Commodore User

Cheapo Round-Up
By Rack-It
Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #63

Ocean Conqueror (Rack-It)

If you're the type who likes to spend hours on end in a darkened room pretending to be captain of a sub and playing Silent Service till all hours of the morning - you're weird. You may also be interested to hear about Rack-It's latest release Ocean Conqueror, which runs along similar lines to the MicroProce program. I say 'may be', because this conversion of the old Spectrum release is a bit on the naff side. The links with its Spectrum past are a bit too strong for my liking: the graphics are all hi-res character-block coloured, and the sound effects are all reminiscent of a bleeper rather than a SID chip.

On the gameplay side, it's also a bit lacking - in fact, it feels like an advanced BASIC program: there's a distinct pause after keypresses, and the 'vector graphic' display is incredibly slow to update. Aesthetics aside, the strategic element consists of crawling along underwater, sinking the occasional battle cruiser and watching the ocean go past. If you fancy some adrenalin-pumping action, you might be advised to head ashore.

Powerplay (Players)

Fans of Triv games have been spoilt for choice over the last year or so, but none of them are really any good for the poor old solo player - except for the old game Powerplay.

Basically, you take control of four demi-gods who attempt to beat four real Gods at a cross between Trivial Pursuit and Battlechess. To move from square to square, you must answer a general knowledge question with a time limit. The character can move to any adjacent square, and if they are directed toward a square already occupied by one of the opposition, a challenge takes place. In this case, the answers must be given inside a much stricter time limit. If three suitable replies are given, the opposing God is defeated and is relegated by one God until (i.e. Zeus gets knocked down to Atlas, or something of that ilk).

The ultimate aim is to destroy all the opposing deities by reducing their status to human, and then doing them over once more, killing them. Once all four gods have been destroyed, you win the game.

This adds a subtle twist to the proceedings, and can be as much fun when played alone as when played against another person, or in a group.

Pulsoids (Mastertronic)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water - Mastertronic release... a Breakout> clone! Actually, it is safe to go back in the water, because Pulsoids is pretty good. Instead of a ball, you have these bouncing laser beam-thingies which have been ripped straight out of Pulse Warrior (Mastertronic, last ish).

The usual Arkanoid-style collectibles are in evidence, plus a couple of specials, and there are 32 screens to be completed. It feels good, plays well and is more fun than you might expect.

Traz (Gamebusters)

Although Traz is less then twelve months old, the re-release is now available on the Gamebusters label. If you didn't catch it the first time round (maybe you already owned one of the several million Breakout clones released) then you could do worse than pick it up now with its greatly reduced price tag.

As Breakout games go, this is far from being best of the bunch, but it does contain a very neat screen editor with which to knock up frustrating screens of your own design. This is dead easy to use and gives the game a much-needed shot in the arm.

There's plenty of variety in the game itself, including all the features of competitors such as Arkanoid and Krakout - plus one or two of its own devising, such as two bats, several exits, refracting walls, pinball bumpers and scrolling backdrops which frazzle your eyes. All this for only two quid? Can't be bad.

X-15 Alpha Mission (Mastertronic)

This Activision re-release sees the player strapped into the cockpit of NASA's X-15 in order to locate and destroy an orbiting space station manned by terrorists.

Split into two sections, the first represents the X-15's flight into space, blasting missiles, helicopters and jets, and dodging asteroids en route to the orbital platform.

Once on board, you despatch several robots to eliminate the external weapon systems. The last robot then trundles inside to destroy the central power station and thus the whole station.

Not too much of a strain to complete this one; best not to bother in the first place really.

How To Be A Complete Bastard (Mastertronic)

Hands up all those who got Ade Edmondson's book as a stocking-filler last Christmas? Virgin made a game of the book and now it's back in cheapo form.

At its simplest, How To Be A Complete Bastard is an arcade adventure of sorts: walk around, pick things up, set fire to the cat, eat curry, drink, fart, and generally spoil a yuppie party by being, as the title suggests, a complete bastard.

The game wasn't really that funny then, and it hasn't improved with age, and the gameplay sucks, too. If you really want to be a bastard, buy it for someone as a Christmas stocking filler.

Erebus (Mastertronic)

And lo! The god Braybrook begat Uridium and Uridium begat followers unto itself, and everyone was happy - especially the hangers-on who couldn't think of an original idea themselves. Without going into too much detail, Erebus which is being re-released under the Mastertronic legend, is a slow Uridium clone. That's it really: shoot the aliens, dodge the constructions, when enough aliens are dead go to the entrance to the next level - simple.

Erebus looks OK and plays reasonably well, if a little slow, but if you haven't got something that is extremely similar, I'd be utterly gobsmacked. And even if you didn't, Mr. B's great granddaddy of them all is knocking around in the shops for the same price. No contest.

Gaplus (Mastertronic)

This spiffy little game is about as close to the arcade coin-op Gaplus as you are going to get on the C64. Written by Ash 'n Dave (of many a wonderful Compunet demo) Gaplus is a straightforward Galaxians-style game - with one or two minor additions.

Swarms of alien ships appear on-screen, briefly whizzing around before heading into formation at the top of the screen. When the formation is complete (minus the ships that have been blown away in the process) the aliens swoop down towards the player's ship, dropping missiles as they go.

As arcade conversions go, this is right up amongst the full-price efforts for authenticity (I've counted up to 35 sprites on-screen!) and with a paltry two quid price tag, you'd be a complete drongo not to rush out this very minute and buy it. 'Nuff said.

Dan Dare II (Mastertronic)

Yet another re-release! And it's not too old, either (probably didn't do too well the first time around). The Gang of Five were responsible for both Dan games, and although the first was hailed as an original and innovative arcade adventure, the second was only weakly smiled upon as a merely competent shoot-'em-up.

Dan (or the Mekon, for the roles can be reversed) has to belt around the Mekon's spaceship on his hovercycle, discovering the Mekon's pupal warriors who are about to hatch from their plexiglass life support systems, and infest the Earth with their loathsome green ways. Dan has to clear each level of Mekey's mutants before he is allowed into the next, all the while blasting the Treen guards who are always getting in his way.

Dan Dare II has some gorgeous graphics and fast action, but the gameplay is a bit too shallow to be regarded as a lasting proposition. Not a bad budget release, though - you could do a lot worse.

Steve Jarratt

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