Cartoon-type caper

Space Ace 1 logo

BRILLIANT! Well, it looks brilliant. It sounds brilliant. It comes on four discs and it costs lots of money, therefore it must be brilliant. Mustn't it?
The evil commander Borf has hit upon a novel way to enslave Earth by means of the fiendish Infanto ray which change everyone into children. A freak reflection must have hit our office.
Earth's greatest hero, going by the snappy name of Ace, has become involved because not only has he been knobbled by the Infanto ray, but his girlfriend has been kidnapped. Ever had one of those days?

The game is made of about 40 short scenes, each lasting for several seconds. At various points during a scene our hero will meet a nasty fate unless you correctly judge his reactions.
For example, at one point a large robot is mashing up the ground and to pass you must go left, wait a bit, then move left again. If you get it wrong three times, you die, and back to the start you go. Eventually you learn what to do in each scene - by a process of elimination if necessary. It's not easy of course. Each scene will take a good number of attempts to get right, and although there is a save game option. It is quicker to play through the entire sequence again.

The game runs in 512k, but supports an extra disc drive. This halves the irritation which being able to install it on a hard drive would have eliminated.
The reason for this style of gameplay is that the game has been converted from the laser disc version, which used a system of separate animations stored on a laser disc and displayed when needed.

The Space Ace arcade game - the sequel to Dragon's Lair - looked amazing, but it cost a fortune to buy and kept breaking down.
The number of discs in the Amiga package certainly seems impressive. However, once you get it right, the content of the first disc can be played through in the space of one minute. At more than £10 a disc the value for money quotient might seem rather low, but it is easy to see why it costs so much. The time and effort spent on the graphics must have been phenomenal, and both cost.

The animations are based, more than based - copied from the laser disc arcade version. The creation of ex-Disney artist Don Bluth, they looks stunning: fast moving, colourful and detailed. The sound track has also been digitised from the arcade game to good effect.

Space Ace is the closest you could imagine to playing a cartoon. It is real, interactive TV. Unfortunately, the gameplay is nothing more than a memory test, rather like the old Simon computer games.

Admittedly if you see Space Ace playing in a shop, you'll probably want to buy it straight away. Think very carefully before you do.


Space Ace 1 logo

READYSOFT £44.95 * Joystick

A few years ago a strange coin-op machine hit the arcades. Instead of the usual blocky aliens and ping-beep sound effects it featured state-of-the-art, Disney-style animation and hi-fi sound effects. Hordes of people came forth with their 50p pieces to be totally confused and die on the first screen. Soon enough, the game was written off as a gimmick and only crops up when players say "Do you remember Dragon's Lair?"

More recently, Don Bluth - the man responsible for Dragon's Lair - came up with Space Ace. Although in a similar vein to the medieval original, the futuristic romp had a good deal more playability than its predecessor. Now thanks to Readysoft, even those without the requisite number of coins, but with plenty of notes, can play in their homes.

The plot is a little on the strange side, but isn't that the point of cartoons? Borf, a nasty alien tyrant, has concocted an ingenious plan to take over the Earth - he's going to zap every human being with his Infanto Ray, which turns adults into children.

Only two people can save the Earth, Space Ace and his beautiful friend Kimberly. Unfortunately, just as they approach Borf's ship, they get hit by the Infanto Ray, turning them into children before they can overpower the foul oppressor. As if that wasn't enough, he's also kidnapped Kimberly! Now Ace is back to his youth as Dexter, he must summon up all his mettle to go and rescue Kimberly and defeat the evil Borf.

For anyone not familiar with Don Bluth's 'interactive cartoons' the gameplay consists of making decisions on the main character's actions by moving the joystick at the appropriate time. Play begins on the cliff overlooking Borf's ship, where Dexter must dodge Borf's laser blasts, and continues through the rocky sections of the planet, past stomping robots and tentacles pit creatures into Borf's ship itself. The ship contains all manner of alien hazards, such as guard dogs, guard robots and automatic defence systems.

Eventually, Dexter returns to his powerful adult form and confronts Borf in a deadly hand-to-hand battle with laser staffs. Ace must defeat Borf before escaping with Kimberly.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Space Ace's audio-visual delights are without doubt some of the best to be seen on the Amiga. The pictures look to have been taken directly from the original artwork, giving an appearance more akin to a Disney cartoon than a computer game. Every screen has been exceptionally well drawn and smoothly animated with cinema quality music and spot effects to back the frantic action.

Occasionally, you forget to carry out a move just because you carried away watching the cartoon! The only way an Amiga game can improve on Space Ace's graphics is to use full colour digitised photographs to portray the action throughout and we all know how that gobbles up the memory - we're talking ten disk games here!

LASTING INTEREST

Even though Dragon's Lair had superb animation and sound, the gameplay was so disjointed that players soon lost interest. Pressing a button every third screen or so wasn't exactly entertaining. Most screens only have one or two moves to be carried out, so they aren't too difficult to learn. The inclusion of a Save Game feature means that reaching the end of the game is a little on the easy side.

JUDGEMENT

Don Bluth has improved the format since the first game, making the game run much more smoothly and giving the player much more to do. Despite the fact that Space Ace is superbly presented and the gameplay has been improved, the amount of interaction between the cartoon and the player is minimal. The fact that the game can be completed too easily means that all you're left with after three or four days is an expensive four disk animation demo.


Space Ace 1 logo

Es ist soweit: Die Amiga-Version von Don Bluth's zweitem Zeichentrick-Epos ist fertig! In bester "Dragon's Lair"-Tradition macht sich Dexter, alias Space Ace auf, um die Welt vor dem Zugriff des Superschurken Borf zu retten.

Selten haben sich die Geister so geschieden, wie an der Umsetzung des Laserdisk-Automaten "Dragon's Lair": Für die einen war das aufwendige Zeichentrick-Spektakel ein wahrer Geniestreich, für die anderen dank mangelnder Spielbarkeit ein Mega-Flop. Bei Readysoft hat man sich für derlei Querelen wenig interessiert und stattdessen mit Volldampf an der Konvertierung des Arcade-Nachfolgers Space Ace gebastelt. Dass die Neuauflage im Science Fiction-natürlich viel, viel besser, schöner und spielbarer werden sollte, war eine Selbstverständlichkeit - zumindest für die Programmierer...

Einer der vordringlichsten Ansprüche an Space Ace war, dass das Game endlich auch auf 512K-Amigas laufen sollte. Und tatsächlich: In dieser Hinsicht gibt's keinerlei Probleme! Auch die versprochene Save-Funktion ist vorhanden, man muss also nicht mehr alle Bilder durchspielen, wenn man irgendwo festsitzt. Ehe ich Euch aber verrate, wie es diesmal um das Spielprinzip bestellt ist, wollen wir einen kleinen Blick auf die Story werfen: Ein blauer außerirdischer Fettwanst namens Borf hat einen Verjüngungsstrahler entwickelt, mit dem er gedenkt, die gesamt Menschheit zunächst in willenlose Säuglinge und in weiterer Folge in seine Privatsklaven zu verwandeln. Laut Anleitung finden sich nur Zwei Menschen, die den Schneid aufbringen, dem blauen Riesen entgegenzutreten: Space Ace und seine schöne Freundin Kimberley. Da das Mädel jedoch schon im ersten Bild von Borf entführt wird, bleibt die ganze Dreckarbeit natürlich wieder am Spieler hängen!

Und damit nicht genug: Unglücklicherweise hat Ace schon mal eine gehörige Portion des Baby-Strahlers abbekommen, weshalb er sich während seiner intergalaktischen Hatz des öfteren in sein schwächliches Alter Ego Dexter verwandelt.

Insgesamt gilt es, 33 verschiedene Szenen zu meistern (40 waren angekündigt, aber wir wollen großmütig sein...), wofür lediglich drei Bildschirmleben zur Verfügung stehen - wer ein zusätzliches möchte, muss sich bis zu einem Stand von 10.000 Punkten gedulden. Kenner des Vorgängers werden sich nun fragen, wo man Abstriche machen muss, zumal sich die geballte Grafik-Power diesmal auf nur vier (statt sechs) Disketten verteilt. "Dragon's Lair" hatte schließlich lediglich 12 Level zu bieten, die jeweils spiegelbildlich wiederholt wurden - jetzt soll es auf einmal ganze 33 geben? Sind etwa die Animationen schwächer geworden, oder gibt's keinen Sound mehr, oder was? Die Rätsels Lösung ist ganz einfach: die einzelnen Spielabschnitte sind sehr, sehr kurz! Eigentlich keine so üble Idee: So kommt man in den Genuss von noch mehr dieser herrlichen (screenfüllenden!) Bilder und Animationen, an denen man sich gar nicht satt sehen kann!

Das Game hat absolut Trickfilm-Qualität, nicht umsonst war der Schöpfer Don Bluth jahrelang Starzeichner in den Walt Disney-Studios. In jedem Screen tummeln sich die schönsten Roboterm, Monster, Raumschiffe etc... alles in irren Farbtönen und stets unterlegt mit einer wundervollen Geräuschkulisse, die von Musik über Sound-FX bis zur Sprachausgabe alles zu bieten hat, was das Herz begehrt!

Dennoch: In Sachen Gameplay konnten die Programmierer ihr Versprechen nicht halten! Immer noch erfordert jedes Bild nur ein Paar mickrige Joystickbewegungen, im Gegenteil, durch die enorm kurzen Level ist jetzt eher weniger zu tun als zuvor. Freilich ist in manchen Sequenzen richtiges Timing vonnöten, aber wenn nur der Feuerknopf einmal gedrückt werden muss, sollte das eigentlich kein großes Problem sein. Somit hat man das Spiel natürlich binnen ungefähr zwei Stunden durchgespielt: Wer sich die simplen Bewegungsabläufe nicht merken kann, greift eben auf die Save-Function zurück. Klar, dass damit die Motivation ein bisschen in Richtung Keller rutscht, aber etwas Gutes hat die Sache: so können wir Euch gleichzeitig mit dem Test auch die Komplettlösung liefern - guckt einfach im Know How nach! Außerdem muss so die schöne Kimberley nicht so lange schmachten!

Apropos Kimberley: Ich entsinne mich dunkel einiger Szenen des Demos, in denen die Lady zu bewundern war, die im Game fehlen - mit Space Ace II darf vermutlich bald gerechnet werden!

Fazit: Ein Glück, dass die Präsentation gar so schön ist , dadurch gehört Space Ace zu den wenigen Programmen, die man auch dann mal wieder hervorkramt, wenn sie schon längst gelöst sind - und sei es nur, um einem bekannten die überragenden Fähigkeiten der "Freundin" möglichst drastisch vor Augen zu führen. Space Ace muss man nicht unbedingt gespielt aber um jeden Preis gesehen haben! (ml)


Space Ace 1 logo

Empire
£44.95

The first thing you should know about Space Ace is that it's the most popular Amiga demo at Amiga dealers for eons... well, since Don Bluth's first 'laser disc' adaptation Dragon's Lair appeared anyway. With smooth, high definition animation that for once lives up to the hype 'cartoon quality' and this time it even runs on a normal unexpanded 500.

Space Ace has the sort of graphics that make most programmers feel like giving up and going back to the Vic 20. A blinding demo, unquestionably (they've even managed to eliminate the tiresome disc swapping of its predecessor whilst cramming it into half the memory), but is it any good as a game?

I found Dragon's Lair the most infuriating, irritating and downright awkward piece of software ever shoved under my nose by the editor. Every scene was governed by joystick moves more counterintuitive than the instructions for assembling an MFI wardrobe translated into Serbo-Croat. Personally, I feel that fiddling around trying to work out which particular tweeks you apply to progress to the next scene is singularly unrewarded by two-and-a-half seconds of interesting graphics. At least Pavlov's dogs were rewarded with the occasional bowl of Pedigree Chum.

Fortunately, Space Ace isn't nearly as bad. The manual comes with a genuinely useful selection of tips for each stage and a complete explanation of how to get past the first stage which might well stop less keen people tearing out their hair in apoplectic rage. That doesn't mean it's easy, or I like this sort of thing, but it's nice to see designers making real improvements to their software.
Don't buy this expecting fluent gameplay, but it is possible to get a reasonably satisfying distance into the game without giving up other activities like sleep, work, school etc.

The storyline isn't exactly War And Peace - space hero defeats monsters to rescue girlfriend - but there are plenty of decent twists and surprises to make it a little more than a slide show. If your nose is still pressed up against the glass of your local dealer's window as you stand transfixed by this miraculous feat of computer programming I would still think once or eight times about shelling out the asking price for this sort of entertainment.

Buy Space Ace to impress, dazzle, amaze or overwhelm, but don't buy it to play. Especially not at this price.


Space Ace 1 logo

Very few people know that Duncan MacDonald used to be a cartoon character. Yep, initial plans to release Who Framed Duncan Disorderly? were only shelved after Bob Hoskins refused to work alongside a 'toon with a drink problem. So when Don Bluth's Space Ace arrived, he just jumped at the chance to clear his blotto, um, sorry blotted copybook...

Remember Dragon's Lair? Actually, that was a rhetorical question, so even if you answered "Yes, indeed I do remember it. I remember it as well as I remember this morning", we're going to explain what it was all about anyway. Sorry, but there are some people out there who won't have seen it and they might want to know why we're mentioning it. Anyway, you can always skip the next paragraph, so we don't really know what the problem is. (Just get on with it. Ed.)

Dragon's Lair was a hit in the arcades absolutely donkey's years ago. We're talking early '80s here. But no, the graphics weren't akin to Galaxians or Space Invaders or Asteroids. In fact, they were actually 'something else'. What stared out of monitor screens around the country were cartoon graphics of a television quality. Like He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe. (Not that we're saying He-Man is an incredible work of animation genius but if you imagine it as a computer game you'll have to concur that, yes, it would be rather impressive).

This feat was brought about by the very latest (then) laser disk technology and as you can imagine, the stand-up cabinets were in constant use.

Space Ace was the 'not so quite so splash making' sequel to Dragon's Lair, itself appearing quite a long time ago. But now, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, here is the scrounged up into four disk loads - ready to splurge its way onto your very own television screen.

Space Ace, basically, is an animated action cartoon adventure. Evil Commander Borf is attacking earth. With the aid of his dreaded weapon, the Infanto Ray, he intends to transform the entire population of the planet into infants and then take control. Only two people have the strength and courage to stop him: Mike Smith and Noel Edmunds. Oh, hang on, that's not right - actually these people are 'the heroic Space Ace' and 'the beautiful Kimberley'. But as they approach Borf's stronghold, Ace is hit by the ray, changing him into a weakling - and to add insult to injury, Kimberly gets herself kidnapped by the evil fiend. Hmmm, maybe Ace and Kimberly weren't quite so clever after all.

Anyway, in the time-honoured sexist tradition, Space Ace has to rescue Kim from the blue baddie. (She won't mind if we call her Kim, surely?) There's one little problem though. Remember that Ace was hit by the ray? Yeah? Well, that means that he changes between a hulky bicep-wibbling he-man and a wimpy alter-ego called Dexter at various stages throughout the game.

CONTROL EXPERIMENT
What you have to realise is that you haven't got total control over the character you play. Basically, the game is 40 or so 'animated cartoon film clips' in which the action is orchestrated. You watch the on-screen action and occasionally get a chance to click the joystick in the direction you think Space Ace should go next. For instance, here's the first scene playing itself without touching the stick at all.

"Ace is standing on a rocky outcrop. Borf appears on an anti-gravity platform. He fires his laser first to the left, then to the right and then directly at our hero, who is frazzled."

The trick is to tap the joystick to the right while Borf is firing to the sides. When the graphics routine reaches the point where the laser bolt would have been shot at our hero, the computer 'remembers' that the joystick has been moved in the correct direction and continues the sequence, with Ace jumping out of the way of the blast.
Another joystick tap (to the left this time) will jump Ace to the left, and then a downward click will have him jumping to the side and ducking behind a rock. You have now completed the first level. And it's instantaneously onto the next.

Have a gander at the screens. Each one is actually a 'level', with some absolutely fantastic animation going on - although you won't be able to see that, obviously. Oh, and the sound is as good as the visuals. Loads of samples and loads of music.

Amiga reviewDunc: This is a funny old game, to be sure. In fact, it's not really a 'game' at all. Well, at least not in the sense that we're all used to. In fact it's more of a showcase for some outstanding graphics, animation and sound - with a bit of gameplay sort of 'sellotaped' onto the side. So, the best thing for me to do is separate the game from the graphics and sound and review them independently. Here goes.

The graphics. Absolutely outstanding. They really are. Just looking at the stills (as you are) you might think they're rather nice static title scenes. But oh no, they move alright. Just like a cartoon on the telly. Everyone who walked into the office while Space Ace was being played went boggle eyed. At one point there was actually a crowd around the monitor (well, about five members of staff and a motorcycle courier who thought we were watching Thundercats).

All the scenes are dramatically different and come at you fast in bursts of about 10 seconds or so - once you've actually learnt how to play the game, that is. In fact, the graphics are more or less your only reward for persevering, but I'll get to that in a minute. The sounds that accompany the pictures are also rather skill. Samples ahoy, and loads of music. Again, it's like watching (i.e. listening) to a cartoon on the telly. And that's really the only way to describe it.

The gameplay. Um, oh dear, I knew I'd get to this eventually. Erm, basically, you have to move the joystick either up, left, right or down at certain key moments and then watch to see if your timing and direction were right. If they weren't, you lose a life (from the initial three) and go back to the start of the game.

Each level has about three joystick moves to it in order to continue. Three simple moves might sound like a piece of cake, but believe me, you really have to do a lot of 'trial and error' runs to find out exactly when they're required and which way you should push the stick. It would be quicker and easier if the computer asked you to guess a random number between one and a hundred - only allowing progress when you'd guessed correctly three times in a row.

Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. You really don't have enough control which I suppose is the whole point - but if something doesn't work, it doesn't work. To be frank, your only reward for persevering is to see how awesome the graphics are going to become on later levels.

Unfortunately you already know: the standard is set from the word go in this game. Having slagged the gameplay off, I will add a little 'but' and it's this: I have had the merest little niggling urge to go and load Space Ace up again. Only a tiny urge, it must be said, but it's there. Hmm.

Basically my advice would go like this. If you're totally loaded, and I mean absolutely rolling in cash, then it's worth buying so you can learn a few levels and show people just what a home computer is capable of graphically. You might even get to like the game itself. However, if you're an extremely skint sort of person, then don't expect to get good value in the lastability stakes. This game is brilliant' but it's also a little bit crap.Stop


Space Ace 1 logo

Empire, Amiga £44.95

The secret of eternal life, good health, and youthful looks has been discovered. A single blast from the prototype device will knock years off your age. But the dastardly Commander Borf has grabbed the Infanto Ray and plans to use it to conquer Earth by turning everyone into babies!

The dashing Space Ace and well-voiced Kimberly set out to defeat Borf, and promptly run into trouble. Ace is blasted with the Ray and turned into a weakling adolescent and Kimberly is kidnapped. As Borf starts blasting Ace with a laser pistol, control passes over to you. Your control is very limited though. To take the first scene as an example, Borf fires a couple of shots while you're frozen in place, then you get a chance to move. According to which way you're holding the joystick you can jump either left or right. Get the direction wrong and you're dead, leading to the dead sequence. Get it right and you're shown leaping in the correct direction, Borf fires again and once more you can move.

There are thirty-three scenes spread across the four disks, and only a couple of moves per scene. You must get precisely the right direction and timing or you lose one of your three lives. Fortunately there is a save game option.


Phil King This is a classic case of nice presentation, shame about the game. With its large, brilliantly animated cartoon graphics and sampled sound, Space Ace is initially very impressive. However, playing it soon reveals the near-total lack of gameplay. The player's input is very restricted and progress seems to be a matter of trial and error with little logic in some of the moves required. Worse still, much frustration is caused by your instant death on the wrong choice. Space Ace may be 'worth a look', if you can persuade your friendly software shop to let you try it out, but I wouldn't waste £45 quid on it if I were you!
Stuart Wynne There's no doubting the quality of the animation - it's simply amazing - but your limited control over Ace is frustrating, especially when it's so difficult. This can either lead to you smashing your Amiga in frustration, or reaching for the solution. Armed with the latter, plus some practice to get the timing right, the game can be completed in five minutes or so. Space Ace is beautiful to watch, but gameplay is minimal.