Space Ace 2: Borf's Revenge logo

Sullivan Bluth und Ready Soft haben wieder zugeschlagen: Nach zwei Jahren am Abstelligleis feiert Weltraumheld Dexter nun sein standesgemäßen Comeback in einer neuen Grafik- und Soundorgie. Und wie steht es um die Spielbarkeit? Welche Spielbarkeit?

Logisch daß die kanadischen Entwickler an ihrem offensichtlich erfolgreichen Spielkonzept nichts Großartiges geändert haben - kein Wunder, daß Space Ace II in genau dieselbe Kerbe schlägt wie der Vorgänger. Borfs Rache sieht in der harten Amiga-Praxis daher so aus, daß sich die Fronten zwischen Pränsentations-Feinschmeckern und Spielbarkeits-Fanatikern um keinen Millimeter verschieben werden: Wer "Dragon's Lair" und Konsorten schon immer mochte, wird an diesem Game nicht vorbeikommen, wer derlei "spielbare Grafikdemos" mit Verachtung straft, wird auch Ready Softs neuestes Werk links liegen lassen. Ach, macht das doch unter Euch aus, wir werfen einstweilen einen Blick auf die Story.

Wie man das von einer Fortsetzung erwarten darf, handelt Space Ace II wieder von einem kreuzbösen Schurken, 'nem heldenhaften Helden, einer entführten Freundin und dem drohenden Untergang des Universums. Mit anderen Worten, Teil zwei der Weltraum-Saga knüpft da an, wo der Vorgänger aufgehört hat. Blondschopf Dexter hat sich zwischenzeitlich vom Kampf gegen seinen Erzfeind erholt, an dessen Ende Commander Borf unter dem Strahl seiner eigenen Infantilitäts-Kanone zu einem knuddeligen Baby mutierte. Das Leben könnte also schön sein, denn die entführte Freundin ist in Sicherheit, das Universum gerettet, und der Joystick in der Schublade.

Damit das nicht ewig so bleibt, setzen Borfs Schergen ihren Meister erneut unter die Strahlen-Wumme (merke: zweimal bestrahlt macht alles wieder heil) und schnappen sich ein weiteres Mal Dexters Mädel. Damit ist endlich wieder alles beim Alten - die Galaxis zittert vor Borf's Rache, die entführte Schönheit will gerettet werden, aus Dexter wird Space Ace und der Stick darf auch wieder aus der Schublade...

Zugegeben, noch hohler läßt sich eine Story beim besten Willen nicht stricken. Aber was Grafiker und Programmierer daraus gemacht haben, das kann sich nunmal sehen und hören lassen! Einmal mehr glaubt man vor einem Zeichentrickfilm zu sitzen, einmal mehr sprengt die Qualität der Animationen alle Dimensionen. Unterlegt ist das Spektakel mit allerfeinsten Musikstücken, genialen Effekten und zum Schreien schöner (digitalisierter) Sprachausgabe. In puncto Präsentation ist Space Ace II also fraglos ein Meisterwerk - wer hätte auch etwas anderes erwartet? Spielerisch schlafen dem Action-Freak dagegen wieder mal die Fuße ein - wer hätte auch etwas anderes erwartet?

Noch immer beschränkt sich die Möglichkeit, ins Geschehen einzugreifen, auf ein kurzes Wachlen am Joystick. In jeder der insgesamt 27 (kurzen) Szenen werden dem Spieler nur ein, zwei Bewegungen abverlangt, wenn es hoch kommt, muß man dazu auch noch auf den Feuerknopf drücken. Die einzige Schwierigkeit besteht darin, heraus zu knobeln, wann und wo man am Stick zu rütteln hat, das Game ist ruckzuck durchgespielt. Da ist man fast schon dankbar, daß einzelne Szenen gelegentlich etwas zu schnell animiert sind - ehe man sich versicht und die Situation durchblickt, haben die Monster bereits ihre Schuldigkeit getan, und eines der drei kostbaren Spielerleben ist ausgehaucht. Zweifelsohne schraubt dieses "Feature" den Schwierigkeitsgrad in ungeahnte Höhen, ein Dreijähriger wird tatsächlich nicht so ohne weiteres mit Borfs Spießgesellen fertig werden!

Aber keine Sorge, Ihr Dreihjährigen, es gibt ja noch eine Save-Option. Freilich kann hier nun ein einziger Spielstand abgespeichert werden, aber das ist ja fast schon einer zuviel...

Besonders, weil die Saverei mehr als umständlich ausgefallen ist. Die Funktion wird während einer Spielszene per Tastendruck aufgerufen, sobal das Bild geschafft ist, beamt das Programm den aktuellen Spielstand auf eine Extra-Disk. Dann wieder die Game-Disk, zum Laden die Extra-Disk, anschließend die Game-Disk - ein Musterbeispiel an Bedienungsfreundlichkeit! Auch die andauernde Wechselei der fünf Scheiben ist ein wahres Vergnügen, besonders wenn man nur ein Laufwerk besitzt. Wer sich jetzt im Wisssen um seine Festplatte die Hände reibt, der hat zu früh gerieben - HD-Installation steht bei Space Ace II leider nicht am Programm. Wohl dem, der einen Doppel oder gar Driefachläufer sein eigen nennt!

Kommen wir langsam zur Kernfrage: Soll man tatsächlich knapp 110 Mäuse für schöne Bilder, tolle Sounduntermalung und etwa eine Stunde Spielspaß zum Fenster rauswerfen? Natürlich nicht! Es sei denn, Ihr wart in der Spielhalle schon immer von Power-Präsentation à la Don Bluth fasziniert und wollt sowas endlich auch daheim haben. Dann könntet Ihr Euch allerdings auch das Laserdisk-Original und einen Bildplattenspieler samt Amiga-Interface besorgen, womit die Figuren des ehemaligen Disney-Starzeichners noch eindrucksvoller über den Screen flimmern. Nur: Dagegen ist Ready Softs abgespeckte Version wieder ein echtes Sonderangebot, zumal sie sich mit einer "Standard Freundin" und 512K Speicher begnügt. Tja Leute, alles ist relativ. (pb)


Space Ace 2: Borf's Revenge logo

In a month of gorgeous cartoon-style graphics, the latest Don Bluth spectacular is still stunning, visually. It's also the traditional complete disaster gameplay-wise (and price-wise too).

Okay, there's not much room left, so I'll get straight to the point. Well, in fact I've got six points, one for each disk the game comes on (plus one more).

First up, you might be surprised to note that despite coming on five disks, Space Ace II only really gives you about four sequences of action, which are then subdivided into the tiny little blow-by-blow segments or 'scenes' which you actually play. This, coupled with the tendency of the animations and samples to be cut off abruptly, gives the game a very bitty feel.

Secondly, it's lazy. The same death sequences are used repeatedly, even in very different scenarios. Since half the fun of the coin-op was seeing all the amusing ways in which Ace could bite the dust, this is a great shame, and it limits the game's lasting appeal even further - you can't even go around just dying in different ways for laughs like you could in the arcade.

Thirdly, it took me about an hour of solid playing to get through about 70 percent of the 27 'scenes', and that without trying very hard.

Fourthly, having the manual explain to you practically move by move what you have to do to get through each part robs you of the sense of reward you'd at least get if you worked it all about yourself.

Fifthly, it's been said before, but it really is ridiculous for a game of this size and unwieldiness not to be hard-drive installable. If you've only got one disk drive, you'll spend twice as much time disk-swapping as you will actually playing the game, and that ratio gets worse rather than better as you progress.

Sixthly, it's another obvious gripe, but the price is a disgrace. It isn't because of the number of disks (US Gold's Godfather comes on six, and it isn't this expensive), it can't be because of development costs (after Dragon's Lair and the previous Space Ace, the game was already licenced and largely written), and it certainly isn't because of the lush packaging - all you get is a big box full of air, a slim instruction manual (here, surely, is a game that would have stood a nice story-setting novella or something), and a 'free' poster that's so crap it's more of an insult than a bonus.

Still, the graphics are nice. Wow.


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We wouldn't like to let the crapness of the game deprive you of the lush pics, so here's a quick run through all four minutes of S.A. II, beginning with these blue meanies coming at you. Look mean, don't they? Ace fires off a blast from his laser gun, but it doesn't do much good, and the blue meanies make off with Kimmy and the infant Borf, zapped with his own Infanto Ray in the previous game.
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A flick of the 'Reverse' switch, a quick sap with the ray, and Borf's back! Ignoring the blue bad guy for now, Dexter zips off after Kimmy, only to be confronted by a monster...
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Dex dodges the monster and shrugs off two vampire cats by transforming into Ace, only to be confronted by yellowface again...
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Finally evading the enraged creature, Dexter finds himself in a corridor guarded by a laser-toting electronic sentinel. Ulp.
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...but our hero dodges it, escapes down a series of tunnels, and finds... Kimmy? 'Beware your dark side', she hints...
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Ace runs away from his evil alter-ego, but he can't hide, so...
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...he escapes by climbing down the giant's body. The Dark Side blows itself to pieces in a frenzy of blasting at the tiny Ace... Until...
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Dodging the rolling head and a few laser blasts, Ace enters Borf's fortress, where the evil one swoops into view with poor kidnapped Kimmy. The barsteward! Can Ace catch his babe in time?
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Yup. Ace and Kimmy make good their escape... But Borf is waiting!
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He knocks Ace off a cliff, grabs Kimmy, and lowers her into a pit full of babe-eating plants! Ace to the rescue again! One quick tug on the vine...
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Ha! And they all lived happily (etc). Even the ugly yellow monster...

Space Ace 2: Borf's Revenge logo

I don't know what it is about the Readysoft laser-disk conversions, but there's something strangely appealing about them. We all know what to expect in terms of the series' minimal control over the character, but somehow they still offer a challenge that won't go away until the game has been completed.

So, as can be expected, all the usual criticisms of the games can also be levied at this new additions to the family. However, due to what appears to be scrimping on Readysoft's part, somehow Borf's Revenge falls short of my already set expectations.

The scenario picks up straight from where the first game left off. Borf's evil plan to reduce the age of everybody within the galaxy using his Infanto-Ray backfired when the heroic Dexter used a mirror to reflect the blast so that Borf himself was regressed.
However, in the opening scenes of the sequel, Borf's cronies, the mischievous Goons, have reversed the polarity of the Infanto-Ray and given the blue giant a blast to revert him to normality. Thus, Dexter's girlfriend, Kimberly, is once again whisked away to Borf's lair whilst you're left to give the Goons the slip and make your way into Borf's ship to rescue her.

Unlike the first game and, indeed, the others in the series, the most notable improvement in Space Ace II is that the game flows more smoothly and the scenes roll into each other perfectly. Conversely, though, this exposes just how few scenes the game contains, with a mere three to four covering each of the package's six disks.

Starting with Kimberly's abduction, Dexter is immediately set upon by Borf's Goon friends and it's time to move the joystick at the right time to progress though the twenty-seven stages that stand between you and victory. There are five moves at your disposal, and clues to which will probably be the correct one are given by the positioning of exits and even the situations themselves - for instance, if Dexter is grabbed by a particularly hungry monster, it's odds-on that drawing his laser is the perfect remedy.
However, due to the limited number of moves, certain ones will have different effects and whilst pressing the fire-button during one scene will draw our weedy hero's laser, in others it will activate the wrist-controller which temporarily boosts Dexter's weedy frame to that of his eponymous alter-ego, Space Ace. As the correct moves are chosen, the action takes Dexter past ravenous creatures and robotic security systems and into Borf's space station, for a final stand-off under the deadly Infanto-Ray's machinery.

There's not really a lot else to mention, as by now you'll know what to expect. However, whilst the 'save' and 'load' options are still mercifully present to avoid playing the same scenes repeatedly, Readysoft seem to have cut a few corners here and there. This is particularly notable in the sound department, where the game reuses all of the samples and effects from the first game.

Considering that all these games really have going for them is their presentation, this is a major faux-pas and the chance to add to the atmosphere has been completely wasted. Presumably, this is because Readysoft have created the game from scratch without the use of a coin-op reference, but all the same it's a bit of a swizz. In addition, there are a few graphical rough edges, too, where a few more frames of animation might have been worthwhile.

So there you have it: the new Readysoft 'masterpiece'. Unless Super Don Quixote is on the cards, I have a feeling that they have milked this system as much as they can, and the advent of the supposedly more interactive Guy Spy seems to confirm this. If so, then it's about time, as the system has started waning after the novelty of Dragon's Lair wore off.

Perhaps I'm a little harsh as I did find Borf's Revenge initially appealing, but for fifty quid I feel that perhaps Borf's next adventure will see him abandoning the Infanto-Ray and spending the profits of his first two defeats on an island in the Bahamas. A sure-fire triumph for the evil giant, methinks...


TAKING IT ON THE CHIN Chinless wonders, such as Dexter and Dragon's Lair's Dirk The Daring, are real weeds compared to Vince and Paul from Ikari Warriors or the beefy bloke from Gods. What we are waiting for, though, are the next batch of featureless 'heroes' to make their computer game debut.
Coronation Street's Gail, for instance, is a person lacking in the chin department with assorted members of the Street's cast avoiding telling her to 'keep her chin up' (or at least where your face ends) when she has bother with Martin or her battle-axe mother-in-law, Ivy Tilsley. In addition, our PM, John Major, is lacking in the chin area, too, making his battle against a Federal Europe twice as hard. After all, he can't heed the advice of 'taking it on the chin', can he?