After a bewildering series of conversions, Starglider has finally arrived on the machine for which it could be said it is best suited, the Commodore Amiga. Like most Rainbird games, Starglider comes complete with an excellent novella, in this case written by James Follet, an author of some note. Surprisingly, however, this game relies heavily on the novella's storyline. Anyone who has read it will far a great deal better than those who simply jump in with guns blazing.
The object, for all this fiction, is simply to travel around an imaginary planet, in this case Novenia, killing as many alien lifeforms as possible. To help you achieve this, you have been equipped with a highly potent AGAV (Airborne Ground Attack Vehicle), a never-ending supply of laser power, and missiles. As Jaysan (the daredevil pilot whose body you take control of), you must make the most of your weapons, in order to gain as many points as possible. Each alien has a different value ranging from 50 for a small drone, to 7,500 for a Starglider. Each time you accrue 10,000 points, you are transferred a new and more complicated level. Starglider takes the realms of Amiga games another giant step forward. What Jeremy San has managed to do is tame the blitter, a dedicated chip that allows the computer to move data around the screen incredibly quickly. It is this factor more than anything else which has resulted in the speed increase over the ST version.
Other differences from the ST include minor changes to gameplay and the addition of some excellent music. Using sampled sounds and true sequencing, Starglider is one of the first games to produce a soundtrack of which the machine is capable.
After a few hours play the basics become obvious and you can spend more time learning the ins and outs of wreaking havoc on the likes of Fleet Commander Hermann Kruud, pilot of Starglider One (the ultimate baddie).
To kill a Starglider it is not only necessary to be able to fly like a demon, you must also use your missiles to their best effect. Once a missile is launched your mouse controls only the missile, and you must therefore focus all your energies on pin-pointing the adversary. Of the objects that have to be killed using missiles (which include Stargliders, Walkers and Stompers), I found Stompers the most difficult, particularly as, unlike Stargliders, they never run away. Rather they head straight forward inflicting massive damage on what is, after all, only a flimsy spacecraft. On later levels, it is necessary to hit Stargliders with up to five missiles to kill them, a challenge for even the most agile pilot. Fans of the Star Wars trilogy will immediately recognise the Walkers from 'Return of the Jedi', and the way in which they are animated (including a peculiar wobbling walk) is remarkable to say the least.
In order to extend the game, it is necessary to master both docking with silos, and the collecting of fuel. The former is simply a matter of establishing where a silo is and then swooping down and hovering until the entrance appears. Collecting fuel is a much harder task, and without giving too much away, most people (unless they are very lucky) will not work out how to achieve refuelling unless they have read the novella.
Once in a silo, your AGAV has its shields and energy replaced, and an extra missile can be taken on board (unless you already have two). At this point you can also interrogate the silo computer, which will give you valuable tips on killing enemy ships.
Starglider is a game that, unlike most current Amiga games, will be remembered in four years time.