Reviewed by Gordon Cameron


Issue 32

Mar/Apr 88

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Amaurote is another game from the same Mastertronic label that brought Atari users 'The Last V8' and `Spellbound', so my expectations were understandably high.

The cassette inlay rambles on about how you, as an officer in the Royal Army of Amaurote, have the task of clearing all 25 districts of the city. The city has become infested by killer insects, and the population has taken flight. The army, after a bloody struggle, was forced to withdraw, and so it is up to you, as the last remaining uninjured officer, to take on the creatures single-handed.

Once the program has eventually loaded, you are greeted by the credits, which are displayed on the viewscreen of your Arachnus 4 armoured car, accompanied by a stirring piece of music. The top 80% or so of the TV is taken up by the viewscreen, with the remainder taken up by the control panel with all your instruments. This is very detailed, and quite difficult to make out at first. It consists of numerical readouts detailing your cash left, % damage to district, No. of bombs remaining, % damage to the city as a whole, and damage to your craft. There are two additional instruments The Scanner, which allows you to 'home in' on the different insects and bombs, and the Supabomb indicator, which flashes when you are carrying the Supabomb (funnily enough!).

You start the game proper by selecting which of the 25 districts of the city you wish to visit first. The objective is to clear each of these sectors of all the insects, so it makes little difference which sector you start with. There are different types of insect Scouts fly around the city on the look out for food and intruders (i.e. you!), and then report your position back to the Queen. Drones are the most common and plentiful, and are sent out by the Queen to nab you. Once close to you, they are hard to shake off.

Your craft is armed initially with 30 bouncing bombs which are effective against these insects. Conventional bombs don't work against the Queen herself so you have to radio an order for a Supabomb. Pressing the Option key momentarily freezes the game and displays a menu of options. You have the choice of ordering a Supabomb, replenishing your stock of ordinary bombs, repairing the Arachnus 4 or being transported to a different position. All of these use up your cash. You start with 5 million which may seem like a lot, but I can assure you it is depleted very rapidly!

After selecting the sector, you are greeted by a 3-D view of the area, with your Arachnus 4 sitting in the middle. Your viewpoint is above, and at a 45 degree angle to, the action. The surroundings are detailed and have a very futuristic feel to them, with strange geometrical shapes abounding. Nudging your joystick moves your craft in the appropriate direction. Not only does it resemble a spider in looks, it also moves like one on its, albeit 4(!), pincer-type legs. In the background, atmospheric chamber music plays. The animation is quite impressive and the view reminiscent of the Knight Lore/Alien 8 games of old. The screen doesn't scroll, but flips when you near the edge.

Sooner or later, you are likely to come across one of the insects, probably a Drone. These pad towards you, and once spotted, you have a hell of a time trying to lose them, so you decide to let fly at them with one of your incredible bouncing bombs. You push the joystick towards the varmit and press the fire button, only to see the bomb soar out over the top of the insect and off the screen! You then have to wait until the bomb hits something (a building usually!) before you can fire again. By that time, the insect has probably caught up with you, and is rapidly draining your energy. This is one of the major gripes I have. It is incredibly difficult to hit the thing you are aiming for, as the bomb takes an age moving, by which time the target has moved miles from the spot you were aiming for!

After playing for a while you can develop a technique to track down Drones using the Scanner, but it is by no means easy, usually requiring firing from one screen, blind, onto another. After a time, you will no doubt be ready to take on the Queen herself. First you must order a Supabomb, which is dropped at a random location. (By the way, the incidental music which accompanies the radio screen and the zone select screen is excellent). After locating and collecting this, you are ready to find and destroy the Queen. Note that the Supabomb is primed and armed when picked up, which means that you cannot use the normal bouncing bombs en route, so beware. Arrows on the scanner lead you to the Queen, which you must hit with your bomb. This can be tricky, as by this time she is probably onto your plan and has arranged a 'welcoming party' of drones. It's a good idea to clear these before even picking up the Supabomb. Assuming you manage to destroy the Queen, wiping out the remaining insects in the sector is relatively easy, as they are no longer under her command and then, all that remains is to do the same in all the other 24 districts ... and you've already used 1 million tut, tut!

Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed this game. The graphics are excellent, as is the animation, although it does slow down slightly with a few drones on screen. The presentation is superb, from the professional 'look' to the many extra touches, such as the Radio and the Zone selection screen, to the atmospheric music which accompanies the title & Radio screens etc.

The music during the game is good, but a bit repetitive. I found the movement a bit sluggish and quirky, making manoeuvres difficult at the best of times. The firing, as I've mentioned, is another sore point. It's too difficult to hit what you want to hit, as you have to be on exactly the same line, and the right distance away when you fire. Having said that, with practice, it IS possible to fool the drones and escape them. The Repair and Rescue options are also very useful (and well used!). The game does play slowly, but then again, it is basically a strategy game with good graphics. It will take patience and a great deal of skill and time to complete, trying to keep city and district damage low, whilst keeping an eye on available funds!

Despite my reservations, I kept on coming back for more (a glutton for punishment), which indicates good playability, perhaps the most important factor. In summary, great graphics, good sound, excellent music and presentation. A very professional product on the whole and well worth the 2.99 price tag it carries. At this price, it's a steal, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Keep up the good work, Mastertronic!

Gordon Cameron

Published by Mastertronic M.A.D. - 2.99 on cassette - 1 player with joystick