Three from Interplay. (computer games) (Software Review) (Gameplay.) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
Perhaps the most exciting holiday release from Interplay was the new CD-ROM version of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, with the voices of all the crew members. But that's not all the company has in store.
Hollywood Buzz. The space-program simulator Buzz Aldrin's Race into Space hit the market without too much fanfare earlier this year. The disk-based release was an interesting attempt to simulate the management of the early years of the U.S. space program, but it suffered from lack-luster animation. Also, it was so difficult to win that I wondered if the U.S. WOULD HAVE even kept its space program going if it had blown up as many astronauts as I'd managed to in Race into Space.
Now, creator Fritz Bonner has come back with a CD-ROM version that adds a new level of interest and playability to the game. The jerky animation of the original has been replaced by full-motion video. Launches are shown using both actual footage (when available) and computer-generated ships overlaid on real space scenes. An innovative mosaic tecnhique lets you toggle in impressive-looking full-screen, full-motion video. Sound has been improved as well, since the CD-ROM allows room for a little variety in Mission Control's digitized play-by-play.
Gameplay has been made more fun, as the vicious random-number generator that would turn your rockets into so much scorched scrap metal is tamed when you set the game to a beginner level. Race into Space is based upon the board game LiftOff, so even though the game factors in how much time and money you spend on developing your space systems, in the end much boils down to the random-number generator's dice roll. LiftOff players seem to love the gameplay, but aficionados of the real space race may sometimes find the game more frustrating than fun.
Still, this game is fun, and the CD-ROM version has been refined into a more enjoyable experience. It now supports both modem play and E-mail play; taking on a human opponent is more fun that challenging the computer.
Russian Six Pak. Nope, this isn't a simulation of chugging Bukski Light, but rather a collection of six games created by Russian developer MIR-Dialogue for Interplay. Available for both DOS and Windows, Russian Six Pak includes a series of puzzle games, not one of which matches the pure addictiveness factor of Tetris (also a Russian game), but all of which are fun
Flying Pictures will likely appeal most of Tetris fans. You're faced with the task of eliminating a series of blocks (which have pictures of fruit on them, thus the less-than-creative name). You move Alice up and down a ladder and toss fruit at the row, which eliminates any matching pictures it contacts.
Fast Ring challenges you to remove buttons from a board by connecting them with fences until you've created a solid ring. It's sort of a computerized update of the Dots game you may have played on paper in elementary school; it's simple but fun, and blockades add some real challenge at higher levels. The similar Line Man will appeal to fans of the LucasArt classic Pipe Dream; you have to rotate a series of straight and bent pipes to form solid rings, which then disappear from the board, Master of Bombs and Crete are also interesting puzzle challenges, with rules a bit more complicated than I have room to explain here. The sixth challenge, Shadows, is a strange hybrid of Asteroids and Missile Command that plays like neither and doesn't really fit in with the rest of the games, but it's fun nevertheless.
Judgment Day. Finally, there's the long-awaited Star Trek: Judgment Rites. This game builds upon the successful formula established in Star Trek: 25th Anniversary. It's essentially a series of episodic landing-party adventures separated by combat sequences on the U.S.S. Enterprise.
There are many improvements here, though. The game looks and sounds better, with digitized matte painting backgrounds and sounds from the original series. The musical score by the Fat Man, DAve Govett, and Rick Jackson helps maintain the feeling that you're actually participating in a "Star Trek" episode.
Those who enjoyed the adventure elements in the first game but didn't have the reflexes for the starship combat will be happy to hear that the combat scenes can be bypassed in the sequel. Sulu wannables will be pleased to know that said combat sequences are smoother and more challenging.
With eight well-written episodes, this game should provide hours of fun play.