Mutants (Ocean) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

Commodore User

By Ocean
Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #43


The bright sparks at Ocean Software have, clearly, a great deal of faith in the latest game from Denton Designs. That's why they've saddled it with a silly title and sillier background story. A pity, because the game is actually quite good and quite capable of surviving on its own merits, without all the blarney.

Ocean would have you believe that 'you are a member of thinly-spread group of dissenters', in charge of a patrol ship named Rainbow Warrior, and dedicated to the elimination of the Macro-Genetic Mutoid biological weapons which are being developed by the Survivor Zero Corporation.

Which is all very interesting and politically sound, but has precious little to do with the game. Mutants is, in fact, a slick, fast, fusion of strategy game and shoot-'em-up, with abstract graphics and great music. The sort of treat we've come to expect from the Denton team.

The game is played across 16 zones, forming a 4 x 4 grid, and fifteen of these contain a particular strain of mutating virus. These are no great shakes graphically, consisting mostly of multi-coloured blobs, dots and lines. The zones are bordered by destructive barriers, and located somewhere in each is part of a self-destruct mechanism. You've got to visit each zone, battle through the mutant colony to reach the component, get it safely out and, ultimately, assemble all fifteen components in the 16th control zone.

Your spacecraft is highly manoeuvrable, responding instantly to the lightest touch on the stick, and took me right back to playing Asteroids in the arcades. It won't take long to get it zooming about with ease and speed, but take care with reversing and cornering.

There are three weapons to choose from: rapid-firing photon torpedoes, the more powerful but slower high-yield missiles, and the Barrier defensive weapons, which erect a temporary shield around the ship. Weapon selection takes place on the opening Mother-ship icon screen, and at the same time you can decide whether you want music (very catchy) or sound effects (more than adequate).

Then it's on to the zone selection. The 4 x 4 grid flashes up, with a chemical compound busily mutating away in each square. Move the arrow over the zone you want, press fire, and the ship is seen arriving on the telepad in the centre of that zone.

And this is when you have to start thinking - and pretty damn quick too. Some of the mutant colonies - in particular, a rather unpleasant form ofPhobinogen Dodecnoyl in zone (1,3) - react to your presence immediately, and unless the ship is moved off the telepad as soon as it touches down, it'll be hemmed in. Other mutants, like the Glycoside Albuminide of zone (3,3) are suspiciously inactive until you've collected the self-destruct component, and then all hell breaks loose, the screen an impenetrable nightmare of swirling blobs of colour.

Some zones call for a continuous barrage of photon torpedoes; others demand strategic thought.

Once you've got the component and the ship back to the telepad in one piece, it's back to the Mothership screen, a different weapon selected if desired, and then off to the next zone.

Typically, you've only got three lives, though these can be replenished by transferring some of the components to the Control Zone. At this point the game loses impetus, however, and becomes a mite tedious. The Control Zone is a lethal maze which has to be negotiated, slowly, to get to the assembly point for the self-destruct mechanism. Once you've reached it, you deposit your components, and then find your way back. There are some nasty white blobs too, just to make things even more unnecessarily complicated.

The worst is yet to come. If you succeed in shooting up all the Rhizobial Ferradoxins and S-Cysteine Acetotates; if you collect all fifteen components; if you get through the Control Zone maze however many times is necessary; if you do all this - what do you get?

A gold medal? A fanfare of trumpets? A very big score? No. You get to have a stab at... part two!

What happens in part two I have no idea. Maybe we get to meet the Survivor Zero Corporation, or some fellow dissenting Space Greenpeacers...

What the hell. Part one's enough for me. It's going to be a month or so before I complete that.

Bill Scolding

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