We begin with a lone ship piercing through the night sky, it descends with accuracy into a narrow canyon. The red wall of rock rise slowly as the ship makes its journey to the unknown depths below. The radar dish rotates rapidly, searching for a signal and eventually the ship reaches a landing platform. The landing gear extends and a lone figure emerges, he waves to his companions to disembark and suddenly the ship disintegrates. The figure stands and after contemplating his comrades fate turns towards his destination.
This is the opening sequence to one of the most stylish and cinematic games ever to grace the 8-bit microcomputer era. This coupled with the powerful strains of music crafted by David Whittaker sets the stage for an awesome adventure title.
As the game starts we are treated to some large and detailed sprites. The main character takes up a third of the screen. The backgrounds and objects are beautifully coloured and shaded. As you move the character left and right you can’t help but be stunned by the superbly smooth animation present. This was groundbreaking presentation on the Spectrum and you couldn’t help but feel giddy with excitement to see what would come next.
Suddenly, an alien drone appears and flies at your characters head, you need to duck. Breathing a sigh of relief you spot another drone whizzing towards you, aimed directly at your chest. There is no ducking here, pressing the fire button makes short work of the projectile. Your characters weapon unleashing a jet of flame. You realise to survive you must move onwards and run n’ gun it to safety.
As you travel onwards you encounter varied enemies and environmental traps. Pistons emerge from the ceiling making you time your runs to avoid being smashed to a pulp. More drones will come at you, your ammo supply is limited so you need to make a tactical decision of whether to fire or dodge. The aim of the game is to find various terminals to collect a code letter. Doing so extends your game clock. These code letters then must be placed into the mainframe to send out a signal in order to be rescued.
This is fast, frantic and gorgeous to look at. The gameplay is simple but addictive, as you run, jump and fire your way through the levels. There’s a feeling of atmospheric tension which underpins the whole experience, the wrong move could cost your life. There’s enemy encounters with giant monsters who would like nothing better than to rip your head off and eat it.
Some of these encounters are a little frustrating due to the size of your character, it can seem at times there is no option but to be hit by these enemies. This detracts from the feeling of control.
It’s a short, tense, challenging and beautiful title however. It’s memorable for all the right reasons and is an essential play for anyone who wants to experience the best that this era had to offer.