Reviewed by Steve Pedler


Issue 28

Jul/Aug 87

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Ever since the ST came into being, it must have been inevitable that a game would appear which is not only better than almost anything available for the 8-bit machines but is better than anything which can be written for such machines. Starglider is that game. Put crudely, this is a shoot-'em-up, but one of such quality that even those who don't like such games will be impressed. It describes itself as 'an air to air and air to ground combat simulation' and I would say that is exactly right.

The plot of Starglider is simple. The peace-loving inhabitants of the planet Novenia are invaded by the loathsome Ergons (led by their despicable commander Hermann Krudd) who rapidly conquer the entire planet. Having long since discarded their armed forces, the only means of I striking back left to the Novenians is an old Air to Ground Attack Vehicle (AGAV). Museum piece (literally) it may be, but it is better than anything the Ergons have, their strength lying in numbers. It is hardly necessary to point out that you are the pilot of the AGAV.

On loading the game (supplied on an autoboot disk) you are presented with an excellent title screen and the best computer-generated music (including vocals!) I have ever heard. Pressing any key launches you onto the planet's surface to be confronted with a bewildering variety of enemy craft What are all these vessels, and what can they do? All becomes clear as you play the game, but to give you some idea the Ergon forces range from tanks to Bute fighters (manoeuvrable but slow), proximity mines to the near-invulnerable walkers, and ground laser bases to Starglider One (Commander Krudd's ship).

Your AGAV is armed with the usual lasers and, at the start, one guided missile. The lasers are conventional enough, but the missiles are quite extraordinary. On pressing 'L' on the keyboard a clear female voice says 'missile launched' and a new screen appears which instead of showing you the the view from the cockpit of the AGAV shows instead the view from the nose cone of the missile. You guide the missile simply by steering it to the target using the mouse. I say 'simply' but it takes quite a lot of practice to hit the target consistently, and even then the missile may be destroyed in mid-flight by enemy fire. You also have shields, which are depleted alarmingly quickly by enemy missiles, and an energy supply which is also gradually used up during flight. Fortunately, several Novenian bases survived the Ergon onslaught, and it is possible (again with a considerable amount of practice) to dock with these silos and replenish missiles, lasers and shields. Refueling cannot be done here though to do this involves a tricky and dangerous piece of flying, very low between the energy towers present on the planet's surface. The AGAV is destroyed if you run out of energy or if your shields are exhausted.

The ultimate aim of Starglider (from the enclosed novel) appears to be to destroy all the Ergon vessels finishing with the command ship Starglider One no easy task! The game has several levels of difficulty, exactly how many I'm not sure although I have seen the figure of 30 plus mentioned elsewhere! You proceed from one to the other automatically as your score increases. However, I don't know of anybody who has got anywhere near the finish perhaps only the programmer really knows how it ends.

The graphics of this game are excellent; there is a 3-D view out of the AGAV cockpit (or missile) with everything in perspective and with very smooth scrolling. Enemy ships, buildings, missiles etc. are drawn in wireframe graphics with full hidden line removal. The interior of the AGAV cockpit is very detailed with plenty of instruments and gauges. Control of the vehicle is virtually entirely by the mouse, with occasional keystrokes needed for some actions.

The packaging and documentation are quite superb. As well as the game disk, you get a 64 page glossy printed novel (essential reading to get the most out of the game), a flight manual for the AGAV, a quick reference card and a full colour poster of the vessel. Information about the various enemy craft is not included in the documentation you only get this after docking with a silo and interrogating its computer, a nice touch I think. The documentation is of such quality that other companies publishing software at identical prices should take note.

Overall, this game really has to be seen to be believed. If you don't own a copy, go out and buy it now. If you don't have an ST, Starglider might well convince you that you should have one.