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Blast away in Core Design's new shooter that features a trio of Manga inspired heroes...

Ever since the introduction of Akira to our television screens via the power of video, the world has apparently gone Manga crazy. These sophisticated and often violent "cartoons" are currently the hippest thing on sliced bread.

It seems that the game designers who created Cyberpunks for Core Design have caught the Manga bug. Cyberpunks looks like it has been heavily influenced by these dynamic Japanese films, especially when you take a squint at the game's characters.

Raa, Bee and Gee are part of the 501st Cyber Assault Squad and they have to rampage through five action-packed missions in order to rid the universe of the toughest of alien enemies.

Each mission consists of three to four levels with the option to teleport between decks. While fighting the alien beasties you can obtain weapon power-ups, force-field keys, smart bombs and time-distortion cubes to help you complete your quest.

Missions vary from investigating unknown power surges at the Sub Atomic Reactor Station to rescuing a top computer scientist at Space Lab Genesis 8 where there are hundreds of drooling alien life-forms.

Cyberpunks is fairly unique because you control three characters all at the same time. Sometimes it makes life easier, sometimes harder and that is what makes this blast-'em-up work.

The best way I can describe Cyberpunks is by calling it Alien Breed for kids. The game would definitely appeal to the younger gamer although older users with a taste for this kind of thing might fancy a dabble.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the graphics have been highly influenced by Manga and this tends to give the game a cartoony feel.

Cyberpunks is a fairly competent blaster and the ability to control three characters is a nice touch that makes it stand out ina crowd. Younger gamers will be more than happy with Core's shooter, but older gamers might want to think twice before buying.

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Cyberpunks is what you are, in an interactively multimedia, virtually real environment. Lifestyle-wise, your tasking is orientated towards downsiding the alien threat.

Keeee-riced! Just how many faddish buzz-words can you pack into an opening sentence in order to get consume-or-die space cadets to take notice (not you lot, of course, but the other ones who are thinking of dropping their consoles and using decent machines). But buzz-literacies are what will sell Cyberpunks because there is about as much Cyberpunk in this game as there is in an episode of Open All Hours.

This is your basic bug hunt, no matter what the normally above average Core Design would have us believe. It features three cute Nippon-style heroes - Raa, Bee and Gee (yes, this is where the Gibb Bros go when there is not a crapulent movie to write a soundtrack to). Because they are Japanese cartoon-style (not Manga, let me add, but Pizza Cats or whatever they were called) they look like heavily armed eight-year-olds who have overdosed on caffeine - that is where those enormous eyes have come from, surely?

Their task as part of 501st Cyber Assault Squad is to 'rid the universe of the toughest of alien enemies!' Well, you get a bunch of sprites that look alarmingly like Alec Alien from the Alien movies, some blotchy blobby looking things that blob blotchily around the place, and some other monsters who follow you nastily. I am sure that in the later-later levels there are heaps of real state-of-the-art 'toughest of alien enemies' but the urge to find out just is not there.

Do not mistake these harsh words as a kicking for this game; as bughunts on jazzy-coloured backgrounds with a choice of weapons and a few puzzles to negotiate go, then Cyberpunks does the job. A few people who watched while I was doing battle said: "Chaos Engine". You have to live with comparison-making in this job. It does feel a bit like Chaos Engine because there is more than one character shooting at things.

In short, you control all three characters at once as they conga their way around alien worlds. Sure, you can choose a character to lead the crew. Sure, you can pick things up with that lead character until he gets full-up, and then swap characters using the space-bar. Sure, it will appeal to younger Amiga owners as well as a legion of spotty console-owners come the conversion, but as for lasting interest, I cannot see it.

But the one thing that destroys it as a playable fun-thing is that Raa and the BeeGees cannot walk and fire at the same time. This turns it from a game that won't do anybody any harm to a just above average filler.

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Wenn sich der Autor eines Kinderspiels wie "Doodlebug" an William Gibsons Datancomwboys vergreift, kann einfach nichts Gutes herauskommen - wie Core Designs neues Actiongame eindrucksvoll beweist.

Der Mix aus "Alien Breed" und "The Chaos Engine" macht leider keinem seiner Vorbilder Ehre: Man übernimmt auf einen Streich die drei Cyberpunks Bee, Gee und Raa der 501st Cyber Assault Squad, die in fünf Missionen mit je drei bis vier Levels den Weltraum alienfrei halten sollen.

Tatsächlich begegnen sie auch alle paar hundert Lichtjahre so einem außerirdischen Monster, das ohne Sinn und Verstand durch die Gegend läuft. Doch in der Hauptsache sind die Jungs damit beschäftigt, Extras einzusammeln, zwischen den aus der Vogelperspektive gezeigten Etagen der Raumstation via Teleporter zu wechseln und sich vom knappen Zeitlimit nerven zu lassen, innerhalb dessen z.B. ein Wissenschaftler gefunden werden muß. Nette Gimmicks wie ein Roboter, der die Nachhut übernimmt, Smartbombs, Computerterminals oder Übersichtskarten sorgen für etwas Abwechslung, aber generell fragt man sich meist nur, was man hier eigentlich macht...

Die akzeptable Stick-Steuerung hat trotz des dreiköpfigen Heldenteams keinen Zwei-Spieler-Modus vorzuweisen, doch immerhin gibt es Paßwörter für die einzelnen Abschnitte. Die Grafik sieht putzig aus, ist ganz nett animiert und scrollt tadellos in alle Richtungen, hat allerdings kaum Neues zu bieten.

Am besten gefällt noch der pralle Techno-Sound, der jedoch ständig von nervigen effekten gestört wird. Na ja egal, wer den Test zu "Alien Breed 2" gelesen hat, weiß ohnehin schon, daß er seine Credits lieber woanders investiert. (mm)

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Imagine a bizarre cross between Rodland and Alien Breed. Only not quite as good as either of them, sadly.

The problem faced by any good idea is that it cannot be copyrighted, made secular, or specific to any one group. That is what happened with the 'cyberpunk' brand name. It captured the public imagination. Before you could say William Gibson, Bruce Sterling or Neuromancer, a marketable commodity, worth ringing the last affected fetishistic industrial-techno penny out of, was born.

Inevitably, we ended up with the die-hards crying "No, no, we're the cyberpunks, the rest of you are only playing at it". The image, excitement and cultishness fades and dies, and only the sad unimaginative mass-market consumer types out there remain happy with the cyberpunx association.

So anyway, after the stem talking to we received from Colin The Publisher last month about extraneous expurgations in our reviews, we will start discussing this new game from Core: Cyberpunks.

It is one of those run-around-a-huge-maze-killing-things-and-collecting-things-and-remembering-things-while-trying-to-reach-an-exit-before-the-time-runs-out, er, things. In fact there is a whole load of thingy things going on. It is likeable but not loveable. And, er, that is it. (You are explosively combusted, Steve. - Ed).

Okay, okay, I am sure there is more to be said that is interesting about Cyberpunks, but it really is starting off at a disadvantage by calling itself that name. The main protagonist types - Raa, Gee and Bee - are nauseatingly cute little cartoon characters. They bear more than a passing resemblance to the infamous miniscule American cartoon character 'Space Boy'. Their bipedal motion resembles the infamous Dave Green full-of-life schoolboy walk. Except for the fact that Raa, Gee and Bee run faster than Dave has ever moved in his life. Perhaps they are related . (Back to the review, please. - Dave).

Our terrible trio are a clean-up crew in space. A sort of 'Alien Busters' (who you're gonna call). The whole game consists of five missions. Translated into gaming speak, this means that there are five huge levels each with sub-levels in them, which have to be dealt with, punished and pacified in turn.

This is no mean feat considering that much of the space complexes are guarded by an assortment of aliens, robots, monsters and the like. Travel between the sub-decks (levels) is by lift. Travel around any one deck is by foot or teleport. All of this can be rather disorientating. Luckily, there are several fiendishly helpful devices that you can call on for help. For the purpose of navigation, you basically have to have a good memory, but there is a cop-out option whereby you can 'log-on' (Er, shouldn't that be 'jack in'? - Conscientious Cyber-Ed) to one of the several terminals randomly dotted around the space complexes.

To log on, you got to have a disk. There are four different colours of disk. Depending on the colour of your disk, you will be allowed access to several options, each of which is helpful in an, er, helpful way. The blue disk lets you view the deck blueprints. This brings things back into perspective when you start losing your temper on discovering that you have just entered a particular room for the fifth time.

Your three little men follow each other

Presumably, the inspiration for the name of the game came from the option to log on to computer terminals. Part of the log on text sequence has the line "Welcome to the Matrix series 1000 CPU". Everybody knows that a proper cyberpunk matrix looks something like "Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights receding...". So why is the visualisation of 'jacking-in' a boring old tele-type printout which you cannot even jump out of by pressing the fire button? Tedium in extremis. Although it may seem like a trivial point, the game-playing process should not be interrupted in full blow by such an insignificant (and unavoidable) mechanism.

Aside from the criticism, this part of the game is strategic and a must for successful completion of any level. So far, I have only discussed one disk colour. Red disks allow you to access the Holographic Generator. This ingenious invention lets you choose from a list of power-ups. The most useful will depend on your current situation. The options are: Force Field Key Circuit, Full Energy Pack, Party Shield Orb, Time Distortion Cube, Smart Bomb Unit and Auto Sentry Pack. In fact, apart from the extra weapons, these are basically all the power-ups that you are likely to come across in the game.

I will not talk about each one - after all, some of them are self-explanatory. The Time Distortion Cube lets you stop your 1,000 second clock by about 15 seconds. It does not sound like much, but a few of these can make the difference between completing the level and having to start all over again.

The Auto Sentry Gun is an idea borrowed from Aliens: Special Edition (the movie) and Hired Guns. it does not last forever, but it will kill anything that tries to creep behind you. And that brings us quite nicely along the control system.

The control system is rather confused. It has some nice little touches and some thoughtless ones. Your three little men follow each other in a line. If you choose to turn round sharply with your leader (Raa), the other two follow in his exact footsteps. This is handy when, say, the inventory of one of the characters is full but you have got a power-up you want to pick up. So long as you walk over it with Raa, it will get picked up (assuming you have got a spare slot with at least one of the other characters).

The irritating aspect of this 'follow the leader' hierarchy comes to light when you try to get away from an alien with a quick 180-degree about-turn. The guys at the back just about always get hit and can take quite a bit of damage.

The particularly nice touch is the ability to have your men fire in independent directions from each other. This is selected from the same little panel as the inventory display. Either 'free' or 'lock' gets them positioned as you want.

So while winding down, I will discuss the game's gestalt (wholeness) factor. It is relatively well put together. It is a comparatively simple, not-too-exciting explore-a-maze-and-find-the-keys-for-access-to-closed-doors theme. The soundtrack adds a bit of atmosphere - it is spunky and lively and can draw you in in less lucid moments.

So there it is. Cyberpunks will appeal to the ideologically bereft and those people unchallenged with imagination. Considering that it comes on only one disk and does not offer anything significantly different from a similar ZX Spectrum or C64 game, I would consider it a tad overpriced for the market it is aimed at. The best description for it would be "Hired Guns for ten year-olds".