Gargoyle Games have (temporarily?) abandoned the distant past jumping to the distant future as a setting for their latest game. Marsport, the first in a trilogy of games, begins at a time when the human race is having problems with a race of evil aliens.
The Earth and Moon are defended from the xenophobic alien race known as the Sept by a massive spherical force shield in space. The problem is, the Sept have discovered a way of breaching the field. Deep within the central computers of Marsport, now a Sept stronghold, are the original plans for the construction of the barrier which detail how it can be reinforced. They were hidden there by the barrier's creator, Muller, who is now dead.
You play the character Commander John Marsh, of the Terran underground liberation movement. Your mission is to locate the central computer in the Marsport complex, recover Muller's plans and then escape with them intact. Apart from the dangers presented by the aliens in occupation, you have to cope with the computer generated defence systems. Standing at the entrance to the spacefield, your first task is to locate and then charge a weapon, without which your mission is certainly hopeless.
Sept warriors patrol the corridors of Marsport; they are aliens about half your size who are deadly to the touch. In some passages you may find a Sept of the Warlord caste. They are large insect looking creatures who move only occasionally. If you should approach one, without having the right weapon to hand, a sting will lash out and - curtains.
Although you are warned of approaching Sept, you can never be sure from which direction they will arrive. Your energy gun comes in very handy.... Warden and Herald robots, part of the computer run defence system, patrol the corridors. Herald robots become significant later in the game and are harmless, while Wardens tend to mistake you for a Sept and try to blow you away.
Movement in Marsport is similar to that in Dun Darach, in that the character is moved to the left or right, via control keys, and the view may be altered through ninety degrees. At first this is disorientating, a compass at the bottom of the screen can be used to help you keep your bearings.
Sliding panels can be found set into some corridor walls. They're labelled according to their function and open automatically when approached. Supply units do just that and are constantly replenished. Lockers are a safe storage device for items obtained (you may only carry up to three at a time). Sometimes these lockers are locked and you will have to put a certain object in the Key unit nearby in order to open the covering plate. Refuse units allow you to get rid of objects you no longer want - useful given that you can't drop anything, and remember, you can always throw away unpleasant things. Power units provide power for objects that need it, such as your weapon, and finally Factor units manufacture a new object from other objects placed inside them. Factor units are essential - some of the things you need to complete your mission do not even exist until you create them!
Rooms in the complex are identified by a nameplate above the door. Rooms with 'Danger' above them mean that there is something to be wary of inside, while 'Restricted' rooms cannot be entered until you have located the central computer. Consequently, once the first part of the game has been completed, a lot more of the playing area opens up. Many rooms need a specific key to open them... so a little careful thought is needed.
The main action takes place in the top half of the screen, whilst the bottom half gives compass directions, details of object carried, weapon status and messages. Messages are received when you pass a Vidtex unit or when you are in the process of constructing another object. The bottom half of the screen also gives details of the area you are in.
The playing area in Marsport is estimated at being the size of Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach put together. Not a little game! Unlike Gargoyle's previous two games, Marsport is not played on a flat plain. Instead, it is constructed like a 3D tower block. Each floor has a different function - for instance the Recreational area has a couple of little games that can be played. The levels are connected via a series of lifts that may or may not be one or two way.
Marsport features realistic 3D effects: John Marsh can stroll in front of and behind struts, and a lot of attention has been paid to the animation of his movements.
Unless you have a few weeks to spare, the game will need to be played in several sessions. Thoughtfully, Gargoyle have provided a save game routine which can also be used just before you do something especially tricky in case things don't work out.
Once you do get the plans, the game isn't over - you still have to escape from Marsport. Not a trivial task, but this time, Gargoyle have added quite an interesting feature to the end ...