Prisons are no fun, especially when the prison in question is a starship that draws its power from a series of remote planet bases. Knocking out the power in order to facilitate an escape could prove difficult, bearing in mind your limited travel potential. That is where the lap-top computer that is lying in your cell comes in handy. Using its remote control facility, you are able to direct the actions of four droids. Worked properly they can free the Captive.
Essentially a DM clone, Captive replaces all that namby-pamby magic with heavy-duty military hardware. Before the game really starts, though, you have to find the first generating complex. After landing on any number of worlds, you will finally locate the start zone: and then it is time to bring on the droids. Before they can go anywhere, the droids need a brain chip implant, so that they can become your interface with the outside world.
The droids explore, fight beasties, collect kit and destroy power stations. Their movements are wholly controlled by an icon cluster consisting of a directional pad for movement of the whole squad, a party order selector and a 'weapon held' section.
As the game progresses it is possible to develop your team from a bunch of dumb robotic fist fighters into a highly-armoured weapons unit. As they gain experience they develop skills with bigger and better weapons.
One big advantage of using droids is that they are easily rebuilt. If a bit of bot gets damaged, guide them to the local Droids 'R' Us shop - they are everywhere - and buy a new arm, leg or and. On the flip side, droids drain power and must find wall-mounted power points for a regular recharge.
After negotiating the base entrance and parading your team into marching order you are ready to begin. Using the usual forwards, backwards, sidestep and turn controls, moving is easily mastered. What droids have in their hand is pretty easy regulated too. Access their backpack, pick up an item and drag it to the hand symbol.
The first few foes are a sorry bunch. Unfortunately so are the droids, who have to learn the basics of punching before they get their hands on anything as outrageous as a gun. From here on in the game takes the familiar route of wandering and mapping, bashing and collecting, as you search your way through the ten generator dungeons to set yourself free.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
What the Captive sees via his robots is determined by the leader. If this droid has an accident or gets bashed then the view distorts as the vision circuits get damaged. There are neat touches with silly foes and creatures that transform into hideous beasts. There is the ability to use remote cameras and other scanning devices in the bank of monitors above the main screen. With the game running on one screen, through which sub-screens are accessed, the graphics are flexible and inventive. They allow up to six different areas of play to be watched simultaneously. With constant reminders of droids' stats on screen too, all you ever need to know is compactly and clearly displayed.
The sound too makes some bold efforts. If you blast something down a corridor then the pitch varies in a mock Doppler effect. It is not perfect but serves to illustrate the amount crammed into the game.
Ten dungeons and the guy is rescued! That does not sound promising, but even tackling this small number is a real challenge. If, however, you manage to survive this ordeal, then there is 64,890 more surprises waiting for the newly-liberated captive.
As with any game of this style there is a certain amount of unavoidable frustration as you become used to handling your droids and their kit. Once familiar with the game, it gathers pace, becoming a frantic charge into the unknown. It has a nastily strong hook: just finding sillier monsters is enough of a spur. Captive demands playing time after time as you grow in power and proximity to the prison.
A captive is what you start the game as and soon a true captive of this immense challenge is what you will become. It has the same absorbing qualities that made DM such a hit. The variety of monsters is frightening - quite literally at times - and it takes time to fully appreciate the game's finer points. There is a healthy return on the time invested in play, because Captive is staggeringly big. Rescuing the Captive is just the beginning: as your destructive potential increases, so you will want to probe deeper into this fantasy world. Captive is at the vanguard of second-generation 3D maze adventures. Magic has been replaced with an impishly violent technology, while warriors and wizards can now explore from the comfort of their own prison cell.