Pandora logo

THE spaceship Pandora - a generation ship I which colonies grow and produce everything they need - has completed its 200 year mission. Still, after all this time the ship is bound to be empty. Someone has to board it and strip it of the alien artifacts it has collected on its voyage through the galaxies.

That someone is you, but as soon as you beam aboard you realise that something has gone wrong: The 200 year old defence system is still active - move and you will die instantly. But move you must - the ship is going to release poison spores on the Earth unless you can set the self destruct.

This gives you a set of objectives: Find as many alien artifacts as possible and drop them into the eject cute. Find the self destruct and set it, and find the escape ID and get off the ship before it blows.

No-one, including you, can move on the ship without an ID. Fortunately, an entry officer runs up to you and hands you hers, though this means instant death for her. A touching sacrifice. For the record, the entry officer was called Annie in earlier versions but in deference to the Commodore 16 bitter she is likely to be renamed Amy.

Wandering around the 2D game you will encounter a host of aliens, not all of them unfriendly. How you react to one will affect how others will react to you. For example, you may trade with characters, but not very successfully if you have killed other popular characters.

If you have wiped out evil creatures - such as the bank manager - then you are more likely to be trusted. There are clues to how popular the aliens might be in the locations where you meet them.

In your quest to collect artifacts you need to learn how to deal with individual characters. This may mean picking up the right ID. There are four levels of clearance. Alpha, delta, pi and omega. They work in ascending order, so you can go everywhere with an omega pass. However, the exit pass has no clearance.

If you have made yourself unpopular you will have to fight the other characters. With a gun you can attack them from afar, and indeed you have to use this to attack the thief - he will steal your weapon in hand to hand combat.

The fight scenes are great, a cross between a scrap in Tom and Jerry and an old Batman programme, complete with BIFF! And WHACK! Captions. To fight a character and advancing, a power meter helps you time each strike.

Weapons have different strengths and speeds, while the characters also have varying stamina and swiftness. Choosing the right weapon helps, as does having the kryptonite which weakens all foes, though the more scraps you get into the weaker you become. You can recover your strength using the brain, but this only works once.

When the ship reaches Earth you can elect to play on. Your home is destroyed but you can keep on collecting artifacts and picking up points.

Pandora is the first major program from Sahid Ahmad, with wonderful graphics by Terry Greer and games consultancy by David Eastman.
The game's design draws on many sources: Wandering around the ship owes much to Hewson's Paradroid, the fighting owes something to Gauntlet and scoring to Atari Star Raiders.

Film buffs will spot references to Silent Running and the cult film Dark Star. Watch out for the Wackobrain which looks like the Dark Star alien and will tap its toes.

The Amiga conversion is bound to be the best. Shahid uses the blitter extensively, the music is by David Whittaker and the whole thing runs very much faster than on the ST. This will allow Shahid to give some more of the characters shadows and tweak the gameplay.

Oh, and make sure you check out what the musician is carrying.

Pandora logo


Or, once you've opened the box, dare you open the box? Pandora is a seventh generation computer guiding a spaceship of the same name in search for alien life. Pandora evidently found it, since it's now out of control.

You're an obliging Intergalactic Salvage Operator who's contracted to investigate and disable it - funny how the best job opportunities fall your way eh? But it's not just a question of delivering dead junk back to Earth, for this ship is alive and fully intends to return to Earth on its own accord.

The fact that it may come and greet us at terminal velocity hasn't entered into its head. So you don't have a lot of choice really. You have to disable her or die in the process.


You guide your character around the ship's interior in a search for the access codes and keys to shut down the drives. YOUr route to this goal requires a certain amount of 'trading' with other characters on board.

Although most of the useful personnel are dead, the place is crawling with weirdos of all kinds - mutants, punks, combat droids, automatic cleaning drones, the alien from Dark Star and various other driftwood from popular sci-fi. The choice is whether to enter into a punch up with these lost souls or trade objects. The more fights you get into, the lower your health status, once you become Dire you may as well give up.

Getting the hang of this usually involves beating up a roaming hooligan several times for practice until you can collect weapons and take on some of the more heavily defended characters on board. You find weapons and most other objects scattered around the ship in empty quarters and work stations - some protected by force-fields and security locks.

As with many other arcade adventures, it can take quite a while to work out which are the best objects to hang on to. If a character wishes to trade he usually tells you so - displayed by scrolling text across a message window - otherwise you take what you want by beating the guy to death. No wonder Pandora went haywire.


Pandora's graphics transform average gameplay into an enjoyable visual treat. Movement of the many characters is smooth and solid while the colourful backgrounds are in no way repetitive.

ST users are given the option to adjust the distance that the screen scrolls when the character moves towards the screen boundary. The default setting is usually more than adequate, but if you want to see what's coming up press [+] to display a wider screen transition.

Fights are depicted as clouds of arms and fists punctuated with Batman-like Kapows and Crunches. This would be great fun to watch save for the fact that you hae to keep your eyes firmly planted on a 'punch-strength' box and hit fire when the strength of your assault can be seen to be at maximum. Sound is confined to spot effects only, mainly in the fight sequences.


Thankfully, completing the game requires more than violence. You have to locate and interrogate computer terminals after first securing the correct access codes, and map out the route to the ehart of the ship in order to shut down the drives before it hits Earthspace.

In the meantime you can increase your score by finding and dumping alien artifacts down a shuttle chute. But there are times when you'll feel like taking that chute yourself since there's no means of saving your current position. An unfortunate oversight in an otherwise extremely playable game.

Pandora logo

Firebird, £19.99 disk

As the human race edged closer and closer to a nuclear suicide in the latter years of the twentieth century, the Maincore Computer Development research team joined forces with other European scientists to set up the Pandora project. Its purpose was to find new forms of life more intelligent than man and to apply their knowledge to attempt to patch up the problems of the human race.

Due to the expected length of the mission, the project called for a completely self-contained environment capable of maintaining life for a limitless period of time. For this reason, the research and design team developed the Pandora system, a seventh generation computer, to control the environment on the ship - also named Pandora - as well as the security systems.

The computer was fitted with an experimental component, Bio-Rhythmic Stabilisers, which could not be tested fully due to the alien conditions required to put the computer through its paces. It was suspected that if the Stabilisers were to malfunction, then the computer may express violent and aggressive tendencies. This was considered such a remote possibility that Pandora was fitted as it stood.

For decades after its launch, the ship Pandora was treated much like a foreign island, with its own nationals running their own system, the computer rather like the lord of the land. Only now, 200 years later, is it considered worth more than the usual amount of attention, because instead of maintaining its course the ship is on its way back to Earth, and it's in a hurry.

You play the part of an intergalactic salvage operator, who must board the Pandora and discover as much as possible about the situation on the ship and return as many artefacts as possible, so that scientists can discover what alien conditions caused the system to go wrong.

Fully equipped with chapel, private chambers and squash court, the ship is bursting with clues. Corpses litter the corridors and exploration reveals plenty of pretty peculiar objects (what are you supposed to do with a Mobian brain - I ask you?).

Those humans still alive will usually want something. Provide them with the appropriate things and they'll usually give you some incredibly valuable present in return. Get too close to someone (droids included) when you're not carrying the right object, though, and, no questions asked, you're in the middle of a fight. Though you can control the power of your punches, unless you have a weapon, more often than not, you're likely to lose.

Survive all this and you just might make it back to the shuttle - I wouldn't bet on it, though.

Kati Hamza Skinheads, maniac laughing thieves, mad musicians, solo squash players, priests in batman outfits, megalomaniac motor droids - you name it, Pandora's got it. Right from my very first go (in which I got completely flattened, by the way) I was hooked. You can spend ages just wandering around exploring all the different rooms observing all the other people - which is great 'cos most of them are ravin' mad. Once you've got into the puzzles you can forget about catching that latest episode of That's My Dog - you'll be playing, getting massacred and trading right through until old Rover's dinner time. It could have done with a bit more sound and some less awkward push-scrolling, but apart from that I couldn't find anything to complain about. Shame - I was looking forward to a good gripe...
Maff Evans I didn't expect to like Pandora, since the first phrase that usually springs to mind when I see this type of game is 'adventure-strategy game, ugh!'. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised to find it extremely playable and atmospheric. It does require some thought (something I'm not particularly equipped for), but the puzzles aren't as ambiguous as some 'serious' adventure game and the answers can be found quite easily. The graphics portray the various characters and positions nicely, with some brill details like priest's cape and the headbutting hooligan (although the markings on the squash court don't seem quite right). Sound is used sparingly, but to good effect, nonetheless - and the title music is of a very high standard. You don't usually see presentation and graphics of this standard in a strategy game, which makes Pandora stand out from the crowd.
Paul Glancey When this appeared on the 64 I found it less than enthralling, but the programmers have taken advantage of the Amiga's better graphics and enhanced the game with some very smart sprites and backdrops. The Pandora's residents, though not particularly well animated, are all easily discernible and each has its own character. The punk struts around, sticking the nut on walls and causing fights, while the priest just stands there, looking mysterious with his cloak flapping in some supernatural breeze. The sad thing is, the basic gameplay is still more or less the same. Meet one character, find out what they want, find the character who has what the last one wants, and on it goes. Let's face it, if you were playing an adventure whose puzzles just consisted of object bartering you wouldn't find it terribly compelling. Still, because there is so much else going on, Pandora manages to get away with it and emerges as a game which provides a respectable level of entertainment, for a while at least.