8-Bit Software Online Conversion

Play It Again Sam 19 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Comprising:- A.N. Other, 3D Pool, XLCR, Moonbase Beta. Available from:- ProAction 40, Honiton Road Romford ESSEX RM7 9AJ Price:- £11.95 ( £8.00 to 8BS members ) Release Date:- May 1998 !? This collection of games, I have been told, are mostly NEW. If this is so, I do not understand the logic of ProAction in releasing them as a compilation rather than singly, which would surely bring in more dosh! That said, 3 ( so far! ) for the price of 1 is OK by me, and I got it for free anyway for doing this review, so I'll get on with it. All I received from Chris was a disc in a plain sleeve. The disc is a flippy, although the software is all on the one side. Chris did mention the possibility of the disc carrying a fourth game when released, and when I contacted ProAction to ask for some instructions for the games I had, I was told that there would indeed be a fourth game when the compilation was released, but they had not as yet finalised which game it would be, as negotiations were still taking place. However, they sent me a copy of the instructions they had prepared, which included those for the game they hope to add to the compilation. This is only the second review I have written, both have been of ProAction releases, and both times I have had to contact them for help. STRIKE TWO for them as far as destructions go. Whilst I appreciate that ProAction are trying to do us all a great service by continuing to publish software in a dwindling market ( and I really DO wish them success ), I feel that perhaps they ought to take a little more time to prepare their wares. Anything offered for critical analysis by an impartial observer ( posh talk for a review ) should be a finished item. I also appreciate that there is a financial risk for ProAction, but hey, that goes with the territory, and a few bad reviews of their products due to incomplete or poor presentation will not help their cause. It don't matter how good any software claims to be if you can't get to use it. My shelves, and probably yours too, have several probably excellent pieces of software on them that are unused cos I can't suss out how to use them, the programs that is, not the shelves. OUCH! Somebody just kicked my soapbox away, so I guess it is time to get on with the reviews. XLCR ---- Little purple blobs emanate at random from all four sides of the screen border, travelling to the opposite side in a straight line. You control a maze-like box which starts in the middle of the screen. If a blob reaches the opposite side, or hits your box, you lose energy. Your energy level is shown on a thermometer-like display to one side. The box has several ordinary entrances around it, and the idea is to position the box so that a blob enters one of these entrances, travels through the box to exit from another side, and is now harmless. It will now bounce off a border or hit your box without you losing energy, but you must quickly reposition your box so that the blob enters one of the special killer entrances. This destroys the blob and replenishes your energy. The catch is that whilst you are doing this, other blobs are still doing their thing, and you will be losing energy. The box only moves at the same speed as the blobs, and must be stationary when a blob enters it, so you can't catch up with a blob, or catch it on the move. Several seconds may elapse with no blobs at all, then suddenly loadsa blobs appear at the same time ( I wonder if the author spent a lot of time at bus stops? ), and due to their random nature it is most often pure luck to be in the right place to intercept one. The entrances are VERY narrow, and it is VERY difficult to position the box accurately. After playing the game for a while with minimal success, the thought came to mind that it was like trying to keep a leaky bucket full by using the water that is leaking out of it. The high-score table claims a VERY high top score, which I find totally unbelieveable, of 10,000. My top score after two hours was 60, even with me bins on. You may laugh, but I challenge you to do better. Two pieces of music accompany the game. The one whilst the title screen and instructions are being displayed sadly cannot be turned off. The other one during gameplay can, as can the usual sort of sci-fi beeps and bloops sound effects. Thankfully my audio output is via my monitor, which has a volume control, which I very soon used whilst reading the instructions, although the gameplay music is OK if kept low. The graphics are minimal yet perfectly adequate, and the concept of the game is good yet simple, but I found it just too difficult for me to play. Apparently the game has further levels beyond the initial screen, but I hold no hopes of ever seeing what they are like unless ( whisper it softly ) someone writes a cheat for it. I went back to the game several times before writing this, but it didn't get any easier. It will join many other games that spend far more time on the shelf than in the disc drive, which is a shame, because if it was a little easier to play, I think I could find it very addictive. 3-D Pool -------- This is a good game. So good that it adds to my puzzlement at ProAction's marketing strategy: this one definitely should have been published on it's own. Still, it's our gain that it has been put on this compilation, cos as I said before, it IS good. The game screen is a view of a pool table. No surprise there if you check the title. What did impress me was that unlike some other snooker or pool games that I have played where you have only an overhead view, and an 'elastic cursor' which determines the direction and speed of your shot, in this version you can walk round the table ( well, you stay still and the table revolves ), as well as take a look from above or at table-level or anywhere in between, and even zoom in for a close-up. Whilst all this is happening, the perspective is maintained ( even down to the foreground balls being larger than those in the background ) which really does give a good impression of looking at a real table. You can practise playing against the computer, or play in a tournament, or just watch a demo. There is no time limit, so you can take your time to wander round the table and consider your options before playing your next shot. This is very worthwhile, because as you alter your viewpoint, a truer position of each ball is seen ( a ball that looks to be hanging on the lip of the pocket in one view, can show up to be actually just beyond it when seen from another ), letting you line up your shots more accurately. Some shoe leather can be saved during your perambulations by pressing just one key and being instantly transported to the opposite side from where you was. You play 'up' the screen, and can alter the power and/or any spin you wish to put on each shot. A double hit of the return key is needed to play a shot, so it is virtually impossible to mis-cue and rip the baize. My one slight niggle is that one set of balls are light red and the other set is dark red ( or light and dark blue if you discover the unlisted key which effects the colour-change ), and this can make it hard to distinguish one from t'other when they are all clustered together, but this is quite easily sorted by standing on tiptoe and taking a look from above. The sound effects are appropriate to the game, and as your ( computer ) opponent sometimes plays shots off the screen, you hope not to hear the clunk of the ball dropping in the pocket to know that the shot was made. Apart from my minor whinge about the ball colours, the graphics really are excellent, and show just what our old steam-driven Beebs are capable of. This is a very good game to play, and one which I would recommend you to add to your collection, if only to be amazed by the graphics. Moonbase Beta ------------- In this game, you control a cute little yellow robot on it's wanderings around what looks to be a VERY large Moonbase. I make this assumption based on the need to complete the mission by 12:00 and, according to the continuously-running clock in the corner of the screen, the fact that you start the mission at 9:00! There is a bomb to defuse ( hence the 12:00 deadline ), and also a spacecraft to blow up, and various items too many to list must be found and used before you can achieve these objectives. Of course, there is a catch to all this, in that as you try to find your way around and find the items, you are constantly under attack from aliens which deplete your energy level if they hit you. I really should say WHEN they hit you, cos some of them are virtually impossible to avoid, and even when you do, they chase you! There are also various other perils, but you will find these, and how to overcome them, as you play through the game. I said earlier that there were too many items to list; the truth is that I don't think that I have so far completed even a small part of the game and therefore don't know what or where they all are, but I am still trying. ( Who shouted 'VERY'? Was that you, Neil? ) There is no music with the game, but the aliens are a noisy bunch when they hit you, so thankfully the sound can be toggled on and off whilst the game is paused. When I first loaded this game and started to play it, I did not expect to enjoy it because it looked like a 'zap-the-aliens' type of game. True, there are aliens in it, but you cannot zap them so you have to try to avoid them. The game is in fact more of a puzzle ( with attitude ), and it is probably for this reason that I keep going back to it. The colours used on the early sections that I have so far managed to explore have been mostly red and yellow ( I have since found cyan, but the following still applies ), which I found a bit too garish so I turned down the brightness so I could take me shades off. The graphics are nonetheless really rather good, and carry a lot of detail. Special Agent Sid ( our cute little hero ) moves around very smoothly, and there is a very nice routine with the doors, which I go through quite often cos it is fun to watch. This is another game, like 3D Pool, which I feel is strong enough to stand on it's own, and by it's inclusion only makes the compilation an even better buy.