Fantastic Voyage logo

Centaur Software £25.99

Essentially a flashily odd shoot em up, Fantastic Voyage puts you into someone's bloodstream and leaves you fighting for survival. Touch the edges and you die, get hit by too many blood cells and you die, carry on playing and you die - of boredom.

Fantastic Voyage's slick presentation can't carry this tough shoot out down amongst the haemoglobin!

Fantastic Voyage logo

Filmumsetzungen sind heute beileibe nichts Besonderes mehr - es sei den, der Streifen war bereits 1966 in den Kinos zu sehen! Zum Amiga war die "Phantastische Reise" also eine ziemlich lang Reise...

Wie aus den mittlerweile unzähligen TV-Wiederholungen bekannt, dreht sich hier alles um den Wissenschaftler Jan Benes bzw. dessen Blutgerinnsel im Kopf. Um es zu zerstören, wird das U-Boot "Protheus" miniaturisiert, wir klettern an Bord und steuern das Gefährt per Joystick durch den Körper des Schwerverletzten zum Bestimmungsort. Ist doch easy, oder?

Ja und nein, denn am Screen erweist sich die phantastische Reise als ein horizontal scrollendes Ballergame in der Zeitlupenversion. Der Startpunkt ist die Halsschlagader des siechen Wissenschaftlers, von wo aus man sich schön langsam zum Gehirn vorkämpft.

Dabei liegt die Betonung auf langsam - die bei Actiongames allgemein übliche Hektik tritt nur sehr selten auf. Dann nämlich, wenn sich gerade mal wieder ein paar Gegner (Krebszellen, weiße Blutkörperchen und so'n Zeug) in die Nähe unseres U-Boots verirren. Dafür gibt's in jedem der insgesamt drei Level etliche geschicklichkeitsorientierte Abschnitte wo man seinen Arterien-Fighter ganz vorsichtig durch Engstellen oder stark gewundene Passagen bugsieren muß.

Die Steuerung geht dabei durchaus in Ordnung, nur ein bißchen gewöhnungsbedürftig ist sie halt.

Bloß: Vom Grafischen her ist Fantastic Voyage eine ziemlich fade Angelegenheit, die Soundeffekte und die wahlweise angebotene Sphärenmusik sind da kaum besser. Und last but not least ist das gesamte Gameplay auf Dauer eher ermüdend - es tut sich einfach zu wenig in diesem leidgeplagten Körper... (od)

Fantastic Voyage logo

As Jimmy Greaves would put it, if he were a computer games reviewer, and he was reviewing this game, and he could not thin of a suitable opening either, "Shoot-'em-ups are a funny old game".

Mais purquoi, you ask? Surely they just all involve shooting things - nothing funny about that. Buzzy off Jimmy, you goit. But hang on, Jimmy does have a point. Take Fantastic Voyage if you will. It merely involves shooting things, boasting a complete lack of fancy twists in the gameplay, yet it succeeds, lying a cut above the majority of its counterparts. Why, asks a troubled nation?

You see, it is those little extras that give a game the edge. Someone told me that once, yet spookily it applies here too. Based on the film and book of the same name, FV sees you plus submarine shrunk down to molecular proportions and injected into the body of a Czechoslovakian scientist, for reasons best known to the plot. So if you are wondering where the shoot 'em up part comes in - that is provided by the body's natural defences who are out to get you.

Fantastic Voyage is what I would term a 'precise shoot 'em up'- you must calculate how to kill, or indeed avoid, each wave of baddies in order to progress, scoring three successive hits to replenish energy. The only real irritation is the way you get sent back a bit too far when you die - but hey! - that is just me wanting things easier.

The screenshot may look a little boring to you, but what you cannot see is the great rippling effect of the background and the way the light moves up and down with your ship; half the time you cannot even see the side of the caverns.

Alien Breed aside, nothing this atmospheric has been seen, heard, or animated on the Amiga before. The sheer professional feel is what makes a game for a reviewer, although admittedly it does make the reader think that the reviewer has gone mad and does not know what he is talking about in the process. But it has to be concluded, I like this game a lot.

Fantastic Voyage logo

If the name of Centaur's new shoot 'em up sounds familiar, that's because it's based on the Academy Award-winning film of the same name.
Made in 1966, Fantastic Voyage starred Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasance in a battle against time to save a dying scientist. In true Cold War-style, the defecting professor had been badly hurt in an assassination attempt by the 'other side' (i.e. the commies). Suffering serious brain damage, the dying man is vitally important to secret tests being carried out into miniaturisation, and the powers-that-be decide to shrink a mini-sub and its crew to microscopic size and inject them into the man's circulatory system to destroy the clot in his brain.

Such B-movie pretentions were at odds with the film's lavish special effects, which won the movie an Oscar. Much the same can be said of the game. Although the graphics are superb, the actual gameplay is pedestrian and uncreative.

The scenario follows the film almost to the letter. The game begins in an artery near the neck of the patient. Controlling the submarine, Proteus, you have to guide the miniature vessel through the maze-like byways of the human body, avoiding antibody cells and other defence systems, in an attempt to reach the brain and destroy the blood clot with a laser.

Along the way, nine pieces of a circuit board have to be recovered in order to operate the laser, as well as fuel and oxygen pods to keep Proteus operational. Failure to do so will result in either the ship exploding or its occupants turning a very dark shade of blue!

There are three difficulty levels to choose from (Beginner, Advanced or Pro) and these determine how many hits the Proteus can sustain. Starting with three lives, with two continues for added longevity, the ship can move in eight directions via the joystick.

In all, there are three huge levels to navigate, all made up of intricate passageways through the human body. The first involves what look like massive flying marshmallows which, I'm reliably informed, are antibodies, together with cancer cells and other miscreant nasties.

Most of these have been based on electron microscope photographs of the interiors of blood vessels and cells, although some are obvious flights of fancy, especially when they start shooting back.

Level two is even more bizarre featuring organisms based upon 'tracks created in the bubble chamber of particle accelerators when they are subjected to beams of sub-atomic particles'. Sure guys, but they still look like marshmallows to me! After collecting all the microchips and completing the last level, it's off to fry the blood clod and complete the mission.

Graphically, Fantastic Voyage is superb. The area immediately surrounding the vessel is illuminated with the rest of the screen masked in varying degrees of darkness. The programmers have also used the effect first seen in Battle Squadron, which distorts certain parts of the screen and causes a liquid-like ripple. Here it's used to brilliant effect and at times it almost seems that you are indeed piloting a ship down a human artery.

Despite the flashy graphics, there's no hiding the fact that the gameplay is a bit 'tired'- the ship moves at a snail's pace and it's easy to avoid the on-coming bio-slugs and attack waves. To some extent this is excusable as the variety of bio-beasts on the loose is superb; it's just a pity that the overall design is a bit sloppy.

The film set the medical crew a time limit of sixty minutes to complete their mission before they grew back to real size. A similar time element introduced in the game would have given a certain urgency to the proceedings, but as it stands, there's nothing here to set the pulse racing.

SOUNDING OFF The sound effects are disappointing and sound almost 'tinny'. The metallic thud of the laser fire as it crashes into the surrounding caverns isn't exactly how I would have imagined it to sound. However, the music option is extremely atmospheric, consisting of a cacophony of swirling electronic noises strung together with a psychedelic wall of sound. And it lasts for an impressive 23 minutes before looping.

Fantastic Voyage logo Zero Hero

Imagine our delight when Toby 'Doctor' Finlay informed us he was going on a Fantastic Voyage. Then imagine our dismay when we realised that he wasn't actuallly going anywhere - he was talking about the new shoot 'em up from Centaur Software.

If you're about 97 years old, you might remember a film called Fantastic Voyage. If, however, you're not, you might remember a film called Inner Space. Well, that'll do, because inner Space is virtually a remake of the aforementioned film that everyone at ZERO is too young to remember.

The voyage in question is a fantastic one because it takes place inside a human body. The Americans have designed a miniaturization ray to, er... miniaturize things, and find it partially successful, but it only shrinks the brain. Unfortunately, the only man who can perfect the process is extremely ill. But being the brash, uncaring lot the Yanks are, they decide to use the ray anyway and send a microscopic submarine-thing into his bloodstream.

You're the pilot of the sub and you've got to find bits of a laser scattered around the body (don't ask me how they got inside), so that you can destroy a blood clot in the brain. Sadly, the body sees the sub as an intruder, and is doing its best to destroy it. All this takes place as an eight-directional shooter-cum-explored-type game. You can collect power-ups and extra fuel and then you can shoot things (as you might expect).

If you find your shield getting a bit low, you can replenish it by killing three baddies consecutively with no wasted shots in between - accuracy reaps many rewards in this game.

Overall, it's a sort of cross between Blood Money and Activision's ancient Hero, both of which were skill. Wouldn't it be spooky if this was too. (Gosh, if I read on I might find out. Reader's Voice.)

Amiga reviewToby: Well, paint me orange and call me Keith but it is. Very. In fact it's probably the best shooter I've seen for ages (apart from the rather scrumptious Alien Breed). Though the sound effects are a bit weak, there's some great music - which nearly broke the ZERO atmospherometer - and graphics to match.

The graphics - ah, the graphics! Beautifully drawn, huge sprites of cancerous growths and other tasty snacks, brilliant colour fades and ultra-smooth scrolling in all directions make for a bit of a special game in every department.

But (and this is a tiny 'but', which only reapply applies to herbal tea-drinkers), though it's very playable and the controls are responsive, it's also quite tricky, even on the easiest setting.

The initial stages can be especially frustrating, especially when a certain Art Chick keeps telling you you're crap every time you die. (You're crap. A Certain Art Chick). However, if you can actually stick with it, you'll find that it gets a lot more interesting - aliens get bigger and nastier, weapons get louder and more dangerous, and the expletives you hurl at the computer grow more obscene.

This isn't Xenon 2 by any means. While that was basically an average shoot 'em up with smart graphics and sound, you didn't have to navigate or really engage your brain. In Voyage you must, or you die. It's as simple as that. Stop

Fantastic Voyage logo CDTV

Die Kruse Geschichte von der Fahr eines geschrumpften U-Boots durch die menschliche Blutbahn wurde erstmals 1966 im Film "Die Phantastische Reise" verbraten, vor ein paar Jahren wärmte dann der Streifen "Die Reise ins Ich" die Idee nochmals auf.

Seit Anfang '92 gibt es dazu auch das passende Ballerspiel, mit dessen CD-Version wir es hier zu tun haben.

Wer Ballerspiel sagt und Action meint, liegt hier allerdings grundverkehrt: Im Kriechgang geht's durch dickflüssigen Lebenssaft, nur sporadisch tauchen Gegner (weiße Blutkörperchen oder gar schießwütige Krebszellen) auf. Unterschiede zur Amigaversion waren unterwegs nicht zu entdecken, es sei den, daß Steuerung und Gameplay am CDTV noch zäher ausgefallen sind.

Die wenigen gelungenen Grafik-Effekte dieser Ader-Arie sind den finanziellen Aderlaß also bestimmt nicht wert, auch auf Schillerscheibe ist der Lebenssaft schlicht überflüssig.
(Centaur Software. ca 89,- DM).