Your chance to join the SAS

Hostages logo

LONG ago some bright misguided spark hit on the idea of demanding things with menaces. Clearly this must have gone through some evolutionary problems, because demanding a ransom for a mother-in-law sometimes ended up satisfying one party and annoying for another.
After a while the captors got so sick of being grilled on whether they had a clean handkerchief that they gave themselves up voluntarily.

Hostages is not so trivial. Here we have a meticulous reinaction of a siege situation. Designed with the aid of the French National Gendarmerie, it has three basic stages - deployment, entrance and neutralisation. That last one sounds pretty ominous.

Terrorists of unknown persuasion have taken hostages in an embassy. You, as the team leader, must arrange the deployment of six specialists - three marksmen and three Direct Intervention Combat (DIC) soldiers.

Your team of three marksmen must take up places which will provide covering fire for the DIC men. These positions are given on a map, which also shows where the mean are currently stationed.

Positioning the men entails running along the street past the embassy, dodging into doorways to avoid the terrorists' searchlights. A digitised "Aargh!" followed by your man falling over is a sure sign that you need some more practice.

If one or more of the team gets shot by the terrorists the game goes on, but with a greater risk of failure since the DIC men need all the backup they can get.

Once dropped off by helicopter, the commandos abseil down the building to gain entry through a window. The marksmen can provide cover at this point - a terrorist could be lurking in the same room. More digitised "Aargh!"s either mean that there was indeed a terrorist in the room, or that you have run out of rope while abseiling.

Once inside - more digitised bangs and crashes - the hostages must be taken to the sfe room in the embassy, and any extant terrorists must be remedied with your Walther PPK. Being devious types, the terrorists often hide behind hostages, making your job a little more interesting.

The embassy has three storeys, each with the possibility of hostages and terrorists. Movement is like an updated 3D maze game, with the corridors moving in byte-sized chucks rather than a smooth scroll.

The action sequences proceed in a series of freeze-frames, heightening the suspense - some encounters are truly heart-stopping.

Any hostages found immediately latch on to you. They will follow wherever you go, so it is important to clear out the third storey quickly - that's where the safe room is.

Any number of DIC men can be in the building at once, all at different places. The action can be switched quickly between them, allowing them to eliminate the terrorists on all levels. Once you have either run out of DIC men or terrorists, the game finishes with either a derogatory or complimentary newspaper report.

Hostages creates an air of tension unlikely any other action game I've seen. The graphics, although competent, are fairly drab and show a definite ST ancestry. The sound is very well executed; small incidental tunes being variations on a theme, all popping up at the right moments to add to or defuse the situation.

The only real problem is the length of time spent staring at a blank screen waiting for another section to load in. Surely it would not have been too difficult to give some kind of display?

The plethora of playing levels however, along with the suspense, will keep Hostages a much-played game.

Hostages logo

Infogrames, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

After years of waiting in the wings, the Monster Raving Loony Party have seized control of Government and have begun a vicious campaign. Their plan is to use a new DNA re-structuring chemical to mutate every opposition MP into a crazed eighteen-footed creature, thereby rendering them unfit for future Parliamentary debate (although some would argue the validity of that last statement).

The two main parties have formed a coalition, with the sole intent of removing the Loonies from Government, thus rendering British politics the normal, haphazard joke which it usually is. The plan is to place three crack SAS marksmen around the houses of Parliament, then fly in another three via helicopter to storm the building and 'incapacitate' the unwanted guests inside.

But wait! The MRLs have taken a number of Green Party members hostage. Their demands are thus:

  1. Free tickling sticks for all;
  2. The abolition of the Community Charge, replacing it with a tax on sanity;
  3. Unarmed transportation to a small fortress, based somewhere on the isle of Scilly (geddit?).

Of course, such preposterous requests are simply out of the question, so the plan comes to fruition

In the first section of this two-loaded game, you, as mission controller, must deploy your men to positions marked by crosses on the building plan. Tread carefully, as the Loonies are watching for any movement using high-powered spotlights.

When your troops are in position the scene switches to the building itself. Here, you must strategically place the remaining soldiers (positioned on the rooftop) around the top of the siege site, ready to abseil down to enter through the windows below. Should any terrorists appear at the windows, you can use your marksmen to dispose of them. Be careful, however, as you can only make out silhouettes of whoever is inside - it could be either a terrorist or a hostage!

Once inside, you must search the three storeys of the Parliament building, shooting any terrorists encountered. Some are relatively simple to take out, while others will dodge and weave whilst shooting back at you. The most dangerous terrorists, however, are the ones standing in front of a hostage. Your orders are to bring the Green Party members out alive - ALL of them - and the MRLs know that.

Paul Rand While both loads vary wildly in format, the two sections hold together well as a game. Troop deployment in level one is a lot of fun, with your man having to duck, dive, somersault and get shot every time a spotlight comes your way. Where Hostages really comes into its own, though, is on the second load. Even with the map an enormous feeling of 'who's there?' is present every time you turn a corner. Lasting qualities are questionable, due to the lack of stages, but there are a host of difficulty levels which should keep most budding SASers going for a while.
Phil King Hostages is yet another polished piece of original software from Infogrames. Both C64 and Amiga versions are equally well presented, with the top half of the screen displaying the action while the remainder shows the mission map, time and soldier currently under control. Throughout both game sections enormous tension builds up just as it would in a similar real-life siege. However, with just the two sections, gameplay is very limited in variety and I'm not sure the initial appeal will last that long.