Battletech logo

Price: £24.99

The rate the Battletech series of games is growing, it was only a matter of time before an enterprising company like Infocom brought out the computer game.

Subtitled 'The Crescent Hawk's Inception', you play the 18 year old Jason Youngblood. Flesh out of school and wet behind the ears, you have to prove yourself at the Mech Training Academy. A 'Mech' is, and I quote from the back of the box, "20 lethal tons of massive fighting power primed for battle".

As a lowly grout, you're only allowed to polish the chrome and refill the air freshener in the cockpit. The aims of the game is to become a Mech warrior and defend your state in the eternal war which covers your planet.

The game is split into two distinct components. The first is pure RPG. You wander around the city, visiting your barracks, the lounge, Mech repair shops, armouries and, best of all, the Cormstar building. Here you can trade your measly allowance into stocks which, if you're lucky will grow into a big enough nest egg so you can afford some decent weapons and battle training.

When you step into a Mech for a training exercise, Battletech becomes a strategy game. Combat rounded into three movement and firing sections, but all you have to do is to indicate where you want to move and who you want to fire at. The computer does the rest.

A nice cosy little routine of alternating between the city and the academy builds up in the early stages of the game, but all this is abruptly shattered. To say anymore would be to spoil the scenario, but suffice to say that everything changes very radically. You're likely to find yourself using the save facility almost immediately, because one of Battletech's strongest features is the way you can easily get drawn deep into the game.

This is as accessible as most shoot 'em ups and avoids most of the pitfalls this sort of games fall into. Don't expect blinding graphics or aural excitement, but you'll probably spend more time on this than most games.

Battletech logo

Infocom, C64 £19.99/Amiga £24.99

In the 3lst century five states are continually fighting for supremacy. As 18-year-old Jason Youngblood, you're still at school but instead of learning quadratic equation you're being trained how to be a Mech warrior, defending the Lyran Commonwealth. Mechs are massive military robots, armed to the teeth with lasers and machine guns, and piloted by humans.

Jason is currently based in The Citadel and as well as receiving various types of training he can stroll around the town (shown from overhead) and buy armour and weaponry from the shops. Mech training missions are completely free of charge but combat and mechanical classes cost hard cash. His only income, however, is a small allowance so it's necessary to invest this in one of three companies (of varying risk) to make enough money for lessons to improve his basic skills.

The first few training missions involve getting used to controlling a Mech - there are three types with different abilities but all are controlled in the same way. Either cursor keys or mouse be used to control general movement, but once an enemy is spotted control changes to a menu-driven combat mode. Commands include WALK, RUN, JUMP and KICK (for booting a nearby enemy).

Each of your Mech's weapons may be targeted on any enemy in range. When the command BEGIN FIGHT is given, the Mech moves where you told it to go and fires at the targeted enemies.

If Jason's training is successful, he can leave The Citadel and wander around the countryside between cities, killing enemies and recruiting friends to join him. In combat, these are controlled in exactly he same way as Jason.

The simple overhead graphics are ill-defined and badly animated on both 64 and Amiga. Jason is a tiny blob which jitters around the jerkily scrolling play area. Sadly, gameplay is also extremely dull. Jason must wait between missions, just ambling aimlessly around the city. This is made worse on the 64 by frequent disk-accessing (every time you enter or leave a building).

Interaction with other characters is virtually non-existent - they usually don't even want to talk to you. If he's got some cash at least he can buy a few weapons, but whether his investments do well is merely a matter of luck.

Hours of play need to be put in to get anywhere in Battletech, but the experience is so uneventful, only a dedicated reviewer or RPG fan (like me!) could be bothered to persevere.

The only pleasure lies in building up Jason's skills and later recruiting friends. Instead of being explosive (as claimed in the packaging) combat is dull, merely consisting of two or more Mechs firing laser after laser at each other. The shots don't even appear on the main screen. Instead, a small window displays messages and sometimes shows an animated Mech firing a laser. This is both confusing and distinctly unexciting.

Battletech is based on the RPG of the same name. If you're a dedicated fan of this you'll probably get some enjoyment out of the computer version, but I would prefer to play the real RPG with a few friends instead of watching a few splodgy sprites fire 'messages' at each other!