Elite (Acornsoft) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

Computer Gamer

By Superior/Acornsoft
Acorn Electron

Published in Computer Gamer #23

Is the new version of Elite Superior? Mike Roberts takes on the Thargon Invasion (again)


The Superior/Acornsoft hook-up has badged some reasonably good to very good Superior games of late. The BBC world waited with baited breath to see what Superior would do with all the under-marketed but excellent Acornsoft games that have festered in a Cambridge bottom drawer for the last few years.

Along with the racing simulation Revs and some compilations of their more blatant coin-op inspired games, Elite has received the new treatment - and in a number of different versions as well.

But first, a story. Astute BBC owners who bought Elite two years ago (Yup, that long ago!) will have read the intention to produce a sequel to Elite along with a second novella in around a year's time (i.e. a year ago). People waited, and waited, and waited, but nothing appeared. So they all bought Amstrads and played the Firebird full-colour version of the game. However, the new(ish) version of the game had, in fact, been written. Called Second Processor Elite, the game required the Acorn 6502 second processor which ran at a very fast (for a 6502) 3Mhz. And, more importantly, had an extra 64K of memory.

This new version of Elite had all the features of the disk-based original game, but didn't have to access the disk drive all the time and it was *in colour*. What I mean by colour is that the suns were shaded and filled in, and the line drawings of the enemy space ships were in different colours. This makes it easier to see when an enemy missile is coming at you as you can separate the images on the screen fast enough to shoot the missiles down. There was also a bit more detail on some of the ships, and what looks like a few new ships (ones with wings etc), but they may just be modified existing ones. In addition to this, it was very, *very* fast.

In all, Acornsoft sold about 200 copies of the game. Which isn't bad considering that it wasn't marketed at all and was only sold to people who applied in writing to Acornsoft. I'm not even sure how much they sold it for.

Now Superior Software have come to our rescue with their new "multi-format" Elite. This is a double-sided disk that will work on the BBC, BBC+, BBC Master, BBC Master Turbo plus all of the above with the addition of a second processor. As you may have guessed by my utterances above, the Turbo and Second Processor versions are the same as that un-released MkII Elite. And what is more interesting is that the Master version (without Turbo or Second Processor) is also very similar to the MkII Elite (only not as fast).

There is also a Master Compact version of the game that is the same as the Master version, except that it comes on the 3.5" format that the Compact uses.

The packaging of the game looks slightly different to the original, in that it is in a plastic box, whereas the original was in a cardboard one. Each has their merits and I think that one is as good as the other. The contents of the package are slightly different to the original as well.

The original game had a poster with all of the different enemy ships on it, a quick reference card for the controls, a novella (The Dark Wheel by Robert Holdstock), a function key template, and an instruction book. In the new version of the game the poster, key guide, and instruction book are all in the same tome, the novella is no more, but the function key strip survives.

The loss of the novella is no big thing, although it added a bit more atmosphere to the original game. Remember that Elite was one of the first games to feature an all-in package like this. The Rainbird game comes free with every novella concept had yet to appear on a game from this site of the pond. 'Gosh,' I hear you cry, shock, horror, probe. Compressing all of this bumph into a single volume does make it cheaper to produce, with the result that the game retains at £14.95 - some £3 cheaper than before, *and* remember you get a double-sided, flippable disk with the extra version of the game as well as the original.

There is also a tape version of the game for the Electron and BBC series that sells for £12.95. This is a cut-down version of the disk game with less equipment available, fewer options and less atmosphere (e.g. no descriptions of planets or military lasers). Whilst the BBC tape game is playable, it does give a real excuse for buying a disk drive (they're pretty cheap nowadays) along with the disk version of the game.

Elite is an excellent game. One of the few that can really be called a 'classic' and probably the only classic that is still playable - especially two years after release. The slightly lower price makes this very good value for money and it is worth getting just for the extra versions of the game.