The first batch of programs from a new company sees some old faces turning up. Stephen Curtis, author of the budget hit Non Terraqueous has forsaken MASTERTRONIC for this outfit.
You play the part of some mining engineers trying to escape a rather unwelcoming planet in their scout ship. In this vertically scrolling shoot-em-up, you've got to shoot nasties, dodge obstacles and move over particular parts of the landscape to pick up lives and bonuses.
The landscape consists of squares which fall into a number of varieties. There are obstacles, to be avoided at all costs. There are fuel squares. Fuel is used up fairly rapidly, so unless you pass over such squares fairly regularly, the ship will fall out of the sky. Some squares will briefly increase your speed, whilst others will slow you down - these are vital to get round some of the more tortuous mazes.
There are bonus squares, extra life squares, and force field squares which make the ship invincible for a short time. Time shift squares are to be avoided, as these stick you straight back at the beginning of the game, although you do keep your score. All this and lots of blasting too!
Control keys: Redefinable; left, right, forward, back, fire
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Cursor, Protek
Keyboard play: not a good idea
Use of colour: minimal
Graphics: fast with some detail
Sound: rather dull
Skill levels: one
"I'm in two minds about this game, on the one hand it's a very playable pattern game come shoot 'em up and on the other It's an Infuriating piece of budget software that I can't play. There is nothing at all revolutionary here but it has all been put together in a very professional way. Graphically Terra Cognita is not wholly impressive but the screen scrolls well and the characters, although being small, are nicely drawn. The sound is a bit disappointing as there are no tunes but the spot effects aren't bad. All in all this is well worth two quid.'
'The scrolling play area is smooth, but it is very hard to differentiate between what is coming up on the ground, as it is all the same colour and shape. I found the game very hard to play at first but once you've got the play area mapped out you have got no more problems, as it is just a case of remember and avoid. I felt that I could have done with a few more lives as they didn't seem to be scattered about the planet in the most accessible of places. Terra Cognita is quite a decent shoot'em up or avoid'ems go, but as a game there isn't much to it.'
'A nice little shoot 'em up. If it were more expensive, then I would give it a bit of a murdering, but at this price, it makes a pretty little hour waster. I don't think it's got much lastability; I don 't think that it going to be playable for more than a day, but that, in my opinion justifies the price. The graphics aren't amazing, and the constant colour changing gets sore on the eyes sometimes, but the game is quite playable, and has echoes of that 'one more quick go' feeling about it.'
|Use of Computer||72%|
|Value for Money||72%|
Life is simple on Terra Cognita, the latest planet generated in the Code Masters game solar system. The pseuds and sophisticates of the arcade world might suggest that you've got to have a few kangeroos loose in the top paddock to enjoy this most simple of games. Well, I'm willing as ever to stand up with the drongos of the world - for totally mindless mega-kill and mutual assured zappability, Terra Cognita is pretty darn good.
Your mission nigh-on impossible is to blast your craft across one hundred screens-worth of alien hate to avoid your total annihilation. Ignore the box scenario - just supple up your wrist action. You can adjust the speed of your craft marginally with the joystick, but you'll get a more sensational effect by passing over the + and - signs on the narrow draft board-type screens that scroll relentlessly toward you. Other squares to watch out for are Fuel (F) and Bonus but beware the Time Shift squares - they'll whizz you back to screen one, a real pain if you've already wanged across hall the cosmos.
It's wise to pick up as much fuel as possible 'cos you'll never know where the next dump is, and with only two lives it's real life and death stuff out there. And, if you get the chance, swipe the field generator 'cos it dollops death to the squillionth degree on the droids. Otherwise it's mix your manic manoeuvring skills with that of the deadly digit - the old trigger finger.
Simplicity itself! But then so were all those other great ideas - the wheel, dental floss, the Ed's brain...
|Value For Money||8/10|
Now this is what I like. Terra Cognita is the perfect budget game - a simple idea nicely presented.
Mind you it's not surprising this is a very slick looking game - it's by NonTerraqueous programmer Stephen Curtis.
What it is, if it must be compared to anything, is a two- colour version of Lightforce mixed with elements of Uridium - not quite as good, maybe, but at £1.99.
Do you need a plot for this sort of thing? OK, then you are trying to pilot your ship over 100 smoothly scrolling screens to meet up with a mothership. Getting over those 100 screens will take a long time.
There are, of course, vast numbers of alien spaceships which come wizzing across the screen. At first they are easy to polish off but gradually things start to get tricky. That's the Lightforce bit - that and the style of the graphics.
The Uridium part comes with the fact that there are vast areas of block - like buildings on the planet's surface which you have to steer your way around. Gradually that becomes more and more difficult - sometimes it's almost (but not quite) impossible to get from one side of the screen to the other in time...
There are other features too, refuel squares, extra squares and, perhaps worst of all the time warp squares which send you right back to the beginning of the game. There are squares to slow you, squares which speed you up and you need to work out when to use both to get through some sections of the game.
The mix of extremely fast arcade action with the strong element of thought and planning make for a stunning game.
Terra Cognita is more entertaining and better programmed than most games at full price, yet it's a budget offering.
And it's by far the best of the new Spectrum releases from Code Masters.
Label: Code Masters
Author: Stephen Curtis
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
SUPPLIER: Code Masters
Here's a surprisingly playable little game on the new Code Masters budget label. It's the brainchild of Stephen Curtis, the programmer who brought you the budget hit Non Terraqueous.
It's shoot-'em-up with a difference - in that you can fly over squares of the planet's surface which give you extra fuel, extra lives, make you speed up or slow down and other interesting and unexpected effects.
The game is shown on plan view, with the landscape scrolling down. You have to make you way over 100 screens of tortuous terrain to the mother ship waiting at the end.
Force field beams rise up off the surface. Should your ship hit them, it will explode. Droids, controlled by the computer, come at you in wave after wave.
You have a photon laser beam, that will shatter the Droids if you are on target.
Your current fuel status is shown as a bar at the top of the screen. Should you run out of fuel, you'll plummet to the surface of the planet and explode. You can pick up fuel by flying over fuel zones, marked with a big 'F'.
You can fly at three speeds. These are dehyped proton drive (slow), standard proton drive (medium), and warp drive (fast). Upon entering or exiting these speeds the screen will flash. You speed up or slow down by flying over '+' or '-' on the surface.
Shooting the Droids gives extra points. You can, however, pick up bonus points by flying over a bonus area, marked with a 'B' - simple ain't it!
Avoid the time shifts!! These will disrupt the space/time continuum, and take you back to screen one.
Every time you die, you start off on a launch pad. These launch pads are the ONLY flashing things you can fly over.
You can also pick up force field generators that make you invincible for short periods.
Very playable and great value. Terra Cognita should prove to be a budget hit.
This game, by the author of the very impressive This game, by the author of the very impressive Non Terraqueous, is a fun game but it is so difficult to play on the Spectrum that it loses any appeal.
The Amstrad version is better, as you would expect, but it is only then that you realise the other shortcomings.
It is a budget game and therefore allowances should be made but the author has proved that he can do better, so let us hope that for whoever he writes his games in the future, they are as good as the first.
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