Vulcanology: The MiniSeries Compilation logo

The study of the planet Vulcan? No, it's a collection of ten games, as Richard Drummond finds out.

Vulcan have been one of the major publishers of Amiga games in the post-Commodore era. Strangely, I somehow missed every single one of these games when originally released. I had no idea I was in for...

The Valhalla Trilogy
Valhalla was the game that made Vulcan’s name and is billed as the first speech adventure. The gameplay is derived from that ‘80s genre, the arcade adventure. In this game you get an overhead view of your character, who you control through a scrolling map with a joystick.

Problems are solved by manipulating objects you find via an icon-driven interface and any feedback is given in sampled speech, because it’s a speech adventure, okay?

The graphics and speech are good. My main problem with the game is the laggardly pace. Your character waddles about leisurely and even changing direction takes an age. The game is slowed down even further by the speech, which becomes irritating once the novelty has worn off. The portion of the game map viewable on screen is tiny, making it difficult to see where you’re going.

Despite these faults, the game is quite engaging once you get used to it. The problems aren’t always logical, but the game really instills a genuine desire to progress.

The two sequels were Vulcan’t attempt to reprise the winning formula to varying degrees of success. Valhalla II and III have only minor modifications from the original and so have similar merits and faults.

Hands up all those who remember Lemmings. Well, Timekeepers is a clone and it’s undoubtedly my favourite game on this disc.

The idea is to guide your army of Timekeepers through sixty levels, split into four worlds, in order to defuse 20 nuclear devices planted by some nefarious baddy. You must negotiate your troops through each labyrinthine level, avoiding obstacles, crossing bridges and, of course, killing whatever inhospitable residents you come across.

The major difference from Lemmings is that you get an overhead view of the play area. And, instead of clicking on your players to issue commands, you select command icons and place them in the paths of your troops. You may think this is an odd idea but in practice it works well.

You can lay out a whole string of commands while your army is milling about in a safe place, then drop an initial command and watch them all scurry off.

The graphics are sufficient but rather minuscule. You get the same restricted view of the scrolling play area as Valhalla. The game is quite tricky to play, sometimes frustratingly so, but it’s still quite surprisingly addictive.

Timekeepers II was initially released as an add-on data disk for the original. It’s basically a collection of extra levels with exactly the same gameplay and graphics.

Burnout is something like Robot Wars and the only saving grace of that show is the lovely Phillipa Forrester

The rest
The remainder of the games on the CD are of variable quality. Tiny Troops will be familiar to fans of the Command and Conquer style of game. The graphics are cute and colourful but the game is just too slow, the method of control too hit-and-miss and the level of difficulty too low. It’s not bad, but basically it’s just not interesting enough.

My first real disappointment in the collection was Bograts, a platform game which I was unable to play. Even when installed onto floppies it kept asking me to insert disk two. Doing so achieved nothing.

Next up, Jetpilot is supposedly an exceptionally realistic flight simulation. Too realistic, perhaps, as they’ve sacrificed gameplay to accuracy and it’s terribly tedious. The selection of planes you can choose to fly is odd too, with the English Electric Lightning, the Lockheed Starfighter, etc. None of these has seen active service for years. The final nail in the coffin, though, is the featureless graphics which limp along, even on an ‘060 machine.

Penultimately, we have Hillsea Lido, which is touted as a Seaside Management Simulator. What a bizarre concept for a game. Need I say any more?

Last and definitely least is Burnout. While the game has fantastic rendered graphics (albeit displayed in eye-straining interlace), the game is just pointless. The idea is to control a car and bash all the other cars out of the arena. It’s something like Robot Wars and the only saving grace of that show is the lovely Phillipa Forrester. Without her, Burnouti> is a definite non-starter.

The Whole

Vulcan claim that each of these ten games is an award winner. This may be so, but they haven't stood the test of time well. Not only is the gameplay dated, but so is the target Amiga that the games are designed for. Eight of the 10 will run on any Amiga and as such they take no account of modern hardware. None of them will multitask or permit screenmode promotion.

Nevertheless, Vulcanology does offer a wide selection of different game styles at a cheap price. This is a chance too good to miss for the average game-starved Amigan.