Prey: An Alien Encounter CDTV logo CDTV

Almathera Systems * £25.99 * 081-683 6418

Apparently, asteroid KG-42 used to be a nice, quiet sort of place to live until the aliens moved in next door. So properly prices plummeted, and the aliens eating everyone did not really help the situation either. The powers that be thus decided to send you in to sort out those nasty aliens once and for all, and to help rescue any refugees you find lying around the place.

Well, at least that is what I assume is happening. This game does not come with much information, except for a single paragraph on the back of the CD box. There is an insert, but all this tells you is how to control the game. The controls are pretty minimal, with the usual forward, back and turn, and the two keypad buttons giving a status screen and a map of the area, showing you what to do and the objective.

I know that CD does not have the fastest transfer rate known to man, but this game hardly pushed back the boundaries. Each time you enter a new zone, or request the map, you wait at least five seconds for something to appear. I would not mind if the clock stopped, but it does not, so just after going through a doorway, you are stuck there waiting, but the clock is still ticking away. With only one minute and 40 seconds of oxygen to start with, every second counts.

Apart from moving around the colony, there is also a combat section where you and an alien slug it out. This uses some nicely treated digitised images to show the aliens, but it does not really work, especially with a CDTV keypad. You attack with button A (which has a nice machine-gun sound) and dodge with button B, but this does not seem to have much of an effect.

Nicely drawn and rendered 3D graphics abound, and the sounds add to the atmosphere, with heavy-breathing and good clunky footsteps as you move down the corridors. If you are really up on sci-fi films, you could also play 'spot the sample' while you are waiting for things to load. Let us start it off with the breathing - from 2001 - A Space Odyssey.

The game is rather similar in feel to Infestation (reviewed in AF10) but you do not get the same feeling of being in control. There certainly is not the same degree of background, and the control method is much more simplistic. There is a good game in there somewhere, but the bad design long access times, lack of proper documentation and extreme difficulty conspire to make it a game that won't last too long.

Prey: An Alien Encounter CDTV logo CDTV

Kirk Moreno Multimedia, Price: £29.99, Tel: +4586181607

From the moment you load Prey, you're assaulted by a blistering array of digitised graphics and sound shifting at a cracking pace. The game is an 'alien'-style story, where you are searching a moon base which has been gassed by aliens. Initially your aim is to rescue survivors, but as the game unfolds, a more sinister scenario evolves.

The game is viewed from inside your helmet, with the outside world viewed in 3D, but only in the four main compass directions, as in Bard's Tale or Dungeon Master. It's all done in gloriously gloomy shades, creating a dark and claustrophobic atmosphere broken up every now and then again by a radio message, sent to you by a German bloke speaking English in an American accent, dropping in the odd four letter word here and there.

The problem is the huge disk loading times. You begin against the clock, as you are only given 60 seconds of oxygen at the start of the game. The radio message at the start tells you there is a room in the medic centre that has more oxygen, and it is marked on your map. Then the clock starts ticking. It takes about 50 seconds to walk to the medic centre. Fine. But it takes 30 to load the map and then return to the game. What are you supposed to do, guess?!

On the bottom line, it could have been a very heavy game, but in the end it just becomes frustrating.

Prey: An Alien Encounter CD32 logo CD32

Almathera * £28.95 * Out now

And we're still praying for an alien encounter. Or has contact already been made and are the American government and the CIA keeping all quiet? Maybe the Americans are in regular contact with the aliens? Perhaps not.

Closer to home, well, on an asteroid called KG-42 inhabited by a mining colony, the air supply is being contaminated by a not altogether user-friendly gas and very son they'll be all out of love.
Aliens, of course, are responsible and your task is to rescue the inhabitants before the aforementioned aliens get to them.

Prey was originally released for CDTV and has been revamped for the CD32. It's an interactive adventure game with rather fetching 3D graphics and a communications system which relays messages to you as you explore the base, in a 'live radio contact' type scenario.

Before the rescue operation can commence, you must get to the medical room to refill your oxygen tank which involves wandering around a lot of corridors with the aid of a map.

The game instructions are rather minimal. There's just one paragraph of information so you've just got to get on with it, which rather puts you in at the deep end. Especially when you're expected to save an asteroid single-handedly from the evil attentions from an entire alien race. Still, I suppose it's character forming.

Also included is a combat section where you attempt to paste an alien and although it looks good, the control method is somewhat sluggish. Prey looks great but is let down by the gameplay: far too much wandering about.

Prey: An Alien Encounter CD32 logo CD32

Anfänglich wußten wir nicht recht, was wir von dieser kuriosen Neuentwicklung für das CD32 halten sollten, doch schon bald hatten wir es herausgefunden: nicht sehr viel...

Zunächst erweckt die Alien-Begegnung beim Spieler nämlich den Eindruck, er hätte ein 3D-Adventure im Stile jener Schillerscheiben erbeutet, wie sie neuerdings am PC im Mode Kommen: In einer außerirdischen Planetenbasis treiben sich kosmische Unholde herum und fluten die Gänge mit Nervengas.

Als einsamer Retter wird man in die Station gebeamt, muß alle Opfer finden (die dann automatisch in Sicherheit teleportiert und wiederbelebt werden) und durch die Korridore streunende Aliens bekämpfen - dabei ist man per Helmradio mit einem "Bärenführer" verbunden, der hin und wieder wichtige Hinweise zum besten gibt.

Last not least wären noch ein paar Items wie Sauerstoffflaschen oder auch 'ne Wumme aufzutreiben.

Doch wie gesagt, selten hat ein erster und guter Eindruck so getäuscht. In Wahrheit hat das Konzept nämlich außer stumpfsinniger Ausammelei von Gas-Geschädigten nur sehr wenig zu bieten, was einen gestandenen Abenteurer reizen könnte.

Da sich das Gameplay vorwiegend auf die Echtzeitkämpfe konzentriert, dachten wir natürlich auch daran, mal einen richtigen Ballerfreak ranzugelassen - doch selbst ein notorischer Aktionist wie unser Richy warf sehr bald genervt das Handtuch.

Warum, ist schnell erklärt: Bei so einem Fight sieht man das wirr-bunte Alien im Grafik-fenster vor sich und muß theoretisch darauf achten, wohin es schlägt, um sich rechtzeitig ducken oder nach rechts bzw. links ausweichen zu können.

Außerdem darf man natürlich schießen, sobald sich der Laser nach einer abgefeuerten Salve wieder aufgeladen hat. Praktisch kennen diese unheimlichen Begegnungen de nahezu unspielbaren Art in aller Regel jedoch nur einen Sieger, und das ist leider nicht der Spieler.

Und wenn man nicht abspeichern kann, so mag das zwar bei der verhältnismäßig kleinen Raumstation gar keine so schlechte Idee sein und zudem den Gepflogenheiten von Actiongames entsprechen, doch bieten gute Programme dieser Art Abwechslung und Überraschungen am laufenden Meter - Vokabeln, die den Programmierern auf Beutezug (Prey heißt zu deutsche Beute) offenbar fremd sind.

Das Game trifft also genau zwischen alle Zielgruppen, allein die eigentlich löbliche deutsche Sprachausgabe erweist sich hier als Quell beständiger Heiterkeit: Man stelle sich einen englischen Text vor, der wörtlich und nicht immer korrekt ins Deutsch übersetzt und dann von einem Engländer verlesen wird! Gegen ein solches Technik-Highlight klinger der Titelsound und die sonstigen FX dann natürlich sehr gewöhnlich.

Kurz und schlecht, es sollte sich niemand von dieser Mögelpackung täuschen lassen, auch wenn das Spiel teilweise recht beeindruckende Animationen und Scroll-Effekte (aber auch irgendwie verwaschen wirkende Pastellfarben) zu bieten hat. Diese CD eignet sich noch am besten als Frisbee! (jn)

Prey: An Alien Encounter CD32 logo CD32

Almathera, £19.99

This, apparently, was a CDTV game which has been enhanced for the CD32, but since that means about seven of you (max) might have seen it before, we'll assume no prior knowledge. It's a 3D maze job which is very obviously trying to be Alien - The Video Game, and with a moderate degree of success (atmosphere-wise, at least).

You trek slowly around a space complex of some sort, looking for the unconscious (saves on animation) workers who've been gassed into unconsciousness y some 'unknown' force. (It's an alien!)

Your travels are accompanied by some textbook Darth Vader-style breathing, and every now and again the colours change. Very occasionally you'll meet the mystery source of life energy (It's an alien!), and enter a rather abstract and sluggish beat-'em-up section, but that appears to be the extent of it.

The most noteworthy aspect is the speech, which brings you radio messages from your base and suchlike, and can be switched to any of eight languages, but interesting though that is, it doesn't really make up for the lack of gameplay. 3D Monster Maze on the ZX81, frankly, did much the same thing rather better.

Prey: An Alien Encounter CD32 logo CD32


Now here is a game which gave me a jolly laugh - about ten million years ago on the CDTV. It is set inside an abandoned mining ship where the occupants have all been devoured by aliens. Sounds familiar? Damn right.

Into this alien environment comes you, a puzzle-solvin' xenomorph-zappin' desperado. That is the idea. Sadly something has gone wrong in the execution. The gameplay has you trudging through miles of deserted corridors, tracking down fresh oxygen supplies for your environment suit and frequently being killed.

When you do encounter an alien the result is a rather disappointing combat scene where you attempt to duck the alien's feeble attacks while trying to fill it with bullets.

The action is accompanied by heavy breathing noises, which is supposed to be you in your suit, but instead sounds like something which could get you arrested. This is matched by the graphics which, bar a few nice effects, are painfully dull. Don't expect to see much of the aliens either, when one appears your suit switches to 'thermal' mode, which basically means you get a cruddy, ill-formed pic of what should have been a well-drawn alien.

What makes this a thousand times worse is the thought that this isn't actually a CD32 game, it is merely a CDTV title with different packaging and a fractal intro. And when you compare the two machines it is like someone suggesting you hook up their dodge mobile home to the back of your Bentley. Things like that are just not on and neither is this game.