Mad, bad and occasionally bad tempered

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EMPIRE * £19.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

Fairly basic stuff, I'm afraid. Even the in-game plot gives me no material whatsoever to base some entertaining drivel on.
It has something to do with aliens and trapping them, using your forcefield-creating ship, in less than 20 per cent of the area they started off wit. You move your ship out into the open space, leave a trail of force-field then try and get back to dry land.

If you close off an area, this becomes unusable to the aliens and knocks off a few more per cent in the quest to close them down. Your ship can only move along the exosed edge of the closed area, never within it. Dead simple.

It is complicated slightly by the fact that the big main alien you are trying to trap has lots of attendant little aliens which do their best to harass you. This isn't so bad because you are only vulnerable when trying to close off a new area of the screen, but these guys move very fast so you have to be quick about closing off the screen area.

Grey squares will appear in the open play area, and sometimes disappear. If you manage to trap one of these while closing off some space then a bonus is revealed - it may be a speed power-up, or the ability to fire jolly impressive laser bolts - these can be used to kill the annoying little aliens.

You get 1,000 points for each 'normal' alien you trap. The bonus for trapping the major alien varies on how little space he is trapped in - the smaller the area, the bigger the bonus.

Trapping the big alien is not the only way of killing him. On some levels, if you collect the bonuses in a certain way you can get a huge gob-smacker of a weapon, which can be used to decimate your adversary. This gives you so many points you could probably drown under the weight of them.

Graphics are all a little boring, looking very much like the kind of uninteresting superfluous detail you get when you have 32 colours but can't think of anything do with them - my mother would have called it 'too busy'. The sound follows trends in being surplus to requirements - a nice soundtrack would have done the trick but the lack of effort has resulted in effects that go all over the place and completely miss the point.

The necessarily repetitive gameplay builds tension in a way that frustrates very quickly and makes you want to go and hit something, rather than making you want to try and beat the thing.

That is about the size of what is really a very basic game. It did well in the arcades, but is less likely to be successful on home formats - there just isn't enough there to warrant spending the kind of money on nothing more than a lot of levels of the same game that get a bit harder every time. Variety does not equate to Volfied.

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Did you like Qix? If you did then you'll love this. However, if you found Qix a tedious affair you may not be so impressed, because this is a reworking of that old stager. Yes, the early Eighties 'not quite a classic' arcade has been given the full bells-and-whistles treatment, in this conversion of the Taito coin-op. But is it good enough to warrant your hard-earned pennies being flung into softwarehouse's coffers?.

For those who are not familiar with Qix, it involved trying to surround an alien that bounced about the centre of the screen by scooting around in your small craft leaving a trail: light-cycle style. The areas you encircle become yours, and the alien 'Volfied' can no longer venture onto that part of the screen, a nice touch in Volfied is that captured regions show the next level's playfield through in monochrome.

It sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But that's until you find out about the herd of smaller aliens, each one a replica of the big mother, that troll around the screen in a semi-intelligent manner trying their level best to stop you ensnaring the dangerous Volfied. Not so simple!

Direct contact with any of the baddies will bring about a 'player death', i.e. you lose a life. As you circle the edge of the screen looking for opportunities to foray into enemy territory, you are protected by a shield, the duration of which ticks away relentlessly, but while you make your excursion you are unprotected. If an alien makes contact with your trail a spark will set out from the point of contact and trace after you. If it catches you before you manage to reach the edge, and the safety of your shield, a player death will occur.

Surrounding one of the grey squares littering the screen yields either a points bonus or a power-up. A level is completed by surrounding over 80 per cent of the screen, then you get big points for every per cent above that magic number. And that's where the strategy comes in, because as you surround the Volfied it gets smaller so that it can squeeze through the gaps, and when it's smaller it's easier for you to capture a bigger area of the screen.

Déjà vu
The proble with it is unlike Super Space Invaders 91, it's no better than the original. For all the impressive graphics and twists on the original gameplay, it's just Qix in a party frock. The intro is crap and if you blink you'll miss it, and that sets the standard for the other non-game intervals.

The bonus and high-score screens would not look out of place on a game a decade or so old, and when you lose a life all that happens is the music stops, oh! And it prints "Player death" at the top of the screen. It wouldn't be fair to be too critical of the game though, because the control is smooth, the loading of levels quick, and the graphics are on the better side of adequate. And underneath it all there is a very good game trying to get a little recognition.

It can be played on two levels, a simple get-through-as-many-levels-as-you-can romp, or a I'm-gonna-get-you-sucker war of attrition for every last per cent of every last screen. And it's here we run into what is possibly the most telling failing of the game. To get big points you have to capture more than 99 per cent of the screen, but the collision detection is not accurate enough for you to carve those fine lines that let you avoid the Volfied by a millimetre and reap the richest rewards.

For all its failings this is still a refreshing change from the identikit vertically-scroling beat-em-up sims we see every month.

I got the power!
Volfied: Lasers Lasers, let you shoot the small aliens, lasts for a short time.
Volfied: Speed up Speed up, increases the speed you travel at till you die.
Volfied: Shield Shield countdown freezes you for a few seconds.
Volfied: Clear level Clearls the level of all the small aliens.
Volfied: Time freeze Time freeze, all the aliens stop for 10 seconds.

Alter Hut in neuem Look

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Wer "Quix" kennt, kennt auch Volfied - und wer kennt diese Action-Tüfteleien nicht? Das Spielprinzip war also schon längst passé, als vor anderthalb Jahren der gleichnamige Taito-Automat auftauchte...

...was Empire aber nicht daran gehindert hat, das Teil nun für den Amiga um zusetzen. Und es gibt sogar eine Vorgeschichte: Bitterböse Aliens haben den Planeten Volfied verwüstet, weshalb man nun als Raumschiff-Commander in die Katakomben der Ruinenwelt vordringt, um ein paar Überlebende zu retten.

Spieltechnisch hat man sich das so vorzustellen, daß der Kreuzer vom Screenrand ausgehend Linien über den Schirm zieht und dadurch Teilflächen "ausschneidet". Deren Grafik ändert sich nachfolgend, weil gewissermaßen schon der nächste Level durchscheint.

Die herumwuselnden Aliens (Schlangen, Insekten usw.) können durch "Einmauern" gekillt werden, wehren sich aber nach Kräften: Wer per Schuß oder Berührung erwischt wird, während er Zäune zieht, darf eins der drei Leben in den Wind schreiben. Sind aber (anfänglich) 80 Prozent des Screens "befreit", geht es auch schon in die nächste der 16 Ebenen.

Natürlich sind allerlei Waffen und Boni zu haben (Extraleben, Schildenergie oder gar die Möglichkeit, seine Feinde einzufrieren), man muß dafür jedoch die richtigen Stellen ausschnipseln...

Die futuristischen Hintergründe sind ebenso hübsch wie bunt, die Gegner schnell, geruckelt wird nur selten. Auch die Sticksteuerung ist bounty, der Sound hingegen nervt recht bald. Nur: Wenn man erst mal weiß, wie am besten geschnitten wird, hat das verstaubte Gamedesign bloß noch Fleißarbeit zu bieten! (jn)

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Everyone seems to be updating ancient arcade classics at the moment - Domark's Super Space Invaders, Ocean with their updated Robotron, Smash TV - but few are as simple and as gorgeous looking as Volfied, Empire's lush new version of Qix.

At this point, of course, I have to explain what Qix is (or was) - one of the very early arcade games from the likes of Atari or (more likely) Taito, I think. A series of single screen arcade puzzles, you controlled a little diamond pointer thing that 'lived' on the edges of a flat coloured screen.

It was your task in life to zoom out into the middle of the screen as far as you dared, make a couple of nifty right angles, then dash back to the edge again, hopefully sectioning off a large area of the screen (which would then change colour). Once you'd got 75 percent of the area over to your 'side' you'd completed the screen and it was onto the next one.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, it would be if not for the 'sparx', little sparkler things that also lived on the edges of the screen and killed you if they touched you, 'fuses', which looked similar, but zoomed down the lines you were drawing if you proved too slow (and similarly killed you) and the 'Qix' itself, a funny snake affair which ived in the interior of the screen, moved about a lot, and (erm) killed you if it touched any of your uncompleted boxes.

And Volfied? Well, Volfied is more or less exactly te same game. The difference is in the graphics - rather than the flat colours and simple lines of Qix, this has state-of-the-art, directly-ported-over-from-the-coin-op visuals, and they're gorgeous. Instead of flat colours, the backgrounds are complex, intricate circuit boards, instead of a diamond shape you 're an armed space ship, instead of sparx you have a vast swarm of little monsters who live in the interior of the screen, and instead of a few connecting lines the Qix is a multi-segmented space dragon thingy (or a giant ladybird, or a massive robo-hand, depending on the level).

Much of the credit for the quality of Volfied has to go to Taito, of course - it's their new graphics and their original idea that make the game after all - but Empire have done a more than credible conversion job. It's fast, it looks lovely - and fills the entire screen, rather impressively - and the half strategy/half pure reactions gameplay proves very satisfying in an abstract megalomaniacal sort of a way (taking over areas of a screen is more or less the same thrill as the one you get taking over countries, wargame style).

Like all games based on simple arcade originals, it can get a bit samey after a while, but what it does, it does almost perfectly. This is a game that's hard to criticize.

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Old coin-ops never die, they just reappear years later sporting a new lick of paint and little else. Such is the case with Taito's Qix which made a reappearance in the arcades a couple of years ago under the monicker of Volfied. The graphics and sound had been tarted up a little and the gameplay tweaked, but it was essentially the same game.

Now the spruced-up version makes its debut on the Amiga courtesy of those fine folk at Empire. Each of the 16 levels consists of a single screen packed to the gills with a variety of deadly Alien-esque characters. Your task is to guide a small ship around the screen and successfully capture more than 80 percent of the total area by completely encircling it with a trail left behind by your craft's exhaust.

Contact with the nasties sends an electric pulse after you which is only extinguished when another section of the screen is captured. Also, a number of power-ups are present and these can be collected to help kill the hostile smaller aliens or to freeze the action for a number of seconds.

The biggest aliens are the toughest to kill and the only way to defeat them is to hem then in and send them to a fiery grave once you've passed the all-important 80 per cent mark - this triggers a cataclysmic explosion and marks the end of that particular stage.

Each level is a faultless reproduction of the original coin-op and comes with futuristic 16-colour backdrops and a bizarre collection of alien nasties to destroy including a gigantic killer ladybird and an eyeball-spewing skull.

However, the gameplay is rather repetitive and there really isn't much difference between each level except for the graphics, causing me to doubt the game's long-term appeal. The inclusion of a continue-option means the game could be completed in no time at all and the urge to better your high-score will soon diminish once you've discovered all the game has to offer.