With a plot to enslave the entire galaxy, the evil Dargons must be stopped as they invade ours! Dargon Ringworlds (like a planet on a spaceship) are sent into conquer populated worlds and then use them as a base to conquer other worlds. You have to stop 'em quick before they take over every ruddy planet!
Ringworlds are destroyed with a photon torpedo. Then, to liberate an occupied planet you have to capture a shooting star and steer or tow it towards the planet. Release the star onto the planet and it destroys the Dargons and liberates that world. Oh, and there are loads of alien thingies all over the place to shoot too.
Gameplay is essentially an eight-way scrolling shoot-'em-up but with a yucky 'intellectual aspect' thrown in. There are billions (quite a few -Ed) of dials to keep an eye on and to succeed must be followed correctly; the status panels (on the left and right hand sides) are continually blasting you with information which takes away most of the fun you might have in carelessly blasting everything! Solar Empire is a funny mix of gameplay - you want to play it fast and furiously, when you should be playing it a bit strategically. Except you can't play it at all on the +2A, because it's not compatible.
The inlay reckons this is called Solar Empire, but when you load it up it calls itself Synergy. How extremely strange.
Anyway, spooky name changes aside, this one is rather good - even if it's down to the sheer simplicity of the thing. The graphics are simple (but effective), as is the gameplay. You're a wiggly snake-like ship which has to fly around eight vertically-scrolling space levels (selected from the main menu), moving around the screen and blasting baddies as they fly towards you. Every so often you'll come across a large circle (which is, as it happens, a moonsized asteroid), which you have to try to crash into to get to collide with nearby planets in order to liberate another planet, which is quite handy really seeing as the galaxy has just been taken over by the evil Dargons. Understood? I'm sure you get the gist.
All sorts of add-ons are available too - tractor beam, long range scanner or collectable repair and upgrade pod, anyone? Yep, a definite gameplayer's delight.
(Oh, incidentally - what exactly is a Synergy when it's at home?)
Strangely strange are the ways of the computer programmer; fueled on coffee and doughnuts they will plug away for years producing nothing but tedious platforms-and-ladders games and horizontally-scrolling shoot-'em-ups, then with no warning their brains will go all wonky and they produce something completely peculiar.
Solar Empire is obviously the result of just such wonkiness; on the surface a space shoot-'em-up of galactic conquest, it looks and plays more like a cheese-induced nightmare.
The evil Dargons have enslaved the galaxy, and you as commander of the liberation fleet have to fight them off and liberate captured planets. The multi-way scrolling screen represent star-scattered space, and pointers around the sides show the direction and distance to the nearest captured planet, sun, free planet and alien ship. You have to intercept the alien Ringworlds and zap them; collect fireballs which can be fired at captured worlds to liberate them; and rendezvous with suns to recharge your energy.
The weirdest thing is that your ship resembles a string of fishing floats, curling and spinning around as you fling it through the ether. You can add extra laser platforms and energy pods, and when you're stationary you can press the space bar to access a galactic map.
Very very strange indeed. Check it out and prepare to be boggled (but don't bother if you have a Spectrum 42A - for some reason it doesn't work on this version of the machine).
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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