsatz, das bisher nur für "Spell Bound" und "Anarchy" verantwortlich zeichnete - also zwei der schwächsten Psygnosis-Games überhaupt.

Diesmal haben sich die Jungs aber voll ins Zeug gelegt, darum sei ihnen sogar die öde Vorgeschichte verziehen: Die Heydadahls sind ein Volk von Sternenfahrern (bei dem Namen...), ihre Raumflotte genießt einen legendären Ruf in der gesamten Galaxis und Umgebung. Kein Wunder, schließlich sind ihre Space-Schlitten immer bestens bewaffnet und ihre Mannschaften wahre Elitetruppen. Solltet Ihr auch so ein Eliterich werden wollen, braucht Ihr nur eine kleine Prüfung zu bestehen...

Und die ist für einen Raumpilot merkbar würdig genug: Man darf/soll/muß einen reichlich seltsam aussehenden Gnom (oder Ork?) durch zahlreiche Labyrinthe führen: Abgründe sind zu überwinden, Schlüssel zu finden und Türen zu öffnen. Logo, die obligaten Gegner werden unterwegs zerbröselt und klar, Munition bzw. Lebenskraft sind begrenzt, können aber durch Aufsammeln von Symbolen ergänzt werden.

Zur langweiligen Hüpf-, Baller- und Sammelorgie verkommt Ork dabei keineswegs, denn es gilt viele Puzzles zu lösen (wie schalte ich die Lasersperre aus?), und die abwechslungsreichen Gegner fordern den ganzen Helden. Ein Jetpack hat unser Sprite auch dabei, man kann sich aber nur von Abschußrampen aus in die lüfte erheben und auch das bloß, solange der Sprit reicht.

Dann stehen noch ein paar Computerterminals herum, die den Prüfling mit allerlei Funktionen unterstützen: Objekte können analysiert (Freund oder Feind?) und ein Scanner aktiviert werden, ja, sogar der Spielstand läßt sich speichern!

Gut so, denn am Stück kann man Ork sowieso nicht durchzocken, dazu sind die Level viel zu umfangreich, die Gegner zu zahlreich und das Bildschirmleben zu Kürz. Außerdem ist die Sticksteuerung etwas hakelig geraten, einfach hat es so ein Wander-Ork also nicht, zum Bestaunen der (in drei Ebenen scrollenden) Grafikpracht bleibt ihm kaum je die Zeit. Aber es gibt ja noch Zwischenbilder, und die sind sogar noch schöner als die SF Fantasy-Landschaften.

Weniger berauschend dann die etwas farbarmen Sprites, die großformatigen End- und Zwischengegner machen aber alles wieder wett! Man könnte sich jetzt noch darüber mokieren, daß die tolle Titelmusik während des Spiels einigen recht mittelprächtigen Soundeffekten weichen muß - doch am Endergebnis ist nicht zu rütteln: Ork ist ein unterhaltsamer Action-Spaziergang in bester Psygnosis-Tradition! (rl)



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After the slickness AND substance of Leander, Psygnosis' newie disappoints.

After the innovative genius of Lemmings, the slickness of Leander and the adrenalin-pumping bite of The Killing Game Show, this is a bit of a disappointment. An uninspired (or just busy elsewhere?) Psygnosis have resorted to their well-used parallax-scrolling platform-adventure generator once again, and in doing so have come up with a nice looking game which fails to excite on any other level. It's not bad, just uninspired.

Okay, so maybe it's unfair to expect great products every time from a company just because it's got a decent pedigree, but sometimes it's hard to help yourself. Playing Ork is kind of like opening your copy of the National Enquirer to discover that without the make-up, the wigs, the morgage-humbling clothes and the big-time tooth-paint, Julia Roberts (if we're being completely honest) looks just like any other gal.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing actually wrong with Ork, much in the same way that a hung-over Ms Roberts would still cause a considerable stir in the local chippie. It's just sad that underneath all the gloss and polish, there's really not much here that could truly be described as special.

But anyway, let's dissect the game. For a start, the three-layer parallax scrolling scenery would look at home on a Megadrive, and provides an impressive (yet unobtrusive) background for some slick character animation. There's a fair amount of variation in the walk-jump-fall-platform-explore-'em-up gameplay too (at certain points you get to zoom about the levels with a jet-pack. Coo!) and there's a decent showing of gameplay 'extras' dutifully dotted around the place in vintage Psygnosis fashion.

In fact, on first inspection you'd be forgiven for thinking there's nothing missing here. Graphics? It's got 'em. Sound effects? Hmm, nothing special - and there's no real soundtrack - but they'll do. Challenge? Well, the game's big enough. Anything remotely inventive? Ah...

COMMITTING THE ORIGINAL SIN
And there's the problem. There's just nothing new, ground-breaking or even just plain perfect about Ork. Quickly scan through the instruction booklet, and you soon realise that the game plot is spookily similar to that of The Killing Game Show. That's no real problem, Psygnosis seem to be saying.

The Killing Game Show wasn't all that bad, so why not deal up more of the same? (OK, so this time you're an aspiring cadet within the ranks of the Heyadahl spacefleet, as opposed to a convicted criminal. And this time you're facing your final test, in true James T Kirk style, before being promoted to the rank of captain, as opposed to fighting for your freedom, but these are just plot details. The means to your end is the same).

To be more specific, the means to your end is to wander around a series of platform-ridden levels in search of a key object (or series of objects) that will enable your escape to the next bit. Each level progressively requires more complex exploration as different items need to be used at relevant points to help with your escape. In other words, the levels are divided into sub-quests that need to be solved in a strict order. Oh yes, and all this in a robo-module that, like The Killing Game Show, one, bears an uncanny resemblance to ED-209.


In the ranks of seen-it-all-before

Unfortunately the similarities start to grind to a halt around here. There's little of the sense of urgency that accompanied Killing Game Show, for instance - there's no groovy soundtrack, there's no 'instant replay' feature (a real shame - why didn't that idea catch on?) and there's little spark. Instead, there are a series of token gameplay novelties.

For example, at one point on each level you'll find a computer terminal. Stand behind the terminal, hit fire to boot up and a whole array of utilities are suddenly at your disposal.
There's the 'object analysis' feature, which you have to submit ay unidentified object you may have collected along the way to computer-aided scrutiny. What the terminal's conclusion may lack in Hugh Scully charm and materialistic 'how-much-should-I-insure-it-for?' opinion, it makes up for in practical use. For instance, it will hint as to where certain objects need to be used - and in roughly what order - if your escape bid is to be successful.

THAT SHERILYN FENN FACTOR
This is actually very useful. As the game progresses, you'll find yourself in the possession of all sorts of weird and wonderful objects, but with no clear idea of how to use them. The first level is simple. Find the key to unlock the gold store, then pay the toll-keeper at the end of the level with the gold. Easy enough, but the plot soon reaches Twin Peaks complexity in later levels as you have to get your head around a whole Argos catalogue of potentially-crucial objects, seemingly littered around the scenery at random.

Another helpful feature available at the terminal is a scanner. This will flash up a section of map, helpfully pointing out your location - but only after you've activated the scanner module found elsewhere on the level. There's also a save/continue game option, a life-force indicator and a percentage display of how far through the game you've explored.

And then there's (hurrah!) the jet pack. Your first chance to play with this comes on level two. Fuel is limited (although you can pick plenty more up along the way), so it's a good idea to plan your route in advance. This is fun, and carefully deciding when to airborne is crucial to success.

We're running right up to the end of the page, so I'd better be brief. The point is, it's all very well, but these few novelties don't really combine to rescue Ork from the ranks of the seen-it-all-before. It's very slick, it plays well and looks good. But that's just about your lot. There's nothing extra to it, nothing special, and although you won't feel ripped off if you buy it, neither will you feel inclined to add it to your list of favourite games. For my money, the game doesn't do the graphics justice - it's mutton dressed up as a lamb.


THE PARALLAX THAT TIME FORGOT
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The main display of Ork. Here the hero is accessing a computer terminal, which brings up a display at the bottom of the screen, like so.
A lone pterodactyl flaps overhead as our hero lurks behind yet another computer terminal. While accessing the computer's data banks, he's still at the mercy of any enemies that may be lurking around on the surface, so take care. The heart-beat monitor at the top of the screen pulses rhythmically, and weakens as our armour-clad hero takes hits.


SOMETHING IN THE WATER DOES NOT COMPUTE...

Computers don't just play games, you know. Oh no...
In fact some computers can be very useful. Take this terminal here for example - one of many you'll find dotted around the game. Taking advantage of it could prove very useful - indeed, essential - to completing the game. Say you've managed to find yourself a spherical object, for instance - as you have here. The computer will give a hint as to waht it could be used for. Like so:

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So, it could be the key to unlocking some sort of barrier, could it? If you remember to keep an eye out for objects-obviously-in-need-of-other-objects along the way, it's fairly easy to put the jigsaw together.

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In this case, there was that socket contraption just by the start. Now a ball would fit in there quite neatly, don't you think? So stand behind the socket, drop the ball, and hey-presto...

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The energy-beatm shield is turned off and a whole new section of level is there for the exploring! And it doesn't end here. A few more puzzles solved, and you'll have cracked the second task in no time at all!


THAT ORK-WARD FIRST LEVEL IN FULL
Let's take a close look at how to get through that bewildering first level. Its approval is heralded by an atmospheric introductory shot.

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And here's that atmospheric introductory shot in full. Nice, isn't it. Ho-hum. Had enough? Good, let's move on...

You then find yourself plopped down straight into the middle of the action, without the foggiest idea of what to look for, what to do, or, um, anything really. Here, then, are a few little hints'n'tips to help you get started...

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1. Straight into the fray, and our hero finds his robosuited self conveniently placed right next to a terminal. He can't use it yet though, because he has no objects and he hasn't turned on the scanner.

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2. After a few minutes of exploration, you find a key. This is just bound to come in useful later on so you might as well pick it up. You can carry up to eight things at once, so it won't weigh you down.

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3. A few more giant leaps for mankind and a locked gate bars the way between you and a whole stack of gold. Now was it you found a moment ago? (Checks inventory.) Ah yes, that key...

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4. The cunning trick with the key (what powers of deduction, eh?) worked like a dream. As the proud owner of some recently-acquired gold, it's time to find the next obstacle.

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5. Ah-ha. Thought as much. Drop the gold by the sign post, the gate opens and it'st ime to progress to the next level. Now that was level one, a nice 'n' easy introduction to the hassles you'll encounter in...

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6. ...level two! Another nice introductory still sets the tone, then once again it's straight into the thick of things. Except now you have a jet-pack to play with and a few brain-aching sub quests to negotiate...



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"An ork? What the hell's an ork?" cried Amaya Lopez, her multi-lingual skills on the line. Before anyone could reply, she added: "Oh, I know - it's Minus-D, the language spoken by tribes in Denmark. They always omit to use the letter 'D'." (Hmmm... shouldn't that be 'Enmark' then? Ed.)

Luckily, the Heyadahl race weren't fluent in Minus-D. They were, however, unfortunate in looking extremely thuggish despite being a fairly peaceful people. Because of this, other more warlike races fearful of the Heyadahls, attacked them on a regular basis. To counter this threat, the Heyadahls quickly improved their technologically skills, creating a fleet of smart battle space cruisers and forming a training academy where only the crème de la crème would succeed.

The Heyadahl cruiser captains were trained to perfection, and everyone wanted to be one. You play Ku-Kabal, a young, rather odd-looking character with similar aspirations who's spent seven aurms preparing for the star cruiser test. He also knows that those who fail are never seen or heard of again. On the dreaded day, his Examiners inform him about the gruelling ordeal ahead.

There are five yummy levels to complete, consisting of logic puzzles and fearsome fights against a plethora of enemies, including key-guarding end of level bosses. Rather considerately, your examiners pack you off with basic twin-cannons and an empty jetpack.

In addition, your regeneration abilities have been taken away, leaving you with only one life. But before you chicken out, you're told that along your journey you'll find ammo, clips for your cannons, jet fuel, and laser switches with keys to put a hait to any nasty enemy beams and force fields.

If Ku-Kabal does well, he'll be able to collect life-force hearts to give him extra energy. The 'how close you are to pegging it' readout is displayed in the oscillo-scope at the top of the screen - if it shows a flat line, you've had it. En route, you can check your life-force level at a computer terminal, use the handy Scanner mode to survey the surrounding area and bundle up to eight pieces of handy equipment into your inventory.

Amiga reviewAmaya: Ork is a rather unusual little number. It's 'unstraightforward' nature may be slightly off-putting at first glance - in fact, I wasn't really sure what genre of game I was playing.

However, Ork did remind me of The Killing Game Show - another Psygnosis title released back in 1990 - with its combination of nasties, weapons, and different types of keys to collect. It does contain rather fab little touches, like the neat little rocket launcher which sends you zooming all over the shop in your attempt to escape from one level into the next. The Scanner Module can be consulted to help you decipher the section of a particular level and there's also the fact that you have to hack into computer terminals to examine your enemies' scattered objects.

Overall, it's quite challenging - getting from one part of a level to another will not only require manual dexterity, but also the ability to solve varied puzzles. Some of the levels contain more nasties than brain-blasters, but most contain a fiendish combination of the two. It's also frighteningly easy to get killed - particularly if you have the co-ordination of a lemon.

The graphics are high standard, parallaxing scrolling jobbies, and the sci-fi sound effects really egg you on. All in all, Ork is a well-crafted game - not devastatingly original, but containing as much substance and variety as a tandoori mixed grill. However, I'm still not entirely sure why the game's called Ork - unless it's a Minus-D reference to the reckless Ku-Kabdul. Stop