Quite a lot of software houses recently have been vying with each other to secure the rights to well known TV series to produce computer game versions. This is C.R.L's bid for top viewing figures, an adaption of Gerry Anderson and Chris Burr's series Terrahawks. In some respects, although not visually, Terrahawks resembles their earlier Omega Run - a 3D mission to fly a craft to a certain designated spot using a range finer and compass bearing. Its author, Richard Taylor, has previously produced the utility programs Hi-Res for the ZX81 and Fifth for the Spectrum. Chris Burr of Anderson Burr Pictures has said that Terrahawks is uncannily similar to the opening sequence of the TV program and that the game represents a masterpiece of programming creativity.
In fact its 3D vector graphics do work well, but are nowhere near as fast as some existing games and not a patch for speed on Design Design's Dark Star.
Your mission is to fly across a landscape dotted with large tower blocks called Crystal Towers and find the entrance to the Time Vortex which will lead you onto the next 'stratum' of the game. You start off flying at 199 feet. To gain entrance to the vortex, your height must be not more than 40 feet, preferably about 30 feet. There is an intro sequence to each game which shows the effect of your craft being pulled into a black hole. The game takes place within the confines of the black hole, and the object is to succeed in getting through the various strata to escape at the other end.
The screen is divided into two, the top half being a view through the front shield of your craft. Here you can see a dotted line representing the horizon, and the wire frame 3D tower blocks which appear and move towards you. Controlling the direction and height of your craft alters the perspective view you see of the towers. It is possible to fly upside down if you really feel like it. The higher you fly the more fuel you use up but the lower levels mean dodging more towers or having to shoot more of them down with your limited supply of 'antimat' bolts: Towers hit by these are knocked down in height by increments.
Below the viewscreen is the instrument panel. This includes a status board with lives, shields (you start with 5, after that a collision with a tower will mean crashing), level you have reached and an altimeter. Next to the status board is a compass, which is used for fine adjustments to direction during the approach to the vortex entrance. The right hand board contains an attitude gauge, fuel gauge, range finder and a close range scanner. The range finder uses a bar which decreases with distance to vortex, and above it is a light which is red when off course and green when on course for the vortex. When the vortex is a short distance away, it appears as a dot on the scanner, and by using that and the compass you should be able to line up and fly into it.
Entering the vortex, which is a long line of rectangles, the game freezes, informs you of your status and then lets you continue. When approaching and leaving the vortex, you must be careful not to impact with its sides or top. The next stratum up contains more towers, and more high ones. The other difficulty is that your fuel and antimat bullets are not replenished so you must complete your task with those in hand.
Control keys: 1/0 up/down, 9/0left/right, ENTER to fire or cursors
Joystick: AGF, Protek, ZX 2, Kempston
Keyboard play: both options are rather awkward and key response is quite slow
Use of colour: good, wire frames are in green on black
Graphics: effective 3D which tends to break down the closer objects get
Skill levels: 1
'A fairly fast moving wire frame graphics game which is very playable. Unfortunately the instrument panel at the bottom of the screen is pretty incomprehensible and I had a lot of trouble making my craft fly the way I wanted. The 3D effect is as good as most wire frame graphics are, but they tend to lose their 3D when you get near to the ground. The vortex is very hard to find and when you do, it's almost impossible to enter as it is so near to the ground.'
'This is not a terribly fast game - but it's not all that slow either. What makes it difficult are all the towers constantly looming up. The colour has been used quite well and the sound too. Line graphics don't tend to work very well when close up and at times you are confronted with a forest of vertical lines without a clue as to what is what, but these are quite good in the distance. I wouldn't call the 3D effect superb, but effective enough to create a sense of depth. I like the 'black hole ' effect at the start of the game. This is one of the best games from C.R.L. which holds enough challenge to be playable.'
'Terrahawks is difficult, which will probably mean it appealing to lots of people, although it isn't particularly fast and the trip to the vortex takes some minutes. It seems a pity that the so called 'mathematical calculations' referred to in a press release i saw have failed to take account of the fact that objects moving towards you appear to travel faster the nearer they get, these actual slow right down. Still, the 3 works well until you are low, after which it is more a matter of luck than judgement. Successfully entering the vortex is quite thrilling, however, especially after the battle to find the damned thing! After playing Terrahawks for three or four hours, I came to the conclusion that it had grown on me, and the reasons for playing another game were largely based on the judgement needed to conserve fuel and bullets at the right moments to make successive levels possible.'
|Use of Computer||71%|
|Value For Money||65%|
David: This is the game of the TV series - which should guarantee it being a chart-topper. I wonder if it's any good? Or even whether that'll matter...
The idea behind the game is to break out of a black hole by way of a vortex, which you must enter at a certain height, if and when you find it. To help in your quest, you've a radar screen, compass and range detector.
The start of the game is actually quite impressive, with lots of scrolling titles and tunes being played... but the myth soon evaporates. The screen fills with a number of 3D rectangles - which I seem to remember being impressively termed 'huge green monolliths' - which are dead easy to fly around, shoot up or whatever else you want to do to them. No problem! But of the vortex, I found no trace - so that's what makes this game so difficult!
I enjoyed the game for the first few moments, but when my fuel ran out after about 15 minutes, I wasn't that eager to start all over again. The instructions gave no indication of how to find the vortex and this is far from clear from the game itself. This might be a very good game if you can work out what's going on before you get bored. 2/5 HIT
Ron: The idea probably sounded great on paper... but CRL haven't pulled it off too well. The only part of the game worth seeing is the opening sequence of stars rushing past, over which the player has no control at all. The rest wasn't up to much either. 2/5 MISS
Roger: I always did my jolly best to avoid that hideous TV puppet show - and it's a shame that I had to sit through the computer game! I guess it'll be a success, but who'd have thought the game could be even worse than the TV show? 2/5 HIT
GAMES which have television series tie-ups are becoming popular and can be surprisingly good considering it is usually the plot and not the standard of programming that is the important aspect of the game. Terrahawks, from CRL is just surprising.
It uses none of the characters from Gerry Anderson's series and the graphics, which should have been the best part of the game, are slightly out of perspective and jump when a move is made in any direction.
The minimal plot takes your spacecraft into a black hole where you will find green crystal towers which you must avoid or destroy. If you destroy them you use one of your 80 antimatter bolts but if you do not then some quick action is required to avoid a crash.
Terrahawks is just another piece of mediocre space entertainment but if your idea of a good space game is blasting your way through a platoon of green monoliths then this game is for you.
Joystick: Cursor, Kempston, Interface One
MACHINE: Spectrum - joystick or keyboard
Come with us on a journey through a black hole. The trip is extremely dangerous - and you might not make it back to planet earth!
Hot on the heels of their War of the Worlds computer game, CRL have plundered another science fiction favourite. This time it's a bit more modern - based on Gerry Anderson's recent Terrahawks puppet series, screened on independent TV earlier this year.
Once you get past the impressive title screen - a graphics copy of the Terrahawks logo - there seems no obvious connection between the TV series and the game at all.
The evil Zelda is nowhere to be found - and even the literature that comes with our copy of the game carried no reference to the weird and wonderful characters featured in the popular teatime adventure show.
The game itself isn't bad. It's a cross between a flight simulator and a space shoot out. Programmer Richard Taylor has done a precise and workmanlike job. There is an extensive menu which, among other things, enables you to redefine the control keys, play a two player game or enter your name in the Terrahawks hall of fame.
Once into the game, you are presented with cockpit instrumentation at the bottom of the screen which tells you your weapon and shield status a includes an altimeter and scanner, plus fuel and range gauges.
At the top of the screen you'll see what's going on in the outside world around your spaceship - which I forgot to mention has been sucked into a black hole. In this black hole is a whole bunch of green monoliths - not unlike those you find in the second stage of the Star Wars arcade machine.
You have to fly over, around or simply blast into cosmic dust these monoliths which block your way to your goal.
Your target is a vortex, a long rectangular tunnel, which leads you into the next stratum of the black hole. Successfully fly through nine levels of the hole and your craft will emerge back in real space.
You can conserve fuel by flying low - but you'll need nerves of steel and lots of anti-matter missiles to dodge your way around the great green obstacles. Your ship is protected by five shields.
Overall, Terrahawks is an extremely well thought out and executed bit of programming. A lot of thought has gone into the detail - but here at C&VG we felt it was lacking in the playability area.
And as for the Terrahawks link. Well, maybe the proper packaging will explain more than the information we received here at C&VG.
MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
CONTROL: Keys, Kemp, Sinc, Curs
FROM: CRL, £6.95
Some games have to be stuck at for a while in order to appreciate their merits and this is one of them.
The title is somewhat misleading as the game seems to have virtually no connection to the TV show. It is a 3D flying game in which you have to manoeure through a landscape peppered with crystal towers to reach the vortex tunnel. It is far from easy.
You are given numerous aids to get you to the tunnel. Your ship is equipped with shields so you can survive five impacts with towers. Alternatively, you can lower the height of the columns by blasting them with one of your 80 antimat torpedoes.
There is also an autopilot function which can lock you on a bearing and height. but I found manual flying easier.
Gauges show your height, compass direction, fuel level, ship angle, short distance radar and range from the vortex. All of these are essential for a successful mission and the homing-in procedure follows a constant pattern.
First, you need to home-in using the range finder which shows green when you are on the correct heading. Once you are close enough, you have to drop height to below 40 feet and home-in on the vortex shown on the radar. Then, when it appears in visual range, you have to make a clean entry into the tunnel.
Success takes you to another strata - there are nine in all. Flying high drains your fuel and it needs to be conserved if you are to cover all nine strata. Your score is increased by flying, hitting monoliths and completing levels.
Despite initial reservations I found myself becoming more and more absorbed in this game, which presents a lasting challenge. However the first sight will put a lot of people off.
A lot of companies have tried to produce 3D games, few have succeeded. The computing power needed to work out 3D images usually means that the game has to proceed at a pretty low speed and that not an awful lot happens. That's the case with this one.
The green, fine-line graphics are reasonably effective, but are redrawn every half-second or so giving a sightly jerky look to the game. Sound is a continuous drone with a few zaps thrown in. There is a certain appeal in trying, over a period of several minutes to ensure that your craft is in the right position to enter a vortex. But this isn't a program I'd spend money on.
This one's a real toughie. Keeping your range detector on green, you fight your way through the columns - which I must admit I found extremely difficult, since you have to keep your eye on about six things at once.
However, the game is quite well presented and its overall effect is quite good. If you like to spend hours finally making it to the bottom of the high-score table, this could be for you!
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