The Psi 5 Trading Company is a 35th century film of haulage contractors specializing in the transportation of live and dead freight. The player is put in the managerial role of Captain and has to monitor all functions of the space freighter as well as allocating task assignments to the five-strong crew. The game is either joystick or keyboard controlled and makes use of an icon system to guide the cargo ship from one side of the galaxy to the other.
Travelling the spaceways is a hazardous occupation and there are all sorts of nasty characters just dying to get their alien manipulative organs on your lovely cargo! Needless to say these have to be disposed of, because if your cargo gets either stolen, lost or destroyed, you end up with a rather large invoice which immediately puts you out of business.
When first loaded, the player has to select one of three cargos (each has a different value) and plot a course through the Parvin Frontier (a pretty mean part of the Universe) to the destination planet. Once those factors have been sorted out a crew must be chosen from thirty potential candidates, who are a pretty varied lot and come from all walks of life - or in some cases, trundles of physical presence as there are a few robot applicants. There are six beings to choose from for each position (navigation, weaponry, engineering, repair and scanning) and as Captain you can access the personal documents of each. The documents give information about the candidate's age, race, qualifications, education, experience, strengths and weaknesses, and using this data it is up to you to choose the crew best suited for the task.
Play commences with the screen in communications mode. Split into five main sections, the display shows a view of space (either forwards, backwards, port or starboard), a graphic representation of the crew member with whom you're interacting, the ship's status console (showing weapons, motion, speed and pending messages), an information console and a selection of icons. The latter displays incoming messages from both external and internal sources and gives a detailed readout of the status functions of any crewmember.
The main commands initially available are: acknowledge, weapons, scan, navigation, engineer, repair and manual. Moving the joystick either left or right highlights one of the icons, and pressing fire button activates it. If, for example, the weapons icon is chosen then the relevant crew member is shown in the interaction monitor, and the information console changes to display the functions of the weapons department - status, display, ?, cancel, rank, fire and return. Accessing status results in a readout of the number of shots fired and spacecraft destroyed, whilst display shows the orders given to the weapons section. Any incoming messages can be viewed by accessing the ? icon, and scan gives details of any alien craft, such as whether they are friendly or not. All firing orders are given using the cancel, rank and fire icons.
If you want to issue orders or check up on another department, then the return command takes you back to the main screen, allowing you to select another icon. The screen then changes to display the crewmembers and their surroundings, and a new set of relevant icons.
Each department has their own special skill, and plays an important part in the game. Weapons and scanning work in conjunction with scan to identify and keep track of other vehicles in space. Weapons can then dispose of anything hostile if necessary. Navigation controls the speed and course of the spaceship, and these factors can be altered during flight. For example, evasive manoeuvres are occasionally required to avoid any confrontation with renegade spacecraft.
The engineering department is responsible for managing and allocating power to different sections of the spacecraft - vital when under attack, as extra power has to be pumped into the defence shields. The repairs department consists of a team of robodroids which can be allocated to repair various sections of the ship.
As acting Captain you have the responsibility of making sure that all departments work together as a team, rather than separate entities. If too much time is spent interacting with only one crewmember, the rest of the team get bored and start doing their own thing, so the whole system swiftly begins to break down and the spaceship doesn't function efficiently. Monitoring umpteen ship functions at once may sound like a tricky task, but as long as you ensure that all incoming messages from crewmembers are noted, so you know exactly what's going on and which orders should be given the biggest priority, it doesn't prove too much of a problem.
Psi 5 doesn't contain any fast arcade action, but the pace is certainly quick enough and it is one of the best variations on the trading game theme I have played for a long time. Graphically, Psi 5 is impressive - each of the characters is of cartoon quality and very well animated. Although the pieces of music played throughout the game aren't amazing, they are good enough to generate an atmosphere and don't annoy to any great extent. All in all, a competent release, although I think it will have a minority appeal.
Psi 5 would be nice if it wasn't for the fact that it was originally a disk-based product. US Gold's ridiculous insistence to put disk orientated product onto cassette is annoying, as it just doesn't work. All too often the occasional stops and starts interfere with what was originally quite a pleasant product. Computer/ person interface problems aside, Psi 5 is alright, though a little slow at times; it isn't the sort of game that I would recommend for arcade junkies, but anyone into putting a bit of thought behind their joystick manipulations may well welcome this release. As is the case with previous Accolade titles, Psi 5 combines pleasant background ditties with impressive use of hi-res graphics. I wasn't overly impressed with this game, though quite a few people may well be. Check it out.
This is one of those games which requires a lot of perseverance before any sort of proficiency is gained. The amount of different things which have to be monitored is quite overwhelming initially, but reading the instructions and following the training mission helps considerably. The game looks really great and all the different members of the crew are given character and personality by colourful and extremely well animated graphics. There's plenty of depth to the game too, with loads of things to keep the player busy for hours. If you're interested then take a look - it's a very original game, although it might not appeal to arcade game players.
Well documented and attractively presented, but cassette loading is a pain.
Cartoon quality characters which are superbly animated.
Variety of above average tunes help the game along adequately.
Initially enthralling and easy to get into.
Enough variety and depth to keep traders happy for a long while.
Value For Money 83%
Would benefit from being a bit cheaper.
A great variation on the trading game theme.