Okay, so you got General Zoff last time around and completed the Shadowfire Mission, but the General's a cool sort of cat, and that was only life number something - there's still a few left in the old tiger yet. What's more, he managed to declare war on the Empire before his capture and the galaxy is now in deep, deep trouble. Enigma Force, Denton Design's follow-up to Shadowfire takes up the story as the Enigmateam, Zark, Sevrina, Maull and Syylk are transporting General Zoff in the Enigmacraft back to face the Emperor. (At this point the observant will notice that a team member is missing - Manto. The instructions merely, if not enigmatically, replace him with 'yourself').
As the craft crosses the Imperial border, Zoff concentrates his 'awesome' psionic powers on the Enigmacraft's guidance system, causing it to plunge through the atmosphere of the nearby planet Xylon and impact...
The planet turns out to be a team-member of Syylk's home-world, and before completely failing, the Enigmacraft's battle computer informs you that the ship has crashed through the surface of the planet and ended up in an underground complex beneath the capital city. Of Zoff there is no sign - he has escaped. Syylk's people, the insectoids, are locked in battle with reptiloid storm troopers loyal to Zoff. This situation is fraught with several conflicting problems. For one, Zoff is heading for the location of the only ship capable of getting off planet, and you need that ship; you also need to recapture Zoff. Another little nightmare is the fact that destructor tugs commanded by Zoff's intergalactic troopers have been spotted heading in the planet's direction - on arrival they will destroy the world, and you. The object of Enigma Force is to locate the ship, apprehend Zoff and escape. To do this, making friends with the insectoid leader of Syylk's people is likely to be very important.
Enigma Force departs from the system used in Shadowfire quite significantly. The use of icons is still there, but the top third of the screen actually depicts the animated actions performed by the characters, rather than the map that Shadowfire used. Below the playing area, a narrow strip contains the icons for the four characters. Moving the cursor onto a character icon and pressing fire highlights and selects that character for action. Each character icon area has a strength bar and a blank space for 'stacked' commands (more in a mo) and objects carried to appear.
The bottom half of the screen is taken up with a scrolling area containing all the command icons arranged in groups. The main command icons include pickup (object), drop, activate (object), load weapon, hound to the death, and defend and hold. Other groups show character in play and characters in a location, movement and direction icons, objects in a location and objects carried by the activated character.
To players of Shadowfire, the 'OOPS' and 'Mindprobe' icons will be new. In Enigma Force it's possible to 'stack' up to eight commands for a character to carry out - a little bit like 'type ahead' on modern adventures. These stacked commands appear in the blank box by the character icon. The 'OOPS' icon allows you to delete commands in the stack, should you need to. Direct joystick control of a character can be gained by using the Mindprobe icon. Under Mindprobe, the otherwise wilful characters can be directionally directed from the joystick in the normal manner, fire causing them to use whatever weapon they are carrying.
The playing area shows the rooms and corridors of the Xylon underground complex in an isometric perspective. Doors to the right and bottom of the screen are indicated, while those in the 'back' and at the left are shown fully, opening and closing as the characters go through. Some are locked and require keycards to he found. Any characters or objects in a location are shown (unless objects are carried) in the playing area, and all the characters are animated. As in Shadowfire, the action continues regardless of the player, the main difference being that you can see it all happening in front of you.
After Shadowfire I expected its follow-up to contain really brilliant graphics - unfortunately it doesn't. The sprites are really horrible and blocky and the backgrounds pretty poor. The icon system is still a pretty nifty idea and works quite well, although it might have been a little better if Beyond tried something new. I suppose Shadowfire fans might just be pleased with this, as it is essentially more of the same.
When Shadowfire first made an appearance in April last year, it impressed me greatly. Unfortunately the same can't be said of Enigma Force, as it's a very disappointing sequel indeed. It could, and in fact should, have been vastly superior to its predecessor but falls drastically short of the mark, as it has been poorly executed. The game itself is weak and although there are some interesting and potentially exciting conceptions, they have unfortunately gone to waste. One such example is the use of icons with an animated action screen, which would have been great, except the animated action is both crude and dull respectively. Still, Enigma Force did prove fun to play, but not for long.
The instructions are poor, containing little more than glorified feature descriptions, but the game itself is more than adequately presented on screen.
Awful sprite definition and animation, but the backgrounds and a majority of the icons are well drawn.
Very good tune playing throughout the game but little else.
Takes time to get into due to insufficient instructions but even so the game is not exactly awe inspiring.
Repetitive play elements affect lasting interest, although perseverence will prove rewarding to some.
Value For Money 60%
Overpriced for what it offers, though not vastly so.
A disappointing sequel but may still prove popular with fans of Shadowfire who are looking for something to pass the time.