Computer Graphics Memory Disk Space Minimum 386 640x400x256 8Mb 30Mb Max/Rec. 33Mhz Control: Mouse+ Keyboard Sound: SoundBlaster, SoundBlaster Pro or compatibles Notes: Windows 3.1 and Dos 3.3 required as well as a CD-ROM drive Reviewer recommends: at least a DX/2 50 Mhz or better, a VLB graphics card and a doublespeed CD-ROM player This review is based on experiences on a 486 33DX with 10 Mb Ram, Windows 3.1, Dos 6.2, Qemm 7.03 and a Mitsumi DoubleSpeed CDROM drive with 64 buffers.
THE STORY: In the future, man has stored all the (apparently extinct) wildlife of Earth in pods containig their genetic code so they can be restored when man has cleaned up Earth and stopped fighting.... BUT: now some evil gang has stolen the pods and thus threatens every (potentially) living creature on the face of the planet. Of course, our leaders are very angry and they sent you, Raven, to get the pods back, destroy the evil gang and make the world a better place. The storytelling is great: in the intro you see a few futuresque commercials ("Environmental waste is no excuse for dirty carpets") en during the briefing you can acces files on the disasters that led to the current state the world is in.
THE GAME: Well now, here begins the less enjoyable part of this review. After the intro, which was pretty damn cool, it's on to the first briefing were your female commander tells you all about THE STORY (see above). Then you fly to your command-centre to get the mission-briefing. All of the text is spoken (off-course; it's a CD-ROM game !!) and the voices are pretty good. After another animation we're off to the choose-your-wingman screen. Here you can choose from wingmen with cool names like Thrash, Dogstar or Cheesestick (!!) who all have their good and bad sides which are presented in the form of a ridiculous amount of statistics of which the most important are Accuracy, Ammo-usage and Hover-mode (defensive or offensive positioning on the screen) One final screen remains: the weapon-buying screen. There are six types of weapons and each type has four 'strength- intervals'. When you click on one, it zooms in and some horny voice tells something about it. This is really a great voice.... I bought a laser- thingy, some rockets and a few bombs. So: we're all equipped; it's crime- fighting time !! (I watch C.O.P.S. a lot)
You see J.R. enter the sewersystem, then blast through a (enormous) pot- hole and enter the dangerous streets of N.Y.C. Now, the fun quickly ended I'm sorry to say.
GAMEPLAY: You and your wingman are seen from behind and you cruise through the streets of New York gathering pods, ammo and all the while shooting baddies out of their jets, cars and shoes. The wingman can control one or more of Navigation (which direction), Hover control (position on the screen) and Arms control (which you want to control yourself of course !!). The screen's layout is rather intelligent: left 1|4th of the screen has a picture of your Wingman and his three control-possibilities as well as the 'system'-panel (Save,Help,Sound,Keys,Pause,Quit). Your wingman picture is often replaced by a thugs-face who then curses you or calls you names (this is what the Adult Language warning on the box-cover warns you about). The right 1|4th of the screen has a Radar-map, Direction compass and J.R.- statistics (Ammo, Fuel, Shield, Pods and Cash) in it. Then the bottom 1| 10th: it has your weapons iconized and the moving-mode icons: hover or fly. Last and most important is the centre half of the screen: the viewing window. It has the J.R., the bad guys and the city of New York on it. Now it's flying time: we cruise the streets blasting CyberPunks (how do they come up with these combo-names ??) and collecting pods. Sounds great ! So why is this game not fun to play ?? Here it comes:
GRAPHICS: The graphics aren't really 256 colors!! I mean, it's not 16 colors but I have the feeling that it can't be more than 32. Also, it seems like they only used a 256 color palette instead of the usual 16 million or so. You can see from the screen-shots that this doesn't look good.
CONTROLS: The controls are not very clever. First of all I thought it was a mouse+keyboard thing: the mouse controlling J.R. and the keyboard choosing weapons and flying/hovering. And I was right: it IS keyboard and mouse but done so stupid that... well, let me describe it: the arrow-keys of the keyboard FLY J.R. (forward-backward) i.e. it moves J.R. and automatically puts it in FLY-mode. If you press SHIFT and an arrow-key it puts J.R. in hover mode and you move up-down-left right in the screen. Then there's the mouse which is used to aim the crosshairs and fire your weapons as well as choosing them. So there's the problem right there: You need one hand for the mouse, one hand for the flying and one hand to choose between hover<>fly mode !! Of course the programmers knew this and they introduced the wingman-concept but the wingman really sucks !! All he ever says is "Bogie on your butt" or "Punks to the right". When you ask him to do the hover-mode, he seems to seek out the bullits !! It's really sickening when you choose a wingman who is supposed to hover 'defensively' and it turns out he has a problem making out if an object is a rocket or a genetic pod !! And he's just as bad on the navigation controls. (Of course I didn't give him the armament controls because that's maybe the only fun part of the game).
TARGET ACQUISITION: This game doesn't have target acquisition but the way you have to shoot the targets is really depressing. First of all, it looks as if your guns have an attitude problem: whenever you shoot left you see your valuable ammo go to the right; whenever you shoot up, the rockets try to instantaniously create a new subway-system !! Secondly, after you finally got your guns to behave, it turns out the ammo has a 'variable' range i.e. sometimes they hit and sometimes they don't. I hear you say now: 'Hey man, that normal for rockets and bombs !'. "Ha" I say to you, "but is it also normal with LASERS ??". In other words it doesn't work the way it's supposed to.
SOUND: Nothing wrong with the sound ! Except it very occasionally hanged during the intro-sequence because my computer's too slow. That brings us to the
SPEED: Why oh why oh why oh why did they make this a Windows-game ?? And not even a real Windows-game but a Dos-Box-in-Windows game. Everybody know Windows is as slow as a snail on a conveyor belt and this game suffers from it. It's not as slow as let's say Outpost but when I bought my 486/33DX I thought I'd have at least no trouble with the 640x480x256 resolutions but it seems I was wrong (7TH GUEST runs great here !!). It's just that Windows is making everything slower. Furthermore, the movement appears to be step- by-step, you know now freeflow like the mouse-cursor but bound to an invisible grid so accurate flying-hovering is impossible and although the grid isn't THAT course, it still irritates when you're trying to avoid a rocket only to smash into another one six pixels further. The use of the additional Win32s wasn't clear to me at all except as a selling-scam. I also tested it on my friend's 486/66DX2 with Diamond Speedstar VLB and although the speed there was good, the step-by-step problem remained. Then I tested it on another friends computer who has a VLB card but also a 33Mhz 486DX, and it was just as 'slow'. At the start of the mission everything flies really smoothly but the moment the bad guys start rolling in, the slowness begins.
Well, there you have it:
CONCLUSION: On the box it says: "MPV Award Winner in Japan". My guess is that this award was given for it's Apple-brother because on the PC it is a bad game. The concept is good: a shoot'em-up driving/flying game with weapons buying and hi-res graphics but in reality it's a slow, graphically so-so game with good sound and an excellent background story and atmosphere (the doomsday age is really believable). If the programmers had chosen for the non-Windows approach and given the Wingmen an IQ-number higher than the age of my little sister, it would be an OK game but unfortunately they did and so, the game isn't.