The programmers of Beast and Beast 2 have made the leap into space. Gordon Houghton discovered that it was worth the effort.
Time is running out for the Octarian planetary system. For centuries they have refused to trade with the militaristic Homikahns, so the Homikahns have finally flipped their lids and decided to blow the Octarians into the next universe. Their mad scientists have developed a super-weapon known as the Promethean cannon, which draws power from their sun. It needs time to charge up its batteries, but it won't be long before Octaria becomes space dust...
Into this conflict cruises the enhanceable Starship Elapidac and her crew, scouring the Galaxy in search of free meals, trading opportunities and large wads of dosh. Intelligence reports have informed them that Octaria is about to fry, and they are determined to extract as much cash as possible before it happens.
Their on-board computers reveal that there are eight planets in the system: all diverse and dangerous, but also potentially highly profitable. Swarms of aliens infest the planets, and there are rumours of giant Space Creatures that lurk off-world waiting for hapless pilots. However, fuel is likely to be the major problem - it's only available in exchange for fulfilling missions. On the other hand money (Diogem Disks) and Chrollum Crystals (for trading) are plentiful.
Awesome is a neat balance between trading and shoot-'em-up elements, none of which are compelling enough on their own but which, as a collection, prove enjoyable. There are eight-way scrolling shoot-'em-up sequences, a Space Harrier blaster, an overhead exploration romp, trading and navigation sections, and mini-missions within the overall objective.
At the beginning it's tough (you only have one life), and that means there's plenty of annoying disk loading and swapping as you get to grips with the action. However, as with Beast 2 loading has been reduced by options to turn off the Game Over sequence and the music and sound effects.
Awesome's difficulty is ultimately to its advantage: it draws you into a whole series of diverse action and leaves you wanting more - so you can't help having just another go. The trading and Navcom systems are particularly well designed and give purpose to the blasting sections - especially when you get hold of a couple of juicy weapons.Graphics and sound are well up to Reflections' usual high standard (the music is excellent), although some of the planetary sprites are bland and shapeless. What Awesome lacks in originality, it makes up for in variety and long-term playability. If you have the patience for a long and sometimes frustrating haul, you will be well rewarded.
Awesome, like all of Reflections' works, was developed primarily for the Amiga. However, if Beast is anything to go by, the ST Awesome (due next year) should be almost identical in content.
Nary an awesome peep nor an awesome pixel will find its way into caring DOS homes just yet.