Perihelion logo Amiga Computing Bronze Award

Another foray into doom, gloom and the ultimate demise of the human race? As ungodly being emanate from the void, Simon Clays casts a glance at the world of Perihelion.

INTRODUCTION

Psygnosis are not largely regarded for their efforts in the adventure game market. Aside from the excellent Hired Guns (DMA Design) and the rather linear Innocent Until Caught, they've produced little of interest for lovers of this genre. Now, with the help of Morbid Visions, Psygnosis are re-entering the RPG market with the highly stylised Perihelion.

STORYLINE

As the name suggests, Perihelion is a solar-centric culture, leftovers from an ancient, technocratic society which all but vanished in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.
The principle relic, as a reminder of that era, is a ruined metropolis named MidLight. Our tale begins on this strange futuristic world of Perihelion, where the society is constructed of mutants and surgical and genetically enhanced groups of humanoids.

One such character is Finian, a Bionocron, and student of psionics. It's during his pilgrimage to the Psionic Training Institute that the plot unfolds.

As part of his mention separation of mind and body, he must approach the school through the desert. After a hazardous passage, Finian finds himself in his simple room enduring a preparatory state of meditation before he faces the time of the Mannis.
As he meditates deeper, putting aside the physical pain he has faced through the desert, Finian has a vision. He is out in the desert again, only this time he's not alone.

Finian feels a force, an entity so powerful it totally engulfs his soul. He can only gaze in horror as this great evil moves about him, eventually yanking him high into the air.
Suddenly, the entity relinquishes its grip on and he spirals towards the yellow sand below him. As the dusty void immerses him, he hears a voice, a foreboding, malevolent boom that tells him that the time has come.

The story is relayed back to the head of the institute, who having called a meeting of the Council, informs them that he senses danger, and that their leader Rex Helion must know of these events.
As a response to Finian's prophecy, Rex Helion orders that Project Awakening must be initiated, the premise of which is to safeguard against this unborn evil, thus ensuring the future of Perihelion.

So, there they stood. Six unborn souls ready to do battle with a malignant force that has itself yet to be born. To Rex Helion, Emperor of Perihelion it sounded pure folly, but how many times have the psionics been right before?


 

ADDITIONAL INFO

Many of the characters in the game have undergone cybernetic surgery. The term cybernetic is derived from the Greek kubernan, "to steer". It's the science concerned with how systems organise, regulate, and reproduce themselves, and also how they evolve and learn.

In the laboratory, inanimate objects are created that behave like living systems. Applications range from the creation of electronic artificial limbs to the running of a fully automated factory where decision-making machines operate up to management level.

Cybernetics was founded and named in 1947 by US mathematician Norbert Wiener, originally the study of control systems using feedback to produce automatic processes. The idea of cybernetics became that popular that TV series were spawned, the most popular being that irrepressible man in the red tracksuit Steve Austin, none other than the Six Million Dollar Man.

Through the eighties ideas were expanded, and with special effects technology vastly improved, films like James Cameron's Terminator were born.


 

SOUND

Both the introduction and in-game music have obviously been given some thought. How many times in the software world has a game had a graphical style that didn't quite match the feel of the music? Countless.

But, not so in Perihelion. The curious graphical images complement perfectly the whistle of wind rushing through a building and the deep nasal reverb of the synthesizer.

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GRAPHICS

The style of Perihelion lends itself to a very traditional sci-fi feel. Many of the themes of cyberpunk societies with neural networking and genetically manufactured humanoids are central to the core of the title. These images have been very well implemented, especially the head-shots of the six genetic warriors you control during play.

The intro sequence too has been well handled. It blends moody futuristic city landscapes with some excellent snippets of animation, and works to great effect. Though play is a montage of styles, it's comprised mainly of 3D first person perspective. This again, is highly stylised, and reminded me f a downtown Mega City 1 from Judge Dredd.

It's only let down is the repetition of locations. As you wander around the deserted ruins of cities, turning one corner or looking at a building entrance soon leaves you feeling as though you've inherited some of the aforementioned psionic powers of precognition.

Still, on the whole Perihelion looks the part. One can tell that some trouble has gone into the design, arting and feel of every screen that the user interacts with.

To the designers credit, much of the effort and polish that have gone into this aspect rubs off on the user's enthusiasm and make it just a touch more pleasant to use.

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OPINION60%

Perihelion is an extremely interesting departure from the normal RPG style Dungeons & Dragons title. While it's still largely a first-person 3D title, the designers have attempted to tread a different path on many other aspects of the game.

For instance, many titles of this genre have a very similar style for representing spells and spellcasting. They are either awarded on graduating your character's rank, found lying around in corners of arcane buildings, or bought from magicians.

In Perihelion the designers have opted for a similar technique as Dungeon Master, with the acolyte in question having to construct the spell from runic symbols. The computer network that your mutated characters can log on to and access, is also a nice extension of concurrent themes.

Not only does it feel right that your characters should have the technological insight to be able to perform such a task, but it's also relevant to the completion of the story.

The only aspect of Perihelion that let it down slightly was the combat. It's a completely understandable notion to take the user to a separate screen to commence battle; it grants the opportunity to make tactical decisions, aim and effect repairs. But it's where, if a computer game can ever manage it, the fantasy of being real is lost.

However, while it's a little samey in places, Perihelion is a very competent adventure, and I look forward to the next offering from this development team.



Perihelion logo

Journey into the future with a band of Psionic warriors and Grimebeard the Dwarf and uncover a world of telepathy, treachery and doom.

What does a gy have to do to get some kip these days? One minute you're happily dreaming about space chick Betty Boo, the next you're woken from a hundred-year sleep to sort out some cataclysmic disaster or other. It's just not fair, is it?

This time the problem is that an unknown entity called the Unborn is stretching its destructive fingers around your wold, causing its people to die in untold torment.

As leader of an elite band of six Psionic warriors, only you can solve the mystery and save your people from a fate worse that endless Little and Large re-runs. If you haven't guessed by now, Perihelion is a futuristic role-playing adventure in which you explore a variety of locations, including cities and the obligatory dungeons, in search of clues to help you on your quest.

The first thing this game makes a great play of is its seriousness as a proper role-playing adventure. As soon as you get past the scene-setting intro sequence you're given the task of generating six characters with different skills and abilities as well as a complicated spell creation procedure.

This can take quite a while, especially when you don't know how useful the spells are that you're creating, or in which form they're best manifested - who can tell whether a Blast Frost spell is actually better as a sphere, cone or tunnel? None of this is explained at all well.


The Unborn is stretching its fingers around your world, causing the people to die in untold torment

As you explore each section of the game, you discover all kinds of mysterious characters as well as Netstations which act as local terminals for a supercomputer.

In both cases you have to lock on to your own personal computer to get a reply or information. This is quite an intriguing idea, but soon becomes tiresome when you have to type in every single thing you want to know only to get booted out if you get the wrong answer.

It's also pretty hard work finding your way around the different locations since one corridor looks pretty much like another and there is no auto-mapping feature and few landmarks to tell you where you are.

Icon do that
There are plenty of other minor niggles too - the pretentious stream of tiny text along the bottom at the screen, the occasionally fiddly icon-based controls and the hopelessly linear plot could easily find you pointing a laser gun at your temple.

Yet despite all these drawbacks, Perihelion is reasonable playable thanks to some atmospheric graphics, music and sound effects, and an absorbing plot. You really do want to know what this destructive Unborn thing is and how you can defeat it.



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Alle Rollenspiel sind irgendwie gleich, ständig geht es um Dungeons, Monster und Magie? Denkste, dieser Abenteuer-urlaub von Psygnosis ist von der Story bis zum Gameplay ein ziemlich exzentrischer Vertreter seiner Art!

Nun hat ja die britische Ballerschmiede seit Games wie "Obitus" oder "Hired Guns" den Ruf weg, zwar ungewöhnliche, aber oft nicht eben fesselnde Rollenspiel zu lieferen.

Und auch Perihelion wartet mit kleinen Durchhängern auf, vor allem der bedienungstechnischen Art. Wer hier nämlich einfach mal so drauflosabenteuert, könnte die Maus nach einem Stündchen durchaus gefrustet in die Ecke feuern weil sich schier gar nichts zu tun scheint!

Und doch, hat man sich erst mal durch die Lekture des teilweise recht dürren Handbuchs eine blasse Ahnung verschafft, worum es geht, entwickelt das Programm eine Anziehungskraft, der nur schwer zu widerstehen ist...

Zum Szenario: Irgendwo im All dreht sich ein von atomaren und biologischen Kriegen buchstäblich verwüsteter Planet um seine Sonne, der von Menschen und anderen seltsamen Wesen bewohnt wird. Das größte Problem der Einheimischen ist derzeit aber keineswegs die ausgedörrte Landschaft, sondern ihr von guten wie bösen Göttern bewohntes Walhalla.

Die Überwesen mit vertrauenweckenden Namen wie "Vitriol", "Morphin" oder "Toxic Waste" lassen sich momentan nicht besonders gut drauf und trachten auch noch danach, von ihrer astralen auf die reale Ebene zu gelangen.

Um Chaos, Aufruhr und genetische Deformation komplett zu machen, steht ausgerechnet "Unborn", der übelste und zerstörerischste dieser zweifelhaften Götter, kurz vor dem Durchbruch! Und wer könnte ihm schon Einhalt gebieten, wenn nicht eine sechsköpfige Truppe tiefgekühlter Klons, Androiden und kybernetischer Mischwesen?

Ist das nun Fantasy, Horror, Science-fiction oder einfach nur an allen Haaren herbeigezogen? Wenn kümmert's, schließlich harrt hier eine ganze Welt der Rettung.

Das Charakter-Bastelset erlaubt dem Weltenretter dabei noch recht weitgehende Freiheiten, deren Nutzen und Bedeutung zunächst schwer abschätzbar sind. Kleiner Tip unserseits: Wer sich zumindest drei Spellcaster in die Partie holt, hat später bessere Chancen!

Im Spiel ist es dann mit der Freiheit nicht mehr allzu weit her, denn man reist auf einer Landkarte von Location zu Location, wobei das Gamedesign Abwege strengstens verbietet - nur die gerade auf der Tagesordnung stehenden Dungeons oder Orte gewähren dem Reisenden auch Zutritt. Und erst wer dort die anstehende Hauptaufgabe gelöst hat, darf sich auf die Suche nach dem nächsten Problem machen!

Konkret heiß das nun, daß zunächst eine verfallene Stadt erforscht werden muß, bei der es die wenigen wirklich interessanten Punkte herauszufinden gilt; später wäre dann anderswo ein hochwichtiger Zeitgenosse aufzutreiben und so weiter.

Wer hier die sonst hinter jeder zweiten Ecke lauernden Kämpfe und Gespräche erwartet, wird enttäuscht: An ihre Stelle sind Hack-Sessions mit gelegentlich herumstehenden Computerterminals getreten, bei denen man sich in schönster "Neuromancer"-Manier Infos besorgt oder benötigte Soft abgreift.

Sicher, hin und wieder ist auch eine Prügelei nicht zu umgehen, wofür man auff einen umständlich zu bedienenden Kampfscreen befördert wird, der an SSIs klassische AD&D-Rollis erinnert. Und die Zauberei spielt, wie schon angedeutet, ebenfalls keine geringe Rolle.

Obwohl man vielleicht besser von übersinnlichen Fähigkeiten reden sollte, setzen sich die "Spells", doch aus einer bestimmten Mixtur von Emotionen zusammen Großzugigkeit und Abscheu ergeben z.B. einen hochwirksamen Lebenskraft Zerbroschelr

Optisch weiß das Game jdenfalls vom Super Intro bis zum letzten Dungeon zu gefallen, denn hier präsentiert sich eine wunderschön gezeichnete Welt in verdorrten Brauntönen, deren diverse Örtlichkeiten stets dreidimensional aus Partysicht dargestellt sind. Fast noch schärfer ist der schaurig heulende Runen-Sound geglückt, das "Lied vom Tod" ist dagegen quasi ein lustiges Tänzchen.

Ach, hätten sich die Psygnosen mit der Handhabung doch ebensoviel Mühe gegeben! Wenn aber das Auge von fitzeligsten Texten genarrt wird, wenn man ewig lang verscht, ein Item aufzusammeln und schließlich nicht weiß, wie man's eigentlich geschafft hat, dann muß wohl einiges im argen liegen.

Trotz dieser Macken und des geradlinigen Spielablaufs ist man versucht, wegen der intelligenten Rätsel und der starken Atmosphäre des Games alle Hühneraugen zuzudrücken. Schwer wie selten fiel uns deshalb die Bewertung: Jede Note muß hier zwangsläufig ein fragwürdiger Kompromiß bleiben. Um so wichtiger wird der eigene Augenschein vor dem Kauf... (jn)



Perihelion logo

Psionics, cybernetics, bionecrons, moody graphics - it's got the blinking lot.

You think the world is weird? With its lift music, soap operas, step aerobics and the anthropomorphism and idolatry of small furry animals? That's nothing compared to the world of Perihelion. It's got psionic power activated by emotions, pools of energy in time and space, genetically engineered creatures and no colour blue.

The world is about to be ravaged by an entity from another dimension, which should make a nice change. The Psionic Council and the Emperor, sensing the danger, have decided to start Project Awakening. Six frozen souls are called into existence, with the hope that they can save the world. That's you, that is.

Behind all the wibble it's a familiar story. A small group of hardy adventurers battling against insurmountable odds to save the world as we know it, again.

MOODY
The first step is character creation. There are seven races to choose from and a range of character classes such as mercenary, anchorite and knight. As you'd expect there are a range of stats to go with each character. Perihelion has gone overboard on this bit, there are zillions of 'em - mental defence speed, physical range attack reaction and a host more.

There's little clue as to what they are about and what sort of scores are good. Psionic powers are not unlike magic. You can choose from a range of abilities for your characters with psionic powers. Tooled up with spells and shotguns it's time to rock 'n' roll.

LET'SPARTY
You start at the map screen where you can move the party around the landscape of Perihelion. After a bit of exploring, climbing up the mountains and such like, you realise the only place you can go initially is the city of MidLight.

Here the action changes to first person as you roam the streets wondering what to do next. Soon you find Network terminals where you can read messages. The network part is a nice touch, resembling a real network terminal, a bit.

There is little interaction involved, you only meet two characters in the whole city and you can do little except select 'talk' on the network and see what they have to say for themselves. Why you have to use the network to talk to people in the street isn't explained. Soon you encounter the first of many punch-ups with the unsavoury characters out to stop you.

During the fights things change again to an overhead view, this section is almost a game in itself. The altercations are fought out as skirmish wargames. Each character has a certain number of action points. You move and fire each of your chaps, the fastest character goes first.

The section is a bit like Laser Squad. It gives a good degree of control over things. Psionic spells and hot lead fly about and your entire is partly wiped out. Well, mine was. I went back to the character creation screen with a better idea of what I wanted and tried again.

The game soon reveals itself to be fairly simple. You go to each location on the map, suss out what your mission is and get a clue to the next one. There are no superfluous characters or objects to get in the way. Huge underground cities appear as a small collection of featureless tunnels with a couple of people in and a few objects you need, get the right network codes, beat up any belligerent inhabitants and then move on to the next location. Simple is this.


Tooled up with spells and shotguns it's time to rock 'n' roll

GOOD LOOKING
The graphics are grey and orange, totally. Every screen is grey and orange. They are also excellently drawn and very atmospheric. The sound effects are good too, lots of weird music and noises. The whole game has a dark moody theme.

What's not so perfect is the text - it's small and red and very difficult to read without an RGB monitor and even then the Ms, Ns and Hs all look the same. Didn't they spot this at some stage? "Hey guys, look how hard the text is to read, let's make it bigger." Apparently not.

The battle system has its share of problems too. You can find yourself being shot at and be told that your character hasn't got line of sight, so you can't shoot back. There's no way to deter a character's action, if a fast character is stuck behind a slow one, he can't wait until the slow one's out of the way before making his choice of action.

The enemy are also pretty stupid, they get stuck behind walls easily. Gripes aside the battle section is playable and enjoyable in an anoraky sort of way Be prepared for long bouts of it too. The psionic spell selection is cumbersome and you are given no clues what spell does what. Get a pen and paper ready, you need to make maps and lots of notes.

Perihelion has a wonderful post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Imagine Ishar with the combat sections swiped from Laser Squad and you're close to the game system of Perhilion.

The adventure side is rather linear, you need to solve each mission in turn. When you get stuck that's it, you have to wander around until you find the elusive door or object. The network and combat system are refreshing additions to a tired format.

Is it fun? Yes. Is the sort of fun that makes you totally ignore the sound, sensible advice you give yourself, like "If I stay up really late it will totally bugger up all my plans for tomorrow."? Not quite.

I was initially hooked up by the moodiness of it all, but after a couple of fights I found myself wandering around a maze of tunnels collecting objects like every other adventure game before it. Damn fine try at something a bit different though.


MASTER RACES Not an Elf in sight. The six heroes to save the day can be any of six decidedly strange races, or even human. All of them look well dodgy, the kind you edge away from on the bus.

Bionecron
Weird blokes composed of organic metal. They are strong and heal quickly but are vulnerable to psionic attack.
Perihelion

Cybern
A mix of human and cybernetic DNA, whatever that is, basically part mechanical. Very powerful bodies but little brain power.
Perihelion

Humans
The oldest race. They can be any character with no paricular strengths or weaknesses.
Perihelion

Symbions
A mix of human and Bionecroms, only partly grey. Can see into the future in a limited fashion, so the manual says anyway.
Perihelion

Khymeras
Genetically enhanced humans. Either insectoid, reptiloid or feline. They are fast and have sixth sense as well as other things.
Perihelion