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.
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.
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
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.