The Egrons strike back

Starglider 2 logo Amiga Computing Supreme Award

The most awaited sequel in Amiga history is finished. Simon Rockman takes his Emma 2 scout car to Millway in final pursuit of Egron destruction.

AFTER being routed in Starglider the Egrons retired to lick their wounds and prepare for a second onslaught against Novenia. The second attack involves them building bases on the seven moons of Millway, a gas giant in the solar system of Solice.
The bases are a staging post for a huge space station, built in orbit around Q-Beta, the moon of the outermost planet in the Solice system - Aldos. Your mission is to destroy the space station along with its cannon, a weapon which is capable of firing through the vacuum of space and penetrating the ionosphere of Novenia to wreak havoc on your home planet.

Jaysan, Katra and Agro have the task of defeating the Egrons. You again take on the role of the space samurai. It is a feat which requires skill, courage, dexterity and Jaysan to get out of the bath.
The AGAV from Starglider was an old ship when you used it years ago. For this mission Draggon Industries - designers of fine spacecraft - have prepared the prototype of their Interplanetary Combat And Reconnaissance Universal Scout. Icarus for short.
For this mission "prepared" means that the engine, designed by specialists on the planet Cosworth, has been tuned and the craft stripped of all armaments save a simple gas plasma laser. With its PicoChannel expansion bus the Icarus is capable of taking more advanced weapons, but Solice is a long way from Novenia and the fuel load precludes the fitment of more advanced weaponry.

There are four bigger and better types of whizzbang which can be mounted on the Icarus. Time-warp cuboids take twice the power of a standard laser, but pack a much more significant punch. They flip parts of the target into a different time. Fire and Flee missiles are the Icarus' answer to heat-seekers. They rely on a sophisticated Target Identify Mode (TIM), because relying on heat would be fickle when you have to cope with the temperature extremes on the hot planet of Dante and the ice wastes of Aldos.

TIM relies on determination as much as intelligence. The missiles are often led a merry dance before they destroy the target, something which can be quite amusing to watch and makes you trigger happy.
Barnes Wallis wouldn't recognise the Humbug as his sort of bouncing bomb - for a start they spin the wrong way. They are humbug coloured and can destroy virtually all armour.
The most powerful weapon is the neutron bomb, which hangs Dark Star-like below the Icarus. As the missions briefing tells you: "This is the only weapon in existence with enough force to destroy the Egron space station and safeguard the future of Novenia".

Before you can mount your assault on the space station you need to build the bomb. This is where your flying skills are called into pay. The Icarus' initial planetfall is on the geosphere of Apogee. This planet is the place where the neutron bomb will be built.
Dive into a tunnel entrance - the planet has holes drilled through it to speed journeys from place to place - as the tunnels are the safest place to be. The Egrons have not invaded them and they are the hiding place of the rebel forces. You have to enlist the help of the rebels to build the bomb. They will be expecting you.
The tunnels are twisty. You will learn your way around after a while, but getting lost can be really frustrating. Black panels on what for the sake of convenience we shall call the floor, indicate a deport nearby.

TO get to the first depot go left at the first two forks in the tunnel. Then when a tunnel merges from the right turn around and fly to the left down the merging tunnel. This will bring you to the depot.
The manager, Trem, will give you a shopping list - things to get from other planets to help make the bomb. This consists of a case of Vistan wine, a crate of nuclear fuel, a crate of castrobars, a lump of mineral rock, an Egron mini-rocket, an asteroid, a cluster of nodules, a flat diamond and Professor Taymar, who will build the bomb.

Finding out where to get the parts of the bomb is the strategic element of the game, and a good reason for reading all the documentation. Some things seem obvious. A case of Vistan wine comes from the planet Vista, asteroids can be found in the asteroid belt between Millway and Apogee.
Castrobars come from Castron - the sugar moon around Apogee. They are Professor Taymar's favourite nosh and the reason he is prepared to build the bomb. But you will run into trouble if you have the Castrobars on board when you pick him up. Castron will not give you the food, you need to trade a petrified tree. This is a good place to start. Castron's twin - Enos - is a dark place, famed for its petrified forests.

When the game starts lift the nose of your Icarus and apply full thrust. This will take you out of Apogee's atmosphere and into space. Watch out for space pirates; assuming the coast is clear reduce thrust to zero - there is no point in wasting fuel cruising around.
Use the identification computer to find Enos - it is the dark grey moon. You will learn your way around with some practice. Point your nose at Enos and engage stardrive. When the moon fills the screen pop out of stardrive to planetfall. Hitting the surface too hard will damage your shields.

Enos is a violent place, so find a tree as soon as possible. Grab it with your tractor beam and suck it into the craft. The hold is large enough to take three objects, so a bit of juggling may be needed to decide what to take and when. With the tree inside leave the planet and head for Castron - home of the dentists.

Back in space you are likely to find marauding pirates. Depending on the state of your energy reserves you might choose to tangle with them. Their catamaran craft are agile but fall to your laser fire. The blue spaceships weave, and are the hardest things in the game to hold in your sights. A missile works, but is a waste of ammo. Ridding the spacelanes of pirates not only performs a judiciary function, the wrecked bounty hunters might drop some cargo, providing a shortcut to your goal. Retrieve the goodies by flying towards and capturing them in your tractor beam.

Dicing with death like this is bound to have brought your defences down a notch or two. Time to refuel. By far the easiest way to do this is by sucking energy out of the asteroids.
Fly between Millway and Apogee and look for the lumps of blue rock. Bring the Icarus to a halt close by and grab with the tractor beam. As you watch the control panel the readings will rise.

Asteroids are unstable, as anyone who has played SiniStar in the arcades will know, and after a while the rock starts to shimmer and will explode. You may have to find several asteroids before you are fully refuelled.

Refuelling is an important part of the game. There are powerlines, similar to those in Starglider, held aloft by pylons. Fly along them to suck in the power. You can refuel Elite-style by scooping energy from the sun - but beware, remember what happened to the original Icarus. You too will melt - quite spectacularly - if you fly too close to the sun.

Dante - the hot planet, is a good source of power. Volcanic activity means you can suck energy by hovering over the mountain of fire, or look out for geoplasmic emissions from the planet surface. Catch one just right to refuel. Take thrust up to maximum and leave Dante. E quindi unsimmo a riveder le stele (Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.) Find a tunnel entrance as soon as possible - you don't really want to do battle with the Egron might. Flying through the maze of tunnels can be frustrating, but when you find the right depot you may well come across a supply of Humbug bouncing bombs. Great for taking out planet-bound Egron hardware.

LEAVING Castron you may well decide to investigate the Space Whales in the gas atmosphere of Millway, or look for Professor Taymar who is driving an Emma 2 on Broadway. You might decide to take on a space train or dice with pirates, but whatever you do be careful. The Icarus' computer can "listen" to alien noises and identify craft - so if you hear a strange noise the computer will determine for you whether it is friend or foe.

Novenia will send messages which appear on your microscreen telling you what is going on in the rest of the system. Messages like "Egron station constructed on Apex" are useful - take a humbug and see to it.
Whatever you do, be careful out there. If your Valium Dynamics fuel cells deplete to zero the Icarus will explode, leaving the pilot's chair to bounce on through space. The chari is the same shape as the one Alister Perrot programs in at Argonaut Software, and was designed to check out the graphic routines.
What we want to know is, if the chair can withstand Egron rockets and the destruction of the Icarus - why don't they make the spacecraft out of the same stuff as the chair?

Starglider 2 mixes plot with the gameplay in a way no one else has yet achieved. Interceptor and Carrier Command have come close, Starglider 2 excels. You really feels as though you are on a mission from Novenia.

Argonaut has produced astonishingly fast graphics, with a checkerboard planet surface. Your craft casts a shadow on the alien soil. The colours are bold and the action furious. When a spaceship explodes it does so spectacularly.
You can select Interceptor-style external views of your craft - only really useful in tunnels - and look at the ship from any angle. You can view the outside world from any angle and lock the axis through which you tilt. All this can get confusing, but hitting 8 on the numeric keypad restores normality.

Richard Clucas is justifiably proud of his work which has produced the Argonaut Disc Loading Scheme (ADLS). This allows the same disc to be used in both an Amiga and Atari ST. The program does not have to be cut down in size, because much of the information is shared by both machines.
The save game option works in ADLS, specially formatting a disc to hold up to five games. If you have a particularly good saved position you can give the save-game disc to a friend who can load it into his ST.
While the Amiga version is a mite slower than the ST it sounds a million times better - the Atari does not have the sound facilities to copete, although both machines have Dave Lowe's stunning soundtrack.
The monochrome ST version looks good, and a PC version is under development with C64 and Macintosch versions planned.

IN addition to the game, Starglider 2 offers a futuristic painting package. Arcade addicts who saw the I Robot machine will remember it offered a painting option. Starglider 2's option 8 - Paint with Rolf - allows you to use any of the 3D shapes from the game as a paint brush. It was incorporated after a bug caused the shapes to freeze on the screen. While it is fun no one would accuse "Painting with Rolf" of being art.

Whether you are painting or shooting, Starglider 2 is the kind of game the Amiga deservers. You deserve to play it.


Starglider 2 logo Format Gold

ARGONAUT/RAINBIRD

The release of Starglider two years ago not only heralded 16-bit power as the future format for games software but convinced players that it was time to fork out the readies for the hardware. No other product gained so much coverage and sales and yet, ironically, as a technical achievement the look was distinctly 8-bit. Okay, so the wire frames moved fast and there were a lot of them, but at the end of the day Starglider was no more than a straight shoot-em-up with limited strategy. The sequel is a different game entirely and owes little to the original save for the name and the context. Sound, graphics and gameplay all have been radically overhauled.

AIM

On behalf of the Novenian Council you have have been despatched to the Solice System in a bid to prevent the Egrons from building a space station near the outermost planet of Aldos to house a weapon powerful enough to destroy Novenia. Beam Projectors are being deployed on each of the seven moons of an inner world. Milway, to protect the space station's construction. In your Icarus cruiser, you must visit the 15 worlds of Solice and collect the armaments, materials and the scientist required to produce a neutron bomb - the only device capable of taking out the space station. Along the way you encounter pirates, alien creatures and, of course, heavily-armed Egron opposition so it's best to regularly save your position.


GRAPHICS AND SOUND

You might imagine Starglider 2 as a combination of Mercenary and Elite and you'd be right up to a point. Here though there are 103 filled 3D objects most of which are animated. On the ground you come up against stompers, walkers, petrified trees, pac-worms, bouncing balls, cars, tanks and silos., whilst in the upper atmospheres you can find space whales, ducks, rays, birds and stargliders. To keep you on your toes you will have to compete against 17 types of aggressor.

The array of 3D phenomena is brilliant; each moving object perfectly defined, rock solid and fast. Every object encountered can be accessed and manipulated from a library option available on start-up. An excellent inclusion which could have been marketed as a standalone feature. Starglider 2's major achievement is to get so many filled vectors on screen simultaneously with no apparent loss of speed. You may also switch to any of 7 instantaneous "Interceptor"-style external shots of your cruiser plus 9 different cockpit views of your current position. The instrument panel itself is worth a mention too for its laser, energy, fuel, speed and altitude indicators - each depicted by opaque 3D columns deemed to be holographic displays. Also of note is the currently selected weapon indicator which, with a hit on the shift key, flips between small animated cubes, bouncing bombs, missiles, lasers and mushroom clouds.

Sound is excellent too. From the FX of thunder and cannon fire to the thuds of stompers striding across the landscape the overall effect is a very convincing atmosphere throughout your mission.


CONCLUSION

It's hard to find fault with Starglider 2 - it scores so highly in graphics and sound you'd be prepared to overlook any lack of gameplay. But it doesn't lack gameplay - you can play it as strategic exercise or load up and go out blasting everything in sight. Its game save facility lets you combine each approach without problem. Either way it leaves its predecessor standing.


STRATEGY

After learning to fly your cruiser - simply a matter of pulling and pushing the mouse for altitude and direction, and clicking the right mouse button for thrust - it's time to test out your gas plasma lasers by clicking the left mouse button. Thankfully, just about everything that moves can be annihilated with consummate ease. Once the controls have become refles it's a matter of hitting R from time to time to get a status update and seeing where Egron Beam Projectors are being built. You can then activate your star drive and zip to your destination planet. Remember to shut down the drive before planetfall, though, or you'll lose your shields.

Most combat encounters occur between planets where pirates hang out and spend most of their time shooting each other up. Since they 're preoccupied it's quite easy to take hundreds of them out. Some objects however, like beam projectors, require bouncing bombs. So first of all you must search the Solice system for underground arm depots. Labyrinthe tunnel networks are found on most planets and moons and provide safe access to other areas up top.

Depots are difficult to find and usually require a trade before you can take what they have to offer. Though like all true blue deep space renegades you'll be pleased to know you can also steal what's on offer with your tractor beam. This facility is very handy for refuelling - just lock on to one of the many asteroids to be fund in a belt off Milway and all your energy levels will recover. Other weapons at your disposal, if you can find them, are Time-Warp cuboids - cunning little devils which time-warp doppelgangers into the path of whatever you shoot them at - Fire and Flee missiles which lock on to heavily defended objects and finally the neutron bomb - designed to destroy the Egron space station. To use this you must locate its designer and the necessary components to build it.

ST vs AMIGA

Starglider 2 has been developed using a dual format system which, like our own, holds both ST and Amiga programs on one disk. However Argonaut have taken this a stage further - a game position saved on the ST can be reloaded into the Amiga and vice versa!

The game was developed on Amigas and ported over to STs where it was found to run 10% faster. But ST owners needn't feel too smug - all you have to do is take a saved game around to a friend's Amiga and be knocked out by the fabulous sampled sounds. They transform the atmosphere entirely and more than make up what is a barely discernable loss of speed.


Starglider 2 logo CU Super Star

Rainbird Price: £24.95 disk

Following their success with Starglider - one of the first serious 16-bit games - Jez San and his Argonaut software team have since been busy with its sequel, not surprisingly entitled Starglider 2.
This latest mission takes place within the confines of a neighbouring star system - a collection of planets and their moons, circling the star Solice.
The Egrons have invaded the nearby Solice system, captured all of its planets and are currently engaged in the construction of a giant plasma beam weapon in orbit around Q-Beta, the lone moon of the fifth planet, Aldos.
To protect this giant construction, the Egrons are also building a series of smaller beam weapons on each of the seven moons of Millway - gas giant and fourth planet of the system.

Jaysan, Katra and the slightly deranged Argo set forth to Solice in the Icarus (so named because whenever you fly too near to the star Solice, the ship melts and the control panel drips down the screen in a very realistic manner!).

The remaining Solician forces have taken refuge in the labyrinth of tunnels that dissect several of the planets and moons of the system. Several underground research establishments are still in existence and the intrepid threesome must make contact with the Solicians, help them to build a Neutron Bomb and blow the beam weapon to atoms before it does the same to Novenia.

What at first appears to be quite a complex scenario soon boils down to little more than a scavenger hunt of interplanetary proportions: the necessary components must be found and ferried to the research depot on Apogee, where the bomb is to be built. These include such strange requests as a flat diamond, an Egron mini-rocket and a case of Vistan wine!

Due to weight restrictions, the Icarus is defenceless save for a pair of forward-firing gas plasma lasers. However, the ship contains specially designed armament slots which allow the ship's hardware to be increased at will. A range of extra equipment can be added, including homing missiles, bouncing bombs (which are used to destroy the protective beam weapons on Millway's moons) and Projected Time-Warp Cuboids, which send enemy craft back in time about a second, causing them to collide with themselves! All these defence systems are available from technical depots on the moons of Millway, but, as always, you don't get something for nothing: the Solicians won't cough up a bouncing bomb until you provide them with a mechanical whale, and so on.

The craft is also self-sufficient as regards refuelling: additional energy may be obtained from a variety of sources, including arcing powerlines, gaseous volcanic emissions, methane asteroids and even from the plasma discharges of Solice itself. In practice, all these methods are as tricky as they sound, but once mastered are more or less the key to success: immediate danger is only provided by a dwindling energy supply and failing shields. Oh yes, I forgot to mention: in amongst all this you have to run the gauntlet of bloodthirsty space pirates and about a million Egron combat craft...

The accompanying novella is a humorous and vital read, containing information necessary to complete the mission. Whatever the strengths or shortcomings of the gameplay, though, the real star of the show has to be the filled-in 3D vector graphics. The static pictures included here look impressive but do little to convey the speed and smoothness at which they move; at times they can be quite breathtaking. My favourite is the Icarus' death sequence: as the ship explodes into an expanding ball of debris, your viewpoint constantly pans around, creating an amazing feeling of depth and realism.

Sound too is used to great effect: many craft can be identified simply by the noise they make, which fades in and out as you move towards and away from them. Also, the sampled whale sounds used when near to the Egron's mechanical mammals is wonderfully eerie and incredible effective.

Starglider 2 may not be the perfect game, but it's certainly an experience to be savoured at length.



A perfect demonstration just what an Amiga can do.

Starglider 2 logo Gold Medal Award

Rainbird, £24.95 disk

Heroes are never allowed to rest for ever, it seems. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that evil emperors never take defeat easily. This is the case with Prator, head of the ruthless Egron Empire, who wished to make up for the crushing defeat by a lone fighter on the planet of Novenia. Two years have passed since then and he's decided, in his infinite madness, to build a super weapon with which to extend his empire and destroy Novenia.

One fateful day, evidence of hostile Egron activity reached the Egron high scouncil, causing them to increase their defences. These defence systems were alerted on one occasion by a small, rapidly approaching craft; close examination showed it to be nothing more than an Apogean escape pod, containing a single occupant - Jodas, the sole survivor of an Egron attack on Aldos. He suspects that the Empire is planning to base a super-weapon there on the moon.

Further investigation showed that they were indeed building such a weapon: a huge Q-Beta plasma beam, capable of destroying a planet with one blast. No prizes for guessing which planet will be first to be trounced (Novenia, divvy!).

Zzap's Rockford: Rock Super!

Drastic situations call for drastic measures and only one course of action is left. The two pilots who served Novenia so well in the last conflict - Katra and Jaysan - are contacted. Since the victory they chose very different lifestyles: Katra chose to continue to help the planet rebuild after the devastation, whereas Jaysan decided to go for girls, swimming pools and mansions. Katra agreed to the mission without hesitation, Jaysan took some persuading to leave his new-found luxury.

This time, instead of an old retro-fitted antique ship, they are given a prototype police attack ship, called ICARUS. Unfortunately, their weight requirements of the craft mean that all extra weapons must be removed, much to the dismay of Katra and Jaysan. Additional weapons can be commissioned, however, to add to the standard gas-laser cannons. These include bouncing bombs (for Dambusters-style attack runs), energy cuboids (a strange device which causes time to do weird things) and the ultimate onboard weapon, the neutron bomb (only one can be built and must be used for a specific target).

As you may suspect, neutron bombs can't be bought off the shelf. They take time, money and parts to finish, not to mention finding the designer (which is down to you). Also, there may be the odd Egron official who will give you help - but then, you'll just have to buy the game and read the novella for that information, won't you?


Gordon Houghton It says on the side of the packaging that Starglider 2 is a flight simulation: to be quite honest this is doing it a bit of a disservice. It's much much more than a mere flying game. There's interplanetary travel, aerial combat, battle strategy, just about everything - the atmosphere and playability wrapped up in the game is incredible! The original vector 3D of Starglider has been replaced by incredibly shaded graphics which just have to be seen to be believed. The stationary screenshots in this review fail to do the game any sort of justice. Another thing that can't be demonstrated just using pictures is the incredibly realistic sound: you can almost sense the objects flying around your head. (In fact a thought just struck me, what about playing Starglider 2 with the sound amplified through a set of headphones. Oh God!). If by now you haven't got the message: GO AND BUY STARGLIDER 2, IT'S AMAZING!
Maff Evans When Paul sloped into the office and said, 'Starglider 2 is a bit good', I scuttled along to have a quick look. Well, it started off as a quick look, but soon turned into a lengthy game session! Right from first seeing the absolutely brilliant title screen, I knew that this was going to be quite a sequel. Starting the game up proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what all Amiga owners have been waiting for - it's the most amazing computer game I've ever seen! The 3D graphics are very smooth and colourful and pull your imagination into another galaxy. The atmosphere is reinforced by the brilliant sound, the effect of a passing spacecraft being very reminiscent of the TIE fighters in Star Wars. All the aspects of the game will take quite a while to grasp, but the novella included in the package is crammed with clues - and learning's half the fun, isn't that what they say? Forget Mercenary, forget Elite, this is the 3D computer game. If you decide that you don't want this, then why have you got an Amiga? Come to that, all you non-Amiga owners, after seeing this, don't you think it's time you thought about getting one?
Paul Glancey Maff's frantic ravings (a sight to be seen indeed) over this game at first caused me to snigger somewhat, but having played Starglider 2 I have to admit that his boundless enthusiasm was justified. Completely. Words really cannot describe the quality of the graphics; however, 'just about the best we've seen on the 16-bit machines' is pretty accurate. The 'Painting with Rolf' option, which allows you to view all the filled-in 3D elements uninhibited, shows the perfection of the carefully shaded, cleverly defined and silkily smooth animated graphics, from the Icarus' pilot chair to the Egron mechanical whale! When incorporated into the game, these beautiful things take on a believable role in the hectic blasting; and your surroundings - when skimming a planet's surface, speeding between planets in space, or passing through a twisting tunnel - thoroughly absorbing. Sound complements the graphic action perfectly, using imaginative samples to round off a game which at last does justice to the power of a 16-bit machine. £25 seems a paltry sum to pay for a classily packaged and perfectly programmed shoot 'em up.
Starglider 2: Control panel explanation
A: Grid Co-ordinates. Shows the current location of the ICARUS.
B: Clock. Displays elapsed time since mission began.
C: Score.
D: Sight. HUD system used for all targetting and locating.
E: Refuelling Indicator. Pulses when refuelling is in progress.
F: Scanner. Shows all objects within range of the ICARUS.
G: Compass.
H: Weapon Indicator. Displays a hologram of the currently selected weapon.
I. Bouncing Bomb Indicator. Shows how many bombs are in the bomb bay.
J. Missile Indicator. Shows how many missiles are in the tubes.
K. Laser Cell Status.
L. Energy Shield Status.
M. Fuel Indicator.
N. Artificial Horizon.
O. Velocity Indicator.
P. Altimeter. Shows the height of the ICARUS (inactive in space).
Q. Microscreen. Prints up various reports from the computer.
Zzap's Thing: Starthingy!