Commodore User1st January 1986
Published in Commodore User #29
I'll come out with it straight away. Enigma Force is superb. The programmers at Denton Design who produced the stunningly original Shadowfire for Beyond have done it again.
Enigma Force is far more than just a follow-up to Shadowfire. It breaks significant new ground in computer gaming.
A quick description of it would be Shadowfire with animation. Shadowfire's innovative system of issuing commands by selecting from a range of picture symbols (icons) has been retained, except that now instead of having to move back and forward between various menus, all the commands are accessible from a single menu in the bottom half of the screen. (Because there are so many options, the menu is too big to fit this area, but if you want to access an off-screen option, you simply move the cursor to the edge of the screen and the menu scrolls. Beautiful.)
The big difference with this game, is that as you issue commands you actually see them being carried out on screen by animated figures. The top half of the screen is assigned to this display of what's going on.
To give an example, if you select the picture which means 'pick up an object', followed by a symbol of one of the objects in the current location, the character under your control will move to the object and pick it up. Select the 'move east' arrow and the character will move right through a sliding door and appear in a new location.
The range of activities to select from is reaonably large. You can move in four directions, pick up and drop objects, load weapons with various types of ammunition and 'activate' objects (the effect here depends on the object - activating a fish, in other words eating it, gives you energy, while activating explosives means priming them to explode in thirty seconds. All this you must discover by trial and error). You can also take over direct joystick control of a character allowing you to engage in gun-battles with enemy forces in ordinary shoot-'em-up style if you so wish, although this is inadvisable until you've located some decent ammunition.
Another excellent touch is the ability to run up a sequence of commands for a single character - you don't have to wait for each one to be executed first. This means you can issue instructions to one character, leave him to get on with it and switch to control of another, for as in Shadowfire you are the leader of our other beings.
The scenario incidentally is that General Zoff who you captured if you compelted Shadowfire, has escaped during a crash landing on a planet where a war is raging between insectoids and reptiloids. Your aim is first to recruit the insectoids to your case, then to destroy Zoff and finally to locate another spacecraft, the action taking place in a large network of hi-tech underground rooms.
The animation itself is not the greatest, but it serves its purpose of showing you what's going on. At least the action is fast. Oh, and there's another great piece of music to accompany the action if you so wish.
Be warned that the game takes some getting used to. Icons, contrary to theory, are actually much harder to get used to than written commands. But because this is an adventure, working out what each command does is all part of the fun. Once you've got the hang of it, it's almost impossible to stop playing.