Captain Blood logo

THE story of Captain Blood is an unusual little tale - a third rate games programmer finally came up with the goods, a game so mega that he became part of it the first time he typed run. All was well until Bob made his first hyperspace jump and a glitch in the system resulted in him being cloned. Now there are 200 Bob Bloods scattered around the galaxy and each one contains a fraction of his vital fluids. Unless he captures every one of them and recovers the fluid he is doomed.

We join the story with only five clones remaining - hidden somewhere among the galaxy's 32,768 inhabitable planets.

You begin the game sat at the Ark's control panel, viewing the planet you are currently orbiting and Blood's bio-mechanical arm - this is your link with the game.

Too large to land on a plent, the Ark is equipped with a limited supply of Oorxx - mutated, remote controlled space fish. These are despatched to the planet's surface in an attempt to communicate with intelligent beings who may know the whereabouts of Bob's clones.

The ground skimming flight over the planet's surface is the game's only arcade-type sequence. With full control over the Oorxx's speed, altitude and direction, you wend your way over mountains and valleys in search of a canyon. Life forms, if present, will always be gound at the far end of a canyon.

Wireframe landscapes are animated quickly and smoothly, but some of the structures are difficult to pick out when flying over a ravine of rock pinnacles at speed. Having read glowing reviews of previous versions, I was a mite disappointed when I saw it for myself. The view from the Ark of the nearest planet is limited to a low resolution sphere of swirling colours - yawn.

Investigate the first planet you are initially presented with, as this is always inhabited. I mention this point because if you decide to go boldly where no man has gone before, you will get pretty bored - a surprisingly large number of the galaxy's planets are devoid of life. Assuming you have located your local friendly alien life form, the ship's Upcom will automatically burst into life. This Universal Protocol of Communication uses an icon system to allow conversation between beings of different worlds.

When Mr Alien speaks, a seris of icons appears on your Upcom display and running Blood's finger over the icons gives you a literal translation. Likewise you can piece together a sentence by selecting the relevant icons and then pressing the transmit button.

The game resolves around your ability to successfully interrogate aliens - many of whom have needs of a reproductive nature. If you can fulfil these needs - not personally - they may divulge information relevant to your quest.

Captain Blood is a game with good graphics and an excellent title tune, but sadly it lacks variety and depth in the gameplay department.

Captain Blood logo

Infogrames, £24.95 disk

Life. Weird isn't it? Bob Morlok's life is weirder than most people's, Bob having recently bumped into long-dead naturalist Charles Darwin (now living incognito, under the assumed name of Mortimer Slithe). It transpired that Mr Darwin had discovered that video game characters really did exist and were plotting to take over the world. Strangely enough, Bob believed this insane yarn (he always was a bit odd) and decided to program a simulated galaxy into his computer and infiltrate the invading sprite brigade.

So there was Bob - as his alter ego, Blood - sucked tron-style into the computer-simulated Hydra galaxy in his bioship, the Ark. During his search for hostile creatures, an accident with a faulty teleporter in hyperspace produced 30 Blood clones and distributed them amongst the 32,768 planets in the galaxy. As if the impending identity crisis wasn't bad enough, the clones had all taken some of Blood's vital life fluid, and if Blood doesn't get it back soon he'll be... well... er... dead. Sorry, folks.

You join the fun after Blood has found all but five of his clones, and now he has to fly between planets hunting down clues to their locations. The Ark can't actually make planetfall, but Blood can pilot a remote-controlled space-fish(?) called an Oorx(?) down to the surface and use it to relay communications with any life form it might find.

The conversation is conducted via the UPCOM, a menu of word symbols which can be strung together to form sentences or questions. Some aliens are happy to engage you in conversation, others speak only in enigmatic numbers and other will only provide helpful information if you threaten them or complete a task set by them. Just like real life, eh? Well, not the real life that we've come across...

Gordon Houghton I thought this was absolutely fab 'n 'triff on the 64 so it won't come as a surprise to learn that I think the Amiga version is fab' n 'triff as well. Woo! I'd be lying if I said the sampled sound and the polished Amiga graphics didn't impress me but basically, when it comes down to it, at grass roots level and all that, it's the brilliant gameplay, which is just as captivating on both versions, that counts. It's such clever idea - I mean, if you did visit loads of different planets you wouldn't just be able to talk to the people about black pudding in a Lancashire dialect and expect them to understand. And the fact that you can't always understand them gives the whole thing that extra sense of intergalactic realism. Anyway, if you've ever wanted to be a big fat space captain, like me, or even a thin one, like Kati, get Captain Blood - it's brill.
Kati Hamza Though I didn't really get on like a house on fire with Captain Blood straight away (for some reason, I kept finding a bunch of totally uninteresting, deserted planets), it definitely started to grow on me. Once you get the hang of it and actually start communicating with some of the weird-looking aliens (not always easy, they say some dead peculiar things), you really start to get the feel of the intergalactic atmosphere. I don't mind UPCOM - in fact, I think it's the imprecise translation which makes the game. With so much guesswork and puzzle-solving involved you really start to feel like a proper explorer - boldly going where no space explorer (or even Vulcan) has ever gone before. Captain Blood might take a bit of getting used to but be careful - once you've got that far, you might never want to stop...
Maff Evans Weird but good just about sums this game up. Just like the other versions, the Amiga Captain Blood is a visual treat with the same Gigeresque cockpit display, colourful planets and hyperspace sequences and an exhilarating 3D Oorx flight. As you would expect though, the sampled music and alien speech effects beat the other versions hands down. The game's major stumbling block is still the UPCOM translation which continues to provide some pretty incomprehensible bits of alienspeak. Still, persevere and that's something you get used to. Perseverance is something you'll require a lot of, because when you first start playing it seems the game consists solely of flying down to a planet, getting some co-ordinates, hyperspacing to the next planet, flying down... but there is quite a lot more to it than that. Certainly enough to keep you occupied through a few cold and windy winter nights.