Mantronix (Probe) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

Computer Gamer

By Probe Software Ltd
Spectrum 48K

Published in Computer Gamer #15

The year is 2001 (strains of The Blue Danube start to be heard) and you are a bounty hunter pursuing four alien criminals. Shades of Elite meets Blade Runner? Perhaps not, but Mike Roberts turns mercenary for the occasion just in case.


'Bounty Hunter' - the dramatic name conjours up images of Steve McQueen riding out to right wrongs - as long as the pay is right.

Now Probe Software gives you the chance to do the same - but removed to the not-so-far future. 2001 is the year, and your newly acquired status of bounty hunter is still (uncrumpled) in your pocket. Off you trek to Zybor - the bounty hunter's happy hunting ground, an entire planet designed to protect criminals hiding from justice. Suddenly a wanted message flashes to you. Xtro II (the famous and extravagant slave trader) has gone to ground on the planet Zybor accompanied by three other arch criminals. Xtro II's price is 100,000 Cr, Ariel's Head is 250,000 Cr, and the other two you don't really need to know because, as a fledgling bounty hunter you are unlikely to get that far.

The bad guys are wandering around the planet - but bounty hunters get a pretty bad press in most parts of the galaxy and you are barred from leaving your ship (criminals couldn't give a monkey's and meander around to their heart's content).

So this means you must send down your newly acquired (with your recent promotion you also get a 6.7% pay rise - yippee!) Mantronix unit.

Your mantronix is a human-old robot created in your image. He has a sophisticated pulse laser and a Mk I autoscan camera that lets you see what he is doing. So there you are, on your own (well, your Mantronix unit is hanging around an' all I suppose) against the four most dangerous criminals that the universe has ever seen.

The Game

Mantronix gets its roots from the 3D isometric games that are in vogue at the moment, but the gameplay is significantly different. The view you see isn't based on rooms. You see a view of the surface of the planet that shunts along as you approach one side of the screen. The switching between screens is exceptionally fast and can almost be disregarded. Too many of these games, whilst being fairly quick at screen swaps, are just that slightly bit slow in moving around. So, instead of a smooth progression along the game, it is more of a hop, step and jump. Mantronix suffers from none of these problems.

The idea of the game is to shoot the four bad guys to get lots of luvverly money. They appear in various places and can be despatched quite easily. The difficulty comes when you have to try and find them, for the planet is populated by four different types of defence droid. All of which are extremely dangerous (Sir Adrian Dangerous please note!) and pursue you like a lovestruck ZX81 out for a bit of attention when its owner has just gotten himself an Amiga.

All over the planet are various objects and useful items. Most of the objects serve no useful purpose and are just there to hinder your progress, but some of them are really evil. Black holes are the worst as they will whisk you off into oblivion.

Useful objects include bags of money, diamonds, rockets and laser guns. These last two let you blast the pulsators: these are devices used by the evil criminals to sustain their life force. Also on the planet are the mysterious power cubes: these provide vital fuel for your return home - assuming that you get that far of course.

Power cubes also reverse the direction of the conveyor belts. The conveyor belts are dotted all over the planet and whizz you off in whatever direction that it sees fit. The main problem with this is that you don't know which direction that they start in. In fact, the only time that you now that there is a conveyor belt there is when you zip off into the wild blue yonder.

How To Play

A bit tricky, this one. The first priority is to map it out; without a map it is very difficult to play the game. Remember to mark the positions and start directions of the conveyor belt; without that knowledge you might as well not leave the ship as you will be wandering around aimlessly.

Remember that everything that moves is totally deadly. Walk into it and you die. This includes the alien criminals, the defence robots, and anything else that is even slightly suspicious. All the enemies home in on you in straight lines, and all go at the same speed that you do, run in a straight line and they won't gain on you - but then, neither will you escape from them.

If one is getting a bit close, make sure that it is directly behind you and not on a parallel track - if it is this manoeuvre will kill you! When on an in-line track, turn, fire and turn again. Do this in one continuous movement and you won't have any problems with all the other belligerents.

If a bad guy is really close and on a parallel track, you have a few problems. Try to line him up and you will almost certainly die in a particularly gruesome manner. The technique here is to 'rub' the chaser off.

If the alien is on your left, then run past an object on its right. The alien will then back into the object and lose interest. (Well, wouldn't you?) The same can be repeated on the other side.

When navigating and you get stuck behind a conveyor that isn't going in your direction, look for an alternative route; there is usually a conveyor travelling in the other direction (i.e. your way). Either that or a normal walkway (which means that you have to walk - hard luck, you probably need the exercise, being stuck behind a computer all day!).

To Conclude

Mantronix is a very good game. It comes from the 3D isometric stable, but is unlike any other game of that type that I have seen - i.e. it is eminently playable, and not just a game showing off some pretty graphics.

The plot is interesting and is maintained throughout the game, with your score being counted up in credits and a little wanted poster appearing in the bottom of the screen with a picture of the baddie concerned and some relevant information. Rather like the warrants in the 'Strontium Dog' series about a futuristic bounty hunter.

Mantronix will be available in a few days from Probe Software and costs only £7.95.