Code Masters is a new budget label, but its first game is from an author well known to Amstrad users, Stephen Curtis. His previous games include Nonterraqueous and Soul Of A Robot. This is a departure into the land of scrolling shoot-'em-ups.
At first sight the downward-scrolling landscape looks very similar to that in Bounder. However, there's no bouncing ball, but a spaceship flying above the land. The graphics are very colourful and the scrolling quite good. The ship can be moved freely around the screen, all the way to the front, back and sides of the scrolling area.
The aim is to get through the 100 screens that make up the scrolling course. That won't be easy.
Two types of obstacle block your progress: static objects (steer clear) and flying droids (shoot or avoid). The static objects - they will flash on and off to warn you of what they are - are arranged in ever more devious and difficult ways as you move through the screens.
The flying droids come in several different types and movement patterns. They always appear from the top of the screen and head toward you, moving sideways and sometimes retreating back up the screen to make life difficult. The droids appear two at a time and can be shot with your forward-firing laser, but another wave appears immediately'.
Various squares on the ground can provide the ship with help - or in some cases, hindrance. There are fuel squares that keep the ship supplied; running out will cost you a life. Bonus squares boost the points score, and another square gives you a period of immunity to the droids. There are also bonus-life squares, crucial if you want to get far, for you start with a meagre two. When you do lose a life the game restarts with the ship on the nearest launching pad to where you died - they are dotted all over the course.
Less helpful are the squares that slow down or speed up the ship. These may occur at an awkward point and speed you into a wall, or slow you down when you're desperate to reach a fuel dump. Time-shift squares are the worst of all: they return you to the very start of the course.
It's very colourful and addictive. Despite ripping off many elements of Bounder it's a great little game at the price. It may not be original but it shows Stephen Curtis is still producing good games.
I wasn't too pleased with Bounder when it appeared; seeing a clone was not exactly my idea of fun. But Terra Cognita is quite different. For a start, you can blast anything (well, almost!) that appears. Trying to dodge the flashing squares can be quite demanding and adds to the game's appeal. It's an enjoyable game, with a price-tag to match.
Playable - almost, anyway!
P. Very colourful graphics.
P. Good scrolling and character movement.
P. Very testing course to get through.
P. Nice special features like speed changes and immunity.
N. Steals most of its ideas from Bounder.