Reviewed by Paul Rixon


Issue 31

Jan/Feb 88

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1 player
1 joystick

Can you destroy the isolated asteroid fortress of inter-galactic arch-villain Argon and put a stop to his evil antics once and for all? You can find out by purchasing POWERDOWN, a game which comes from the keyboard of Graham Askew. If the name sounds familiar, that's because his work has appeared in past issues of PAGE 6 (remember Gangsters and Supply Blaster?). He has now advanced into the wonderful world of commercial programming with this game, which adds to the ever-growing list of bargain titles from Mastertronic, who are presently the most prolific publishers of budget priced software for the Atari.

POWERDOWN is a game of the vertically scrolling arcade genre combining a mild dose of the well-tested shoot 'em up philosophy with a requirement for strategic skill, a degree of dexterity and just a sprinkling of good fortune. Your aim is to infiltrate the fortress, to destroy Argon and to shut down the power source by manoeuvring your trusty space ship through numerous screens (in your own time), negotiating the inevitable defence system and zapping at appropriate moments.

Naturally, Argon's fortress is zealously guarded against penetration by his invincible army of Argoniks together with death rays, lasers, gunfire and combination locks. However, the Argoniks turn out to be a blessing in disguise as they transform solid white walls into zappable red ones. They can also be confined to specific areas of the fortress by tactical opening and closing of doors and are needed ultimately in order to gain access to Argon's control room. `Shields' are also a necessity and their deployment is crucial to success in the game. An ingenious and possibly unique feature is the 'television scanner' that is used to discover a combination lock code it took me quite a while to figure out the meaning behind this one! Although sixty minutes is the time limit allowed, I managed to complete the mission in around half an hour (real time) but not, I hasten to add, before a great deal of practice and experimentation!

In a welcome departure from normal Mastertronic policy, the instructions are very informative and I'd be more than happy to see this practice adopted in their future releases (Mastertronic are you listening?). Sound effects in the game aren't worth throwing a party over, but they're on a par with the majority of recent budget titles, and the graphics are very good indeed! Animation is in abundance without any sacrifice to response time, the scrolling is 'typical' Atari (superb) and there's plenty of colour and detail.

Although I could criticize the slightly irritating delay encountered when obtaining a new ship and the lack of an abort facility, these are really only insignificant points in a game oozing with playability. What's more, POWERDOWN is thoroughly addictive, reasonably challenging and if that isn't enough, will only set you back a mere 1.99! I can't think of any better reasons to immediately rush out and buy it, can you?