Spacewrecked. (Spacewrecked: 14 Billion Light Years from Earth computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by David Sears
Maybe in space no one can hear you scream, but from even this far away, players of Konami's Spacewrecked: 14 Billion Light Years from Earth could raise a ruckus. With all the tasks you have to perform and all the angry aliens out for your blood, this intergalactic trek could take forever.
A routine exploratory mission turns tragic when you fly into the remains of a moon. Your damaged scout ship won't take you safely home; a long sleep in the cryotube seems the only option. Years later, you awaken, but not to the sounds of rescue. The ghostly--but of human design--Darwin Biological Survey Fleet awaits your inspection. The 20 scientific survey vessels need repair, and you need a lift.
Too bad the crews of the Darwin Fleet can't help you. Alas, the hapless spacemen left hyperspace at just the wrong moment and entered realtime at the heart of a supernova. Cryogenic suspension systems stayed online while most other on-board systems failed. In hopes of a rescue, the daring explorers dream their cold dreams; if anyone will fire up the engines again, it will be you. Oh, and hurry--the fleet could fall apart at any minute. Those poor sleepers! When the cryosystem fails, they will die.
To restore the fleet to operational status, you must find and replace the Energy Flux Decoupler, locate the Inhibit Lock and place it on the bridge, and finally, increase all on-board systems to 80-percent efficiency or greater. These repairs take enough time without freshly thawed and vicious xenomorphs roaming free, but you must rush to beat the steady climb of radiation, as well. To add to the complexity, Spacewrecked doesn't much improve the standard "lost in a maze" perspective common to subterranean fantasy games; as with dungeon walls, the often nondescript corridors of a damaged ship can befuddle even careful players. No one wants to waste valuable time stalking down look-alike pathways.
As systems fail, expect even more aggravating problems. The lights may shut down, necessitating flares or flashlights. Fortunately, the crew left a great deal of valuable hardware scattered about; you need only live long enough to collect it. Half the fun of this game involves picking up technological trinkets and attempting to wedge them into the always restrictive inventory slots.
The most valuable knickknack? A flamethrower. This weapon may not have worked well for the crew of the Nostromo, but it works fine here; the larger targeting sight counteracts the game's simulated jitters. Sights for blasters and handguns twitch constantly, making a direct hit on an enemy difficult. Plenty hard to complete without artificially induced nervousness, Spacewrecked would not miss this annoyance in the least.
You might think that a sophisticated team of robots on your side would even the overwhelming odds. They will, but first you have to find them, program them to do your bidding, and sometimes recharge them. With the proper cartridges installed, these helpful droids will scan for life forms, fight for you, and heal you besides. A program could send them to the far end of a ship to carry out a specific function or to simply shut down.
While the programming screens will make perfect sense to a long-time computer hobbyist, they might give pause to a layman. On the other hand, successfully teaching the robots their lessons might illustrate some programming essentials--not a bad tradeoff for the initial confusion--and, with practice, the daunting assortment of programming and inventory interaction options becomes second nature.
Blue and glowing, the Spacewrecked introduction sequence seems to promise great visuals to come, but only cartoonish aliens and simple objects follow. Suspenseful theme music plays just after the game loads; unoriginal sound effects accompany the game itself.
Together, however, these aesthetic details neither add to nor detract from game-play. Fans of task-oriented maze games will enjoy themselves here; space opera enthusiasts shouldn't expect it to be an epic. IBM PC or compatible; 640K RAM; EGA, MCGA, VGA, or Tandy 16-color; mouse or joystick; supports Ad Lib, Roland, and Tandy sound--$19.95 GREMLIN Distributed by Konami 900 Deerfield Pkwy. Buffalo Grove, IL 60089-4510 (708) 215-5100 Circle Reader Service Number 365