It's only a game - isn't it?

Nightdawn logo

THIS makes a change. Normally such games come with a 20 page novella detailing the plot, including references to distant star systems, beautiful heroes and brave princesses. In NightDawn we are made quite clear on the point that this is only a game. Glad to see someone has their priorities right.

The lack of meaningless plot also prevents reviewers from spending the first couple of paragraphs getting paid for the privilege of repeating it while trying to keep a straight face. Instead they must think of a snappy opening sentence by themselves, such as "This makes a change".

Your objective? Well, whoever wrote the instructions couldn't think of one of those either. It must be to get to the next level. I suppose. After all, it is only a game.

So you are given a sprite in the shape of a tank to try and do just that. In case you are having problems, the instructions explain that you push the joystick away from you to go north, towards you for south and left and right for west and east respectively. Whoever wrote this 10 page classic has all the imagination befitting a Neighbours script-writer.

So enough of the badinage, what is the game like? A quick whirr from the disc drive and it loads with an almost instant tune. Then the customary irrelevant loading screen appears and it's time to play.
Each of the 10 levels is a large floating platform constructed of those little tiles that computer graphics designers love so much. Said tiles float over another colourful playfield and then you drive your tank - sorry, robot - everything scrolls in four directions with an eye-curdling parallax effect.

The tiles make up the form of a maze, and you can only get to the exit by opening doors with keys scattered over the entire platform. Various laser fences and moving floorways must also be turned off by finding the correct switches scattered around the place.

Falling off the platform, running into a mine or being hit by alien fire will lose you one of the six lives you are given at the start of each level. Reminds me of Captain Fizz a bit, come to think of it.

The ubiquitous add-ons are available in the form of lasers, mine detectors and compass devices to help you find the exit. The detector is essential to discover the hidden mines, which have been planted just where you least expect them. And just when you think you have discovered them all, a lawnmower, sorry, robot - will drive around and plant some more.

What must be the best baddie seen in a long time is the wonderfully named "airbomb ejaculator". Don't you just love it when instructions are translated from German?
Although hardly frightening in appearance, the ejaculators launch flying bombs which circle you, spiralling closer and closer until either you kill them prematurely or they crash into you. All the time they make strange whooping noises like two small furry aliens from Alpha Centurii getting to know each other very well...

The title music is very good and seems to go on forever. There is even a funky slap bass sample in there somewhere, which has been programmed to bend in just the right way. Top marks for sonics.
Spot effects during the game are also excellent - doors open with opening-door type noises and aliens exploding with exploding-alien type noises. Who could ask for more?

Although you will be attacked by gun emplacements and those flying bonking-bombs, NightDawn does not have enough action to merit the classification of arcade game. It will appeal to those who like exploring and solving problems. Howeer, the lack of any significant difference between levels will cause interest to pall.