Reviewed by John Davison jnr


Issue 31

Jan/Feb 88

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`It's been a long watch ... as the sun disappears over the horizon, the uninviting grey bleakness of Colian becomes apparent. Following the intense heat of the day, the onset of night adds the bitterness of sub-zero temperatures to an already hostile environment, and the stark interior of the D.S.V. appears almost homelike.

Deep melancholy is suddenly smashed by the shrill scream of a siren. The information display systems have gone crazy, an extraordinary array of lights flash uncontrollably. Good grief ... What's happening?

Your whole being freezes ... It can't be! The Terrorpods

So starts the latest release from Psygnosis, originally announced at the same time as the brilliant 'Barbarian' which convinced me that Psygnosis finally had it sussed. Does Terrorpods come up to expectations?

The packaging, as always with Psygnosis games is absolutely superb. The glossy box contains the two program disks, a poster (yet another piece of Roger Dean artwork) and an instruction sheet. The scenario of Terrorpods is not as complicated as that of 'Barbarian', so this time we are not treated to a novella. Instead you have to make do with the rather difficult to handle instruction sheet. Why is it difficult to handle? Well for a start it's rather vague and incomprehensible in some areas. Secondly it's enormous, measuring two feet by one foot when fully opened out. This tends to get in the way a bit if you have suddenly forgotten how to do something at a vital moment!

On loading the game you are presented with an animated title sequence involving a little guy leaping out of some sort of vehicle and into the cockpit of a Terrorpod which is leaning over. The cockpit of the Terrorpod then closes and the huge mechanical beast straightens up to his full height. A loud thunderbolt (sampled sound) causes the screen to go white and then fade out revealing a second title screen showing the picture from the box cover. This screen is not as impressive as it's counterpart in 'Barbarian', but it's still a good picture. This screen soon fades out returning you to the animated sequence as you are prompted to insert disk B. Very slick and impressive ... what will disk B bring?

When the game finally loads you are asked to select your nationality. Why you have the choice between American and English as well as the other languages I don't know. What's the difference? The game screen is surrounded by instrument panels in shades of red and orange. The various instruments show the amounts of fuel and various minerals required for functions such as shields and weapons systems. The majority of the screen is taken up by your outside view of the planet Colian. This view consists mainly of a gradually shaded grey ground, and some excellently drawn grey mountains on the horizon. Dotted around on the ground are various mining installations and depots which you will have to visit on trading missions later on in the game. In the sky looms the large Terrorpod space craft, which is also drawn in various shades of red.

Movement around the planet inside your D.S.V. is best controlled with the joystick, and weapons are fired using the mouse. The keyboard is used for selecting various functions such as communications, trading and the different types of weapons (either photons or missiles). The game contains some amazing sound effects, especially connected with these weapons. When a photon is fired there is an excellent sampled sound followed by a loud sampled explosion. All of the sound effects are digitized samples in fact and they add greatly to the game.

So far it would seem that Terrorpods is, after all, merely a demonstration of Psygnosis' ability in the graphics and sound department. Indeed they are excellent, but it seems to me that the actual game has been given second priority, and not as much thought has gone into it as the cosmetic features. Terrorpods, however impressive it may look and sound, is merely an elaborate shoot 'em up game.

Reading through the instructions and the blurb that comes with the game, Terrorpods sounds like it ought to be a really complex, imaginative and interesting game, however, after playing it for quite a while, I couldn't help feeling that the game is very 'thin' in it's content. It always seems that there should be more to it, but there isn't. Your main aim would appear to be to destroy as many Terrorpods as possible using the missiles, and if you run out of resources you have to send your little `drover' out to trade with one of the various installations. That however, would appear to be all there is to it. This is a shame really, because the graphics and sound are superb, and the theme of the game sounded very good. It just seems that the game is a mediocre implementation of the plot.

Don't get me wrong, Terrorpods is not a bad game, but I feel that it could have been better than it is.