ST Games Gallery
Speed Buggy, Death Sword, Global Commander, and moreby John Manor, David Plotkin, Steve Panak
As Global Commander, your goal is to keep the peace between 16 nations and to prevent nuclear war. The game won me over as soon as I started playing, although the manual looked complicated at first.
Global Commander is actually easy both to learn and to play. You sit before a command console in an orbiting satellite, receiving information about the various nations on Earth in the form of memos, letters, intercepted radio signals and messages from your Big Bird spy satellites. Updated bar graphs show each nation's economic, technological and missile status. If a nation falls too far behind in any of these categories, it might start a war to get what it needs.
You'll receive requests from nations for food, technology or missiles. You can agree, disagree, or ignore the request. Your responses make the difference between peaceful coexistence or nuclear annihilation. You have some powerful options to help keep the lid on. You can send letters requesting certain actions from a nation. For example, you can request that Canada send Pakistan food. If the nations involved choose not to listen, you have a more forceful tool. The UNN Task Force is an elite army that you can send to any problem country at a week's notice. (A turn basically takes one week.) That nation will become much more receptive to future requests.
But eventually even the Strike Force may not be able to cool things down quickly enough. When war comes, you have a last line of defense--six laser-armed SDI satellites. You can only hope the warring countries destroy all the missiles.
Each week your performance is evaluated by the UNN council, with ratings from Excellent to Disastrous. If you do very poorly, you may be recalled to Earth. Any nation can also call for a vote of confidence, and if the majority gives you a thumbs down, the game is over. A game can be saved to disk (which I like), so if you lose, you can start from your previously saved position.
Global Commander comes on a single-sided disk with a clear and humorous instruction manual. There is also a map of the world with flag rnarkers to help you keep track of which nation is threatening which.
I think Global Commander is one of the 10 most entertaining ST games of the year. I recommend it to anyone who appreciates a good strategic thinking game.
$39.95, color. (Distributed by Electronic Arts.) Datasoft, 19808 Nordhoff Place, Chatsworth, CA 91311. (818) 886-5922.
Speed Buggy, a car-driving game translated from Tatsumi's arcade hit by Data East, is a delightfully playable, graphically excellent gaming experience. It's easy to control and lots of fun.
Your perspective is from above and behind your buggy. You control the buggy with your joystick--steering by moving the stick left and right, and accelerating and slowing down by pressing the stick up and down. You can shift between high and low gear by pressing the trigger.
You have your choice of five different tracks which vary not only in the number and tightness of curves, but also in the number of obstacles. After you select a track, the race begins. As in similar games, the object is to complete one lap of the course in the time allotted. If you're successful, you get another chance, but this time the track is littered with more obstacles.
There are flags on and beside the road. Running over a flag gives you its point value. You can even get bonus points by running them over in order (although that order is never explained). There are also larger banners, worth up to 500 points, and even bonus banners worth extra time. The more valuable banners are hard to reach because of the obstacles, but it's easier once you learn the tricks. After all, a buggy doesn't have to stay on the road!
The obstacles come in a number of flavors: trees, rocks, blockades, barrels, even stretches of water. Running into an obstacle flips your buggy over (except for the water, where you disappear in a splash), costing you time. Small rocks and tree stumps let you get your buggy up on two wheels, which can get you out of tight jams. Running over logs lying in the road lets you leap right over obstacles, which can be real handy.
The graphics of Speed Buggy, are wonderful. The obstacles are highly detailed and the scrolling of the scenery is smooth and very realistic. The tunnels are impressive, and the street lamps roll past without a hint of jumpiness in their motion. This is an impressive job of programming, and the smoothness and reality of the graphics just adds to the enjoyment.
The other thing that recommends Speed Buggy is its playability. Before long, you'll be able to race multiple laps. The difficulty increases smoothly, so you won't be overwhelmed. I do wish it would save the high scores to disk, but that's a minor complaint. All in all, this is a great driving game.
$44.95, color. Data East, 476 Needles Drive, San Jose, CA 95112. (408) 286-7074.
It's rare when a game shocks me, as Death Sword managed to do. But I'll explain that one later. First let me say that this sword fight game is the best available on the ST.
The concept is simple enough. Two muscle-bound barbarians battle to the death in front of a variety of backdrops. One or two may play, although in the one-player game, your final opponent has magic powers which greatly surpass your own physical strength. This simplicity spawns the main drawback of the game. Once it is mastered--which should take no more than a week--there is little to merit its continued occupancy of your disk drive. But what a week you will have!
'The control interface is exceedingly complex and hard to master. There are 16 joystick moves, ranging from a simple head hurt to the intricate "web of death." Just trying to remember the correct combination of stick movements and button activation which results in a given attack or defense is a nearly insurmountable task, even though the moves are arranged more or less logically on the stick. It's better to find a few favorites and use them regularly.
The graphics are nothing short of remarkable--true arcade quality from the fluid movements of the warriors to the troll who trudges across the screen to drag away the body of the defeated after each battle. And that shocking thing I spoke of is an anatomically correct animated decapitation performed each time a kill is dealt out flawlessly. While this is just the kind of thing anti-violence groups scream about, I found it amusing and harmless--just don't let your parents see it, whatever your age.
Overall, Death Sword is a unique game whose limited playing life is more than compensated for by its superb graphics and fast action--definitely a cut above the rest.
$39.95, color. Epyx, P.O. Box 5367, 600 Galveston Drive, Redwood City, CA 94063. (415) 366-0606.
The kingdom of Allegoria has fallen on hard times since the lamps that once provided good fortune were stolen. The most powerful of these, the Black Lamp, is supposedly guarded by a dragon. The king tells Jolly Jack, the court jester who's in love with the princess, that he can have her hand in marriage if he retrieves the lamps. Equipped with five lives and a belt buckle that fires bolts of magic, Jolly Jack sets out on his mission.
Black Lamp is an interesting, well animated arcade game with a control system that can be difficult to master. Of course, it's not just a matter of searching through the many screens that make up the kingdom, locating the lamps, and bringing them back. It's much harder than that.
For one thing, there are plenty of nasties who want to fry poor Jack. These include bomb-dropping birds, slime-slinging witches, hammer-equipped musclemen and spear-wielding knights. They attack from all sides, and though they can be vanquished with the bolts from Jack's belt buckle, it's a big job to keep up with the onslaught. And the dragon guarding the Black Lamp is truly awesome.
You must steer Jack through the various indoor and outdoor screens, each with ladders, furniture, stairs and other items to climb or jump on. Some parts of a screen can only be reached in special ways. Some screens contain lamp receptacles, to which a recovered lamp can be returned for safety. Others contain the lamps themselves. There's food (which restores life-force), gems, weapons (which provide temporary power) and armor. It's also important to collect items which gain points, since a new life is awarded every 100,000 points.
The animation of the individual figures is realistic and smooth. The action doesn't slow down even when several objects are flying around at once. The backdrops are well-rendered, and Jack even skips along like you'd expect a jester to. The explosion sounds are typical, but quite good.
My only real complaint with Black Lamp is the joystick control system. For one thing, although Jack can jump, he can't duck, so he has no way to avoid incoming missiles. He moves left and right by pressing the joystick in those directions. But you must move the joystick diagonally for several critical movements, including jumping. Most joysticks are abysmal at finding the diagonal consistently. If you miss the diagonal, then Jack may walk off a platform, sometimes with fatal consequences.
Another problem is that Jack must be facing in the correct direction to walk through a door or climb a ladder. Unfortunately, the program doesn't always realize that Jack is indeed in front of a door, etc., so it refuses to let him enter. This can result in loss of a life, because sometimes the action is just too hot and heavy. And the best strategy is to get the heck out of there--provided you haven't stumbled into one of those nasty screen positions where you can't leave. At that point you might as well abort the game, since you are reincarnated at the same point each time.
Actually, I like Black Lamp. Not only is it a game you can win, but high scores are automatically saved to disk for posterity. Once you're used to the awkward control system, the game becomes quite enjoyable.
$24.95, color. Rainbird Software, 3885 Bohannon Drive, Menlo Park, CA 94025. (415) 322-0412.
Metro Cross is scrolling game in which you race against the clock as you maneuver a small onscreen runner past tricky urban obstacles. Al though initially interesting, this game quickly becomes tiring because all the courses you must negotiate are the same.
The view is from the side and slightly above, providing a pseudo 3D effect. You control the runner with your joystick, changing his speed as well as moving toward the top or bottom of the screen. You can also make him jump by pressing the joystick button.
The playfield scrolls from right to left, with obstacles coming into view from the right side of the screen. Rolling barrels, vents in the sidewalk, hurdles, slime tiles and tires will slow you down, squash you, flatten you or drop you down a hole. Skateboards, springboards and cans (which you can jump on to stop the clock, or kick for extra points) help you make the finish line in time and gain bonus points. And if you do reach the finish line in time, you stand and pant for a few moments before moving on to the next section of the course.
And if you don't make the finish line in time, you die--you actually turn into a skeleton and the game is over. Talk about strict! Although new obstacles and patterns appear in the upper levels, the basic gameplay remains similar and soon becomes tiresome.
$29.95, color. U.S. Gold (distributed by Epyx), PO Box 8020, Redwood City, CA 94063. (415) 366-0606.