CRASH Smash

DARK STAR

Producer: Design Design
Memory required: 48K
Retail price: £7.50
Language: machine code
Author: Simon Bratell

It’s taken quite a while between previewing Dark Star and reviewing it. Much of this has had to do with the fact that programmer Simon Bratell kept fiddling with the game, making it faster and faster until now it must surely win the accolade as the fastest Spectrum graphics ever. It would be a mistake to assume that this wire frame game is a copy of the popular arcade machine game ‘Star Wars’, because although it resembles it in some respects, it differs a lot in many important ways and, in any case, it was designed long before ‘Star Wars’ appeared in the arcades.

Screenshot

Passing a planet at Hyper-speed!

Anyway, onto the game. The Dark Star galaxy is divided into a 16 by 16 grid of sectors in the galactic plain. All the spurious blurb which gets you going is very detailed and well worth avoiding, best to dive in through the fabled front end which has been user defined out of existence! Selecting ‘instructions’ on screen is much better — it says, ‘Fly around the universe. If it moves shoot it. If it doesn’t shoot it anyway. If it’s square fly through it!’

Keys for control are left, right, up, down, accelerate, decelerate and fire, any of which may be used on any key or all the same one if you like. Anyway, onto the game. There is a sort of adventurish and strategy overtone to Dark Star in as much as you are trying to clear the place of alien forces. The action takes place over three different areas, deepest space, hyperspace (accessed through Warp Gates, which are rotating yellow squares) and on the surface of numerous planets. When the planets in a sector of space have been cleared of aliens, using a Warp Gate will take you into another sector.

In space alien fighters will swoop on you, firing bolts of plasma and they do this by prediction, so it’s best to avoid flying straight for too long. Your firing is done by directing the cross wire cursor at targets. Shield energy may be increased by flying through rotating blue squares (energy concentrations). The Warp Gates have four opening and shutting sections which allow you to hyperspace North, South, East or West. Whilst in hyperspace you must travel along through a series of squares. The tunnel winds about in a lively fashion and breaking through its walls puts a heavy load on your shields.

Planetfall is achieved by flying straight at one. The surface has towers occupied by the enemy which fire at you. Shooting at the towers will cause them to collapse. A map display of the galaxy indicates your position and shows where the forces are concentrated as lightly, well and heavily defended, with a further designation of ‘military centre’. A similar display can be used on the surface of a planet. This shows bases, fuel dumps, space ports and so on. Your craft cannot leave the surface of a planet until all the enemy bases have been destroyed.

Dark Star is far too complicated for a mere collator of reviews to explain, something which was fully intended by its designer, so it is best to try it out for yourself! Its much vaunted features include the universe, stopwatch mode, 2 million way movement, full screen playing area (with graphics in the border area), and its makers say it does not include Materialisations, Sprites (naturally), Unused RAM (who needs it) Stupid Scenario (there is a bit about the Evil Lord’s tyrannical empire however), and no Magic Rings (wot no rings!). The other thing is this amazing front end which defines the meaning of ‘user’ and allows customisation of the game. For his endeavours in the field of advancing home computer games, programmer Simon Bratell has insisted that CRASH give Dark Star 100 for the Use of Computer rating...

CRITICISM

COMMENTS

Control keys: user definable to the Nth degree
Joystick: Kempston, Fuller, Protek, AGF, Sinclair 2, Para-Systems
Keyboard play: exceptionally responsive, good positions through UDK
Use of colour: above average, good for wire frame and a welcome addition to this type of game
Graphics: breathtakingly fast though not very detailed
Sound: very good
Skill levels: definable through front end
Lives: only 1
Screens: 2
Special features: flexible front end, and second program included
General rating: excellent shoot em up, certainly the fastest.

Use of computer100%
Graphics88%
Playability86%
Getting started89%
Addictive qualities85%
Value for money87%
Overall89%

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