Your mission, now that you have been forced to accept it, is to rescue the kidnapped Ambassador Kryxix from the hands of the evil General Zoff. Unfortunately, the Ambassador is being held in the centre of the General's own ship, Zoff-5. This is heavily guarded by Zoff's army of humanoids and robots and consequently you will be outnumbered and outgunned. To add to your problems you must complete your mission in less than 100 minutes.
Your team to complete this task consists of the usual collection of murderers, thieves and psychopaths that are sent on such suicide missions.
They are known collectively as Enigma and consist of the team leader Zark Montor, an insectoid called Syylk, Torik a winged humanoid, a weapons droid called Maul, Sevrina a murderess and Manto who operates the transporter that will get them onboard Zoff-5.
The following article looks at the important aspects of the game in order to help you accomplish what would seem to be an impossible mission.
Shadowfire has a completely new game system which you must famliarise yourself with if you are going to stand any chance of completing your mission. The game mechanics are icon-driven by which all commands are replaced by a pictorial representation of the action (an icon). For example, the command "pick up" is illustrated by an icon showing a hand picking up a suitcase. Similarly there are icons for drop object and use (a finger pressing a button). These actions are part of the object screen which is just one of the three screens available for each player. The others are a movement screen where the player selects the arrow in which direction he wishes to go and the combat screen where you decide whether your characters will attack, hold or run away.
These three displays occupy the lower half of the screen whereas the upper half always consists of the console screen. This from right to left displays a picture of the character currently selected, a map of the area surrounding it, a game timer, a message screen and a mode indicator. This final area consists of miniature icons, one for each character, and is colour-coded to indicate the current status of the character, for example moving, attacking, retreating, stationary or dead.
It is important that you learn the significance of these displays as you will have to act quickly as you will have to act quickly in an emergency. Indeed, in order to complete your mission you will have to keep all of your characters busy all of the time.
These display panels are accessed either from each other or from a main character screen by selecting one of the coloured VDU icons.
The main character screen also shows the current levels of the characters' strength, agility and stamina. These are important values and will undoubtedly change during the game.
A character's strength determines the weight of equipment that he can carry and also the amount of damage he can take. The character's speed is determined by the agility rating which will decrease as the character tires.
Finally a character's stamina will determine how quickly he recovers from exhaustion or injury. Exhaustion can be quite a problem especially if th characters are carrying too much. This is indicated by the coloured bar designated by a set of scales. While the bar is green, the character is fine but if it turns red then you must immediately drop something or the character will quickly tire.
Since each character has a unique set of physical characteristics, some will tire more quickly than others, for example Severina, whereas the likes of Syllk and Maul should trundle on quite happily.
Not only do the team members differ physically they also have specialised abilities. For example Severina compensates for her frailty by being an excellent markswoman and locksmith. Torik can fly and therefore is an excellent scout. Indeed, skillful use of Torik can save you a lot of time as he can quickly eliminate dead ends as well as locating the enemy. Once he finds them, he can then lure them into a trap set by the two fighters on the team Syllk and Maul. Both are heavily armoured, strong but slow. Zark is the team leader and with his translating abilities is the only one able to speak to the ambassador and so persuade him to come with you. Finally, Manto is the only one that can use the transporter that not only gets you on-board the ship in the first instance but can also be used to transfer the slower but stronger characters to the 'front line'.
Before you send your characters into the fray, you will need to arm them from the array of weapons and objects that you have onboard your own ship. Which objects you give to which character will also affect your chances of success and so you should study the effects of the various weapons. Weapons subdivide into three main groups: light, medium or heavy which not only describes their weight but also their firepower. You should arm Severina with a light laser pistol as she will tire easily and so on. The weapons droid Maul, if given a heavy weapon such as a rocket launcher, becomes a formidable fighting machine. Unfortunately, you don't have such a weapon, so you will have to find him one on the ship. Before you set off you should give the toolkit to Severina with which she can open any door and the transporter to Manto.
It is up to you how you divide your team into assault groups as I am still to find a truly successful combination. Selecting such teams is complicated by the fact that objects that you find on the ship will affect your strategy. Consequently, only when I have fully mapped the ship and its objects will I be able to decide who should have found what. Most of the objects seem to be logically placed. For example, you do in fact find weapons on the armoury but others are carried by the enemy troops. Here lies another problem, for in this game good weapons are hard to take as the present owner will undoubtedly use it against you.
Some of the more interesting objects you should look for are colour-coded key cards to allow you access through the doors in the relevant section, grenades and smoke bombs, and a time delay until that will freeze everyone on the ship for a few minutes except, of course, the holder of the device. A particularly useful device is a master pass card that will open any door. Unfortunately, this is currently held by Sky Fortress Captain Churl, Zoff's second in command, who doesn't seem keen to give it away.
Zoff's forces consist of a mixture of humanoid and robot troops and divide into three types, Marshalls, Squad leaders and troopers. Logically, the higher-ranking troops are more intelligent and better armed than the troopers. The troopers are generally organised into squads and are accompanied by a squad leader. These squads patrol the outer portion of the ship although their set routes are difficult to map as they will attack you on sight. The best troops guard the inner areas and will home-in on you when you approach. A particularly unpleasant aspect of the enemies' movement are triggered events. For example, stepping into Zoff's cabin will set off an alarm and you will rapidly by outnumbered by troops. Consequently once you have identified such events, you should pick off in manageable numbers the attacking forces before you trigger the trap.
You should always try and attack enemy forces in strength and, if possible, from different directions. Similarly only use the retreat option when absolutely necessary as getting shot in the back is generally bad for your health.
As you play the game you will devise your own strategy but it is important that you regard the game as a commando-style operation in which speed and stealth are equally important. Always avoid shootouts with the enemy. Instead, pick them off when the odds are in your favour.
Finally, since you have only 100 minutes within which to complete your mission, you must move quickly and so it is vital to keep all of your characters busy all of the time. After all, there are only six of you against a ship load of enemy troops.
It should take most players some months to complete the mission, and even then you can try different strategies and team formations.
When you finally exhaust that potential, Beyond will be ready for you. August is the planned release time for the Shadowfire Software Tuner. This intriguing program will allow you to change the characteristics of your team as well as the format and defence of Zoff's forces. In essence, this creates a two-player option with one of the players setting the ship's defences that must be breached by the other.
Shadowfire is just the first in a trilogy of games. Details are scarce about the sequels but a working title for the second game is logically Shadowfire 2. This is to incorporate animated graphics and the story begins where Shadowfire ends. Enigma are back onboard their ship along with the Ambassador and a captured General Zoff. Unfortunately, the ship crashes killing some of the Enigma team and allowing Zoff to escape. Then the game consists of you trying to recapture Zoff on a hostile planet.
Shadowfire costs £9.95 and contains both the C64 and Spectrum versions on the same tape.
Shadowfire was written by Denton Designs, particularly Steve Cain, Karen Davies and Ian Weatherburn (games design) and Dave Colclough (C64) and John Heap (Spectrum) who did the programming.