Rotor is set in a future world, where the Welfare State has been totally abolished (ah, so it's set in 1991 then. Ed.) and people have a choice of a miserable slave existence down the mines or a chance of fame and glory serving as a pilot in the elite Rotor flying tank units which do battle in the fortresses of the State's sworn enemies.
Having decided to join the Rotor Raiders you'll find yourself enrolled in the training academy where you'll be told which training missions you can fly, how many points you get for each successful mission and when you're good enough to undertake a 'real' mission.
The purpose of the Rotor Raiders is simple: to negotiate the tight spaces and treacherous corners of an enemy fortress without crashing, to collect valuable units of fuel, pearl and sun energy crystals, which give you extra power and bonus points and, of course, to blast the living daylights out of any opposition you meet along the way.
The first training missions are easy peasy stuff; you must simply guide your Rotor ship through a fortress without collision, shoot and pick up the contents of any containers (some of which contain rather handy power-up icons) and then make for a location (given in number co-ordinates) to escape from the fortress.
The training missions allow you to get to grips with handling the ship and practice shooting and plundering containers. The way you control the ship is reminiscent of Thrust; the Rotor has a single retro rocket which is fired with a forward push on the joystick. The ship can then be rotated. A quick burst on the retro will send the ship moving in whichever direction the Rotor is now pointed.
Test yourself in six training missions (which aren't very dangerous). Get through these, amass 5000 points, and you've made it as a fully fledged Rotor Raider! This is where the action really starts, as you go on real missions and kick serious ass in enemy fortresses situated in four corners of the globe. (Yes, in this game, even Globes have corners!).
It goes without saying that the further you get, the tighter the corners and the meaner the baddies; wiggly snake beams, killer mines and the old favourite: the 'instant death' laser beam. Survive, complete the dreaded 'class six' missions, and the Government will award you the 'Rotor Elite' golden dustbin lid (er sorry, Medal) and a lifelong pension. Wow!
Ivan: The one word that readily springs to mind when playing Rotor is bloody tricky (okay, so that was two words). Unless you've played Asteroids lately (and I haven't), you'll find it hard work just getting through the training academy and will probably waste loads of Rotors in the process.
Anyway, 2000 dustbin lids and 56 mugs of tea later, I finally made it out of the academy and into the real war and the more colourful mission screens. At this point, I'm beginning to wish I'd gone down the mines instead; I'm getting sweaty, claustrophobic, and the action demands total concentration all the way or else BANG! Blimey! That'll teach me in future to try to play and write a review at the same time!
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, total concentration; a delicate nudged and precise timing in this game can mean the difference between survival and instant oblivion. Watch out for the killer mines. Once opened, their 30 second countdown gives you the chance to pick them up and defuse them for big points, or, if you're a chicken like me, scarper like mad before the blow and ruin your whole day.
Rotor is graphically great and as an added bonus, when you get tired of being blown up, you can sit back and listen to the truly cosmic theme music that accompanies the title and demo screens.
If there are any minor quibbles I could mention, it's that the scrolling sometimes has a job keeping up with the action (it's nice to see what you're floating towards before you smash into it), but apart from that, no real probs to speak of.
Dunc: Isaac Newton eh? What a git. If he hadn't gone and invented those stupid 'Laws of Motion' the world would be a far safer place - and what's more, you wouldn't constantly find yourself getting killed while playing Rotor.
Actually, that was a little bit of a lie. A fib on my part, I'm afraid. A bit of journalistic hyperbole designed to 'spark up' the introductory paragraph and give me the chance to slag off Newton. Truth be told I quite like the laws of motion and I'm a bit of a sucker for games that use them as an inherent part of the gameplay.
Asteroids for instance. And Thrust. Oh, and Oids of course. And now Rotor. Yes - this is another 'spinning spaceship with a uni-directional thruster' job. And very nice it is too.
Basically, Rotor is Thrust with much nicer graphics and the addition of power-up icons (but without the suspended weights which made negotiation of the mazes almost impossible on Thrust's later levels). There all of you who are familiar with Thrust can now skip to the final paragraph. Oh dear, there are some of you left, aren't there - groan. Righto, let's get started then (honestly, this job would be so much easier if you...) (Stop whingeing. Ed).
The scenario is basically a series of subterranean caverns and tunnels. Wdged into the various nooks and crannies are gun emplacements, canisters and gravity disruptors (and a few other bits and pieces). The general idea (over the 24 levels) is to destroy the guns and disruptors and collect the canisters before finding your way to a pre-determined point in order to be beamed out. Fair enough, but it's the control of the ship that'll either make you love or hate the game: left and right on the joystick spin your ship (anti-clockwise and clockwise respectively), while pushing forward engages thrust, which moves you in the direction the ship is facing. If you want to brake, you have to do a 180 degree turn and engage thrust again (pulling back on the stick does no good - anyway, this position is reserved for the tractor beam).
It's all very much an 'every reaction requires an equal and opposite reaction' kind of game, which makes for rather slow paced action, as you're jiggling about on the joystick with a myriad little taps and squeezes.
It's not as if you're in the open reaches of the cosmos, motors blazing at full power, with nothing to bump into - you're stuck in a rather claustrophobic tunnel system. And to make matters worse, it's not quite zero gravity: take your hand off the joystick and you start to sink, albeit slowly, to the ground - and the slightest contact with absolutely anything at all loses you one of your initial three lives.
If you're ham fisted with no sense of timing you're unlikely to get very far in Rotor, as control of the ship has to be very precise: and bear in mind this is very much the kind of game where you only get out what you put in (the earlier levels are rather mundane, so if you can't get through them it's likely that boredom, rather than addicted frustration, will set in).
According to the blurb sheet, "Rotor is a logical step forward from classics like Thrust". I don't agree - it's more of a sideways step: Rotor is a sort of cross between Thrust and, erm, Thrust. The graphics, as I said, are great - as is the animation. Also there's the inclusion of the power ups and a few extra nasties.
But, for me, the actual 'feel' of the game is very much the same as that of its inspirator. I'd have thought the "logical step forward from Thrust" that Arcana spoke of would have been to cross it with R-Type or something. Mind you, I mustn't moan, because Rotor, for all its lack of originality, is immensely playable - and fans of the genre (of which I'm one) will find it extremely addictive.