After his experiences of playing with Zoids in a London caff, surrounded by the members of the Electronic Pencil Company, it seemed natural to let Jeremy Red Horn the Terrible Spencer loose on DAVID MARTIN and CHRIS FAYERS from Martech when they travelled all the way up to Ludlow to let us have a sneak look at the new Zoid game, THE BATTLE BEGINS...

IF IT HADN’T been for their Zoid breaking down David and Chris would have made Ludlow in much better condition than they did. As it was they were forced to drive, in a car. Now it was inevitable that a visit from the Zoid providers was going to arouse more than a passing interest from the Zoidless ones in the office. It was all we could do to stop Graeme rummaging his way through David’s briefcase trying to scrounge yet another pre-historic/future fighting monster. As soon as he realised that David hadn’t come bearing Zoids he went into a corner and sulked, well, only until David produced the the partially completed Zoid game, The Battle Begins.

David Martin chanced upon the Zoids in foreign parts. The idea of writing a series of games around these new toys struck him like a blast from a diaphanite laser. Since so much imagination has gone into the design of the toys the same would have to be done for the games. You may remember from an earlier CRASH that the Zoids game is being designed by the Electronic Pencil Company of Fourth Protocol fame. Chris Fayers, who accompanied David to the Towers, is the man responsible for stuffing all of the ideas and imagery into a Spectrum.

Zoids screenshot

The control console from ZOIDS. Eight icons give you access to controls, while a central map shows you where you are. At the top is a continuous readout of your Zoid’s general state of health — a ‘heartbeat’ — while at the bottom is the area for text messages including status readouts. Supplementary information is presented in windows, which zoom out of the main display... in this case a close up of a mine, called up via the information icon.

The main idea behind the game demands that you are not simply sitting inside a Zoid steering it from left to right. After all a Zoid is no mere machine, it is a mechanised animal, it thinks for itself and reacts to its environment according to its disposition. They possess their own survival instincts and to a very large extent their own sense of purpose. The enemy Zoids are ‘piloted’ by androids but you must pilot whichever Zoid you start off with, and learn to understand the way a Zoid reacts to its environment so that you can manipulate it.

The control panel in front of you offers a series of icons that represent the interface between yourself and the Zoid. The icons are the means by which you invoke certain functions. For example to move from one area to another you select the MOVE icon and then move a cross over the map until it is over the location you wish to visit. At this point the Zoid takes over and finds a route between the points taking into account the terrain and any obstructions that may represent a danger either to itself or to you.

When you come face to face with another Zoid with whom you have ideological differences, you may want to blow it to bits. This means activating your battle systems. On one mini-screen you see a 3D picture of the enemy Zoid and another showing a bird’s eye view of your Zoid and the enemy Zoid, on a Tron-like grid. After firing a missile you are able to pilot the weapon to its target, and you can see, on a mini-screen, a forward view taken from the missile’s camera as it wings its way to the target.

Another icon is STATUS. This provides you with a continuous readout of a function. Perhaps, for instance, you need to keep a constant eye on the state of the weapons systems, in which case this is constantly displayed on the status screen, but if at any time another function begins to fail to the point where the Zoid is unhappy about it, then it interrupts your readout and presents you with a warning. Whatever you decide to do, your action can be vetoed by the Zoid because one of its overriding programs is that of self preservation, which in the long run is no bad thing as you are, after all, inside the creature.

Your task in the first game is to destroy the Red Zoids. The only safe way of doing this is by enlisting the help of your ace Zoid, the mighty Zoidzilla. While he is not indestructable he is more than a match for all but two of the Red Zoids. However the best laid plans of Zoids and men oft come to naught...

The story so far: Rather unwisely, Zoidzilla, anxious to get into battle, has tried to make his entrance from space, through the planet’s atmosphere without protection. The result is that Zoidzilla has been rendered into many parts, scattered across the planet. Before you can hope to rid Zoidsville of the evil Red Zoids you must recover Zoidzilla’s component parts. This involves making planetfall and scooting around the place. At first you are given a Zoid of a pretty low order, but you are given upgrades as you defeat other Zoids and move nearer to your goal.

The game allows for a total of nine levels of strategy, but that’s not to say that a pure arcade fan cannot derive a lot of fun from the game because it can be played at a lower level, so long as you give up the ultimate aim of Mighty Zoidzilla. While you cannot complete the game without getting yourself fully involved in its strategy, it is also true that a strategist would need a good measure of arcade skill to cope with the demands made by the action part of the game.

David and Chris resisted all normal means of extracting information, even a bear hug from Aunty Aggie in mail order failed to elicit the inner secrets of the game. However from what they let slip it’s quite obvious that there will be a dire need to call up outside help through use of one of the icons. A quick radio call to base might be useful in all sorts of tight spots, but the nasty leer on David’s face when he explained why one might call up base, made us all uneasy — so take care when dealing with your base. Something else we learned was that you would be well advised to check over any Zoids that you dispatch, to see what you can recover from the carcass. However, it’s very clear that everything you learn about the planet you are on, the enemy cities and many different types of Zoids, can only be learned from experience. Each enemy Zoid has an intelligence of its own and strengths and weaknesses peculiar to that Zoid. The strategy of the game demands that you discover for yourself how best to deal with the multitude of problems that await you.

Search for more information