Sinclair User5th January 1989
Published in Sinclair User #85
Maybe it's too much garlic. Maybe it's that awful wine they drink (by the way, I have it on good authority that the French DETEST Piat d'Or). But whatever the explanation, the French write really strange games. Captain Blood should win the Prix Internationale de Strangeness, it's so strange.
Let's look at the plot. The game appears to take place in the imagination of Bob Morlok, a junk sci-fi author whose alter ego, Captain Blood, is the greatest coin-op player in the world. Morlok himself taking part in a computer game where Blood is split into umpteen clone copies. As a result, his original body is disintegrating fast; to restore it, he has to search out his clones and steal their vital fluids. Blood's spaceship is a biomechanical organism complete with a machine intelligence and a number of Oorxx space fish. These Oorxx can be used as scout ships, missiles and probably dishwashers. The mechanism of the game is a bit like those ancient Star Trek strategy games; you navigate around the galaxy landing on different planets searching for clues to the whereabouts of your clones. The main screen display shows Blood's claw-like hand, which you move around the screen stabbing at the appropriate control buttons. To start off you select the planet view screen and go for a landing. This sequence involves you navigating through a cleverly-depicted vector graphic mountain scene until you reach the end. It's not very challenging though, especially if you choose not to fly at full speed, so after several landings the whole thing gets a bit dull. Having landed, you should be presented with a graphic of a grotesque alien. Your job is to communicate with him in order to obtain clues. The communication system is ingenious but long-winded. A menu of icons appears at the bottom of your control panel. Each represents a single word, and is translated at the side of the screen. You must string symbols together, check them with the translator then transmit them to the alien in the hope that he'll come up with a useful clue, like SWEAR SWEAR TAKE ME TO PLANET ASCODA THEN I TELL NUMBERS SWEAR HUMAN.
If you try navigating around the galaxy without any clues, you'll inevitably end up on uninhabited and useless planets. Your one consolation is that you can blow them to bits, though this doesn't add much to the game.There are some brilliant ideas in Captain Blood, let down by a terrible novella-style manual which doesn't properly explain what on earth you're supposed to be doing, and a repetitive gameplay which obviously doesn't have all the graphic sophistication of the original Amiga and ST versions.
Although the Jean-Michel Jarre music on the 128K version is suitably boppy, I don't think 48K players will get much out of the game, especially since it's been slightly cut down to fit in the machine.
Baffling, interesting, strange, confusing, French... er game.