Starblade logo

PALACE £24.99 * Joystick/Keyboard

The year is 3001 and a war of the worlds that once seemed impossible is a terrible reality. Earth stands alone in a universe crawling with unpleasant life forms: humanoid insects, the Cephallhydra, are threatening to extinguish the few remaining members of mankind. Your aim is to locate the Queen of the insect race, Genolyn, and prevent her from breeding further.

Taking on the role of a mercenary you are to pilot the ship 'Starblade' through space, visiting varied and interesting locations en route. On board the Starblade it's possible to walk around and visit the stores, the engine room or even the airlocks, to be sure your spaceship's ready for action. From within the cockpit you have complete control of the spacecraft with five control panels to access all of the Starblade's facilities.

There's communications to send distress signals or receive messages, navigational controls to select destination and speed (Hyperspace or Conventional). There's a big-screen view of what's out there for the battle station, used to blow any offending space trash into the next galaxy. While to check up on the old engines and circuits you simply need to glance at the status board.

Once you've explored the Starblade set your destination by picking a planet, leave the airlock in the shuttlecraft Allta and fly automatically to a planetary landing. Pressing the spacebar allows the viewing and selecting of various weapons that you've picked up along the way. Remember, there's aliens out there and they ain't always pleased to see you.

Starting with a laser sword and a few grenades you'll desperately want better weapons, more food and some oxygen, as well as extra components for spacecraft repair. This requires a bit of trading. Your limited credits are used to purchase items from passers-by or at trading posts.

Some planets can only be explored if you've enough oxygen in your suit, so make sure you read the planet info before touchdown. The energy bar shoots down if you're hacked by aliens or if you can't breath, so take care - space can damage your health!

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Starblade's presentation is polished. The ship and the backdrops are excellent. The atmosphere's maintained during play and the mid-50s science-fiction theme is really brought to life. Unfortunately the sprite animation can't compete. Planetside, the variety of backgrounds is pretty but the aliens are jittery and a bit blocky. Worst of all is the slow fade and the use of flick screen scrolling, which looks authentically 50s B-movie but irritates like hell after a few games. Sound is limited to the odd laser gun beep or a doos wishing shot

LASTING INTEREST

The number of worlds to fly to and the arcade sequences once there make Starblade a challenging task. The game requires a lot of tactical thinking and is sure to keep the interest there for a long time. The frustration sets in when the planets, obstacles and routes start to become familiar - a real drag, as the tantalising backgrounds are always different.

JUDGEMENT

The concept's original and is sure to appeal to many. The options take time to get to grips with, but even the first few attempts lead to new occurrences and adventures each time. The overall prettiness plays a big role in creating a special atmosphere of space exploration, an effect that's only marred by the arcade section's clumsy feel.


Starblade logo

Silmarils bezeichnet seinen neuesten Streich als Seifenoper im All. Und tatsächlich: Wiedermal ist ein tapferer Held gefragt, wiedermal sind abgrundtief böse Mutanten unterwegs, und wiedermal droht das Ende der Menschheit. Was nur beweist, dass auch im Jahre 3001 die (Software-) Welt immer noch schönster Ordnung ist...

In gut 1000 Jahren ist es soweit: Dank der ständigen Bedrohung der insektenartigen (und äußerst bösen) "Cephalhydras" ist von der gesamten menschlichen Rasse bis auf wenige Kolonien nichts mehr übrig. Jetzt sollen unsere Nachfahren endgültig ausgerottet werden - es sei denn, ein wagemutiger Erdling schafft es, die Brutstätte der cephalhydratischen Krieger zu finden und auszumerzen. Um den genauen Standpunkt der Mutatenwiege herauszufinden, muß unser Menschheitsretter eine Reihe von Planeten anfliegen und dort nach Disketten suchen, auf denen jeweils einzelne Koordinaten des schrecklichen Ortes gespeichert sind.

Das Abenteuer beginnt an Bord eines riesigen Raumschiffs. Der Spieler steuert den Helden durch zahlreiche Räume, schaut im Maschinenraum und im Lager nach dem Rechten und beamt sich zwischendurch immer mal wieder zurück ins Cockpit, um sein Schiff auf Kurs zu halten. Mit Hilfe des Bordcomputers informiert er sich über aufgetretene Schäden, empfängt Meldungen oder sendet SOS-Rufe. Ab und zu ertönt ein schrilles Alarmsignal: Das schiff wird angegriffen! Dann heißt es, so schnell wie möglich den Kampfstand zu aktivieren: Mit ein paar schnellen Laserschüssen auf die heranflitzenden Gegner ballert man sich den Weg frei, und schon kann die Reise weitergehen.

Um zu landen, benutzt unser Weltraumpilot Raumgleiter, mit denen er butterweich auf den fremden Gestirnen aufsetzt. Dort angekommen, vernichtet er die aggressiven Einheimischen mit Handgranaten oder seinem Lichtschwert, kauft nützliche Gegenstände und sammelt die begehrten Magnetkarten ein. Anschließend geht's wieder zurück ins Mutterschiff und weiter zum nächsten Planeten.

In puncto Präsentation haben sich die Programmierer ein dickes Lob verdient: Die Planetenlandschaften sehen jedesmal anders aus, und auch im Raumschiff selbst ist eine abenteuerliche Menge an wunderschönen Bildern geboten. Grafik und Sound gehen auf alle Fälle in Ordnung, die vielen kleine Details (Kampfstand, Bordcomputer) sorgen für ein realistisches Weltraumgefühl. Nur ist das Spiel viel zu langatmig, oft läuft man durch vier, fünf Screens, ohne daß irgendetwas passiert. Außerdem ist die Steuerung der Spielfigur bei den Kämpfen ziemlich in die Hose gegangen - umständlich und träge!

Auch wenn hier wirklich versucht wurde, eine komplette Abenteuerwelt zu simulieren, bleibt die Motivation nach einiger Zeit auf der Strecke. Spielerisch ist Starblade eher trist; schade, denn mit mehr Action und kniffligeren Rätseln hätte es das ultimative Actionabenteuer werden können! In Frankreich hat man jedoch aus den Fehlern des Vorgängers "Colorado" kaum gelernt, deshalb reicht es diesmal nur noch für eine knapp überdurchschnittliche Note. (C. Borgmeier)


Starblade logo

PALACE
£24.99

Not so long ago, Colorado hopped over the white cliffs of Dover to settle snuggly onto your softshop's shelves. This time, France-based Silmarils and their English distributors, Palace, put you in the driving seat of a Starblade XD.71 transporter and, as Storm Walker, the champion of the Scientific Fighting Front, you must collect magnetic cards scattered throughout the star system to unlock the co-ordinates of Cassandra, the base planet of tyrant Genolyn and her followers.

It's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the layout of the ship as you'll need to know where all the various circuit boards and chips are found that control the basic (but fundamental) food and oxygen, the cockpit and magnetic shield.

If there's a problem with the engine damage or aliens invade the ship, you must go to the engine room, look at the control panel and replace any burnt-out circuits.

To keep everything shipshape, you must buy spare parts, add-ons, oxugen and fuel en route. Each planet is selected from a screen in the cockpit, which gives details of each's atmosphere, technology rating and principle exports. You can buy and sell and make money as you travel using conventional propulsion or fuel guzzling hyperspace. But beware! Every ship in the cosmos has your ship's ID and order to shoot it on sight. So if you're attacked during a flight, the ship will go to alert and you need to get to the guns and get blazing. The battle screen will give you a laser sight and a quick jab on the fire button sends your lasers zipping off out where no man will want to get in the way. Pressing F2 gives you a magnetic shield, and you can buy missiles from certain planets. Overall, though, the game is slow with only the pacey shoot outs getting any adrenalin going at all.

Starblade is definitely one for the adventurer who's not that adventurous. But if you like Elite then why not give it a go?


Starblade logo

Silmarils/Palace software, Amiga £24.99

The press release that plopped through our letterbox with this game states: 'Silmarils are gradually building a name for themselves...'. Take it from me lads, Silmarils is enough of a name without building anymore to it. If it gets any bigger most reviewers won't be able to say it, let alone spell it.
Anyroadup, Starblade is Silmarils' follow up to their all-American adventure, Colorado and features their now very-near-familiar style of graphics and large animated characters. But this time space is the setting and you're cruising the Orion Galaxy searching for Genolyn, a mutated queen insect bent on destroying all humanoid life. The coordinates of Genolyn have been scattered across several planets by the now-dead Julius Gordon. You must find the insect queen before she starts to breed.

Starblade is actually the cargo ship you, as Storm Walker, use to travel the vast void of space. And a good job it is a cargo ship 'cause you'll need to buy and sell loads of stuff in a wheelin'- dealin'- duckin' divin' kind of way in an effort to keep your ship on the road and buy essential items such as weapons.
Weapons are important to you as the Investigative Bureau (ally of Genolyn) has put a massive bounty on your head and it seems everyone want to get rich quick. On planet surfaces or travelling through space you find yourself under almost constant attack.

You have a shuttle, called the Altta, onboard Starblade in which you travel planetside to go walkabout searching for necessary spare parts for your ship or magnetic cards. These cards hold important messages, some in the form of clues as to what you should do or where you should go next.

The cockpit of Starblade features system windows for checking the condition of the ship and its current cargo, entering space-combat mode, plotting courses to other planets and loading/saving your game position. Walking around your ship is OK, if a little disorientating. Backgrounds are very detailed and feature nice little touches, flashing little lights and so on, to enhance atmosphere. When in ship-to-ship combat, control is pretty sticky and graphics are not great.
Following space combat you need to check out Starblade's systems to see how unwell she is. The stores won't hold every spare part you require so you need to go planetside to build up your stocks.
Being planetside is graphically rewarding but there's not a lot to do apart from fight bounty hunters, pick up the odd object and buy or sell goods.

Starblade is enjoyable for an hour of two but becomes repetitive and apart from having different planet surfaces to look at and explore you basically carry out the same tasks continually. Also, FX are below average and planetside combat is fairly basic. A bit more variation would have been nice.