Best of all worlds?

Space Rogue logo

MEANWHILE in a galaxy far away, the story continues. You are an honest space faring merchant-marine, taking part in an ordinary trading voyage in the Karonus star system. Suddenly you come across an abandoned ship, apparently unharmed, apparently lifeless. You take an EVA and float across to have a look.

But disaster strikes! Just as you board, 10 fighter craft of the evil Manchi insect race appear out of hyperspace. Before your very eyes, your vessel is mercilessly vapourised with all hands.
Then as quickly as they appeared, the fighters vanish, leaving you alone in a cruel universe with a strange ship and no idea of what to do next. So you rummage around in the glove compartment and look for the Owner's Guide. This explains exactly how you can go about flying your new command, The Jolly Roger, with either keyboard, joystick or mouse.

The previous owner - whoever or whatever it was - was a mucky devil and has left fingerprints, coffee mug rings and even little notes in the margins.
He, she or it has also left a colourful poster sized star chart, a short novella and two cardboard cut-out model spaceships. Nice touch.

By reading the guide and playing with the controls you can eventually reach the nearest space station. After docking, the display switches from the simple three dimensional solid view to a two dimensional overhead one.

You wander around the station, bumping into people and generally trying to find out as much information as you can. Amusement presents itself in the form of the latest arcade sensation to sweep the galaxy.

Playing a game within a game is not a new idea by a long way, but it's fun. Makes a welcome break. Plus, Hive will award a prize if you make it past the last screen, so it can't be bad.

Non-gamers may be better off visiting the bar for a quickie. If you knock back one too many you may find manoeuvring between the walls a bit on the tricky side. It seems strangely familiar...

Once you have found out as much as you can, or have been evicted for trying to do something you shouldn't, you can leave the station and enter one of hyperspace gates with the inevitable "flying through coloured circles" stage. Then you start exploring all over again.

The overall aim is to discover why the Manchi destroyed your original vessel and perhaps save the universe in the process. And why not?
From the packaging and advertising blurb surrounding Space Rogue, I was unsure what sort of game it would eventually turn out to be. The end result is a 3D shoot 'em-up, 2D role-playing, strategic arcade game.

A bit like the last budget; not very taxing. Well, a good deal more enjoyable.


Space Rogue logo

MINDSCAPE/ORIGIN £29.99 * Keyboard, Mouse or Joystick

Anyone who has played Elite will know roughly what this game is about. You play a square-jawed young hero, striving to become the best pilot in the Far Arm. You can trade, go bounty hunting, or try your hand at piracy (definitely not recommended unless your ship is equipped with some mean hardware).

In Space Rogue, humans have never developed fast-than-light travel. Travelling between stars would take years were it not for 'wormholes', strange tunnels in space that connect systems. A mysterious alien race, called the Malir, constructed travel gates around the wormholes and humans used them to found the Imperium. Unfortunately, the wormholes don't connect all parts of the empire.

The Far Arm, where the game is set, is an isolated region on the edge of the Imperium. Deneb is the capital, and controls a number of systems. Each system consists of one or more stars, along with planets, asteroid belts, anti-matter clouds and other navigational hazards. Nearby is an area claimed bya hostile alien race called the Manchi, who occasionally raid across the border.

The game begins when your ship, the Princess Blue, discovers a derelict scout. The Captain orders you to go and take a closer look but unfortunately while you are poking around ten Manchi ships turn up and blast the Princess into space-dust.

The scout is something of a Marie Celeste: everything is working, but there is no sign of the crew. By law the ship is yours to keep, and thus your career begins. But there is more to it than that: the scout's crew were up to something important, and as you discover more you find you have unexpected friends and enemies...

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

There are a number of different screens, each with its own unique style. The most important is the cockpit of your craft, where you control such things as docking and space combat. The navigation panel provides a map, and a menu that covers most of the other controls. The graphics are clear, but are chunky and poorly animated. The same is try for moving around inside bases, while in-system travel is literally nothing more than looking at a map and reading the occasional message.

Sound consists of an occasional beep, whistle and bang - even in the introduction, where the programmers had a chance to show off, there was little more than a rumble and a shrill siren. The sound can only be described as woefully inadequate.

LASTING INTEREST

The packaging is impressive: plenty of paperwork, including a very nice map of the Far Arm and an instruction book. The designers have even included two cardboard ships for you to make! The game can be played using keyboard, joystick, or mouse: if you do play using the keys you need fourteen spare fingers, and what makes it worse is that you can't redefine the keys at all. IN order to use the mouse you need to have passed a course in 3D astronavigation: stopping the ship spinning was a headache, and combat was a nightmare. Only the joystick proved useable, and required only a few additional keys.

JUDGEMENT

Space Rogue is, well, primitive and the graphics are a big disappointment. Don't get me wrong, the game itself is playable and intriguing, but it certainly lacks the vital spark.


Space Rogue logo

Was kommt dabei heraus, wenn man "Elite" mit "Ultima" kreuzt? Das Wahnsinnsspiel - aber nur wenn die Dosierung stimmt! Ansonsten zumindest etwas recht Gutes, wie in diesem Fall.

Als ich die Packung von Space Rogue öffnete, war die Freude groß: Neben der obligatorischen Gamedisk findet man darin einen Mini-Roman, eine Anleitung für das Schiff, eine Sternenkarte, einen Papiermodell-Bausatz, einen Beilagezettel für den im Spiel enthaltenen Arcade-Automaten und schließlich einen Werbewisch, auf dem Ultima VI angekündigt wird - leider nur für den PC (schluchz!).

Also wird alles durchgeackert, und schon weiß ich auch was über die Vorgeschichte: Der Spieler beginnt als junger Sternenfahrer, dessen ehemaliges Ausbildungsschiff von den Manchi zerstört wurde. Natürlich schwört er finstere Rache, was (wie fast immer) leichter gesagt als getan ist.

Der altersschwache Kahn, den er jetzt hat, sollte dringend ausgebaut werden, und er selbst muß auch noch die nötigen Erfahrungen sammeln - womit wir bei dem Prinzip wären, das "Elite" berühmt gemacht hat. Dazu gibt es den oben schon erwähnten "Ultima"-Teil: Jedesmal, wenn der Spieler eine Station im Weltraum betritt, wird von der 3D-Vektorgrafik in die Vogelperspektive umgeschaltet.

Auf den Stationen kann man einkaufen, das Schiff ausstatten/reparieren und sich unterhalten, um nützliche Informationen zu sammeln. Außerdem gibt es hier "Hive!", eine eingebautes Action-Game, bei dem man Aliens rösten darf. Es spielt sich recht leicht, verliert aber auch schnell seinen Reiz.

Die Ähnlichkeiten zu "Elite" ziehen sich wie ein roter Faden durch das Spiel; so steht es dem hoffnungsvollen Sternenfahrer auch hier frei, ob er auf Piratenjagd gehen oder selbst zum Piraten werden will: Hocharbeiten kann man sich überall.

Schließlich gibt es auch bei Space Rogue zahlreiche Sondermissionen, und man will ja vorbereitet sein! Das Fliegen im All ist sogar etwas realistischer geraten als beim Vorbild (Asteroiden-felder, Ionenstürme, Schwarze Löcher etc.), dafür ist der Spielraum nicht so komplex, die verschiedenen Systeme sind deutlich kleiner ausgefallen.

Meine (großen) Erwartungen hat das Game nicht ganz erfüllt, vor allem, weil der "Ultima"-Anteil doch recht gering ist. Zudem ist es wieder mal eine eins zu eins PC-Konvertierung, von der Anfangssequenz über die 3D-Vektorgrafik bis hin zu den Stationsgrafiken.

Vom Tempo her ist Space Rogue ein klein bißchen lahm, aber noch gut spielbar. Der Sound besteht zu 90% aus der ewigen Still des Weltalls, die wenigen FX klingen äußerst PC-mäßig. Es sind zwei Tastatursteuerungen, Joystick- und Mausabfrage vorhanden, zwischen denen jeweils umgeschaltet werden muß - alle haben ihre Vor- und Nachteile.

Auch wenn sich das jetzt alles vielleicht etwas negativ angehört hat - unterm Strich bleibt ein solides Weltraumspiel, bei dem "Elite"-Fans unbesorgt zuschlagen können, und auch alle anderen getrost einmal einen Blick riskieren sollten. (mm)


Space Rogue logo

Origin/£29.99/Out Now

Amiga reviewTim: Jeez! All hell's broken loose and it wants to take over my underpants! Quick, better work out how to fly this fab 'Sunracer'. What does this button do?Oh, 'jettison all cargo'.

Despite the huge wodge of a manual, this corking space trading game is dead easy to get into. Plot a course for a space station or outpost and watch your ship, the Jolly Roger, track across the map. Drop into real time space (vector graphics ahoy) and dock. Then wander around the installation (Gauntlet style), trading, buying upgrades for the ship and talking to bods you come across.

Someone might even off you a mission. "Deliver this tin of cat food to Mrs. Codpiece on Arcturus V and I'll give you a new alternator for your Radionix mega-reactor". Shoot up traders and become a pirate, shoot up Manchi interceptors and curry favour with the Imperium or just shoot up and become Roger Turkey, the boring merchant.

Space Rogue is fast moving, addictive and erm, 'quite big'. If you're a bit of an Elite-ist then this is definitely going to tickle your hyperdrive...