The year is 3001 and a war of the worlds that once seemed impossible is a terrible reality. Earth stands alone in a universe crawling with unpleasant life forms: humanoid insects, the Cephallhydra, are threatening to extinguish the few remaining members of mankind. Your aim is to locate the Queen of the insect race, Genolyn, and prevent her from breeding further.
Taking on the role of a mercenary you are to pilot the ship 'Starblade' through space, visiting varied and interesting locations en route. On board the Starblade it's possible to walk around and visit the stores, the engine room or even the airlocks, to be sure your spaceship's ready for action. From within the cockpit you have complete control of the spacecraft with five control panels to access all of the Starblade's facilities.
There's communications to send distress signals or receive messages, navigational controls to select destination and speed (Hyperspace or Conventional). There's a big-screen view of what's out there for the battle station, used to blow any offending space trash into the next galaxy. While to check up on the old engines and circuits you simply need to glance at the status board.
Once you've explored the Starblade set your destination by picking a planet, leave the airlock in the shuttle
Starting with a laser sword and a few grenades you'll desperately want better weapons, more food and some oxygen, as well as extra components for spacecraft repair. This requires a bit of trading. Your limited credits are used to purchase items from passers-by or at trading posts.
Some planets can only be explored if you've enough oxygen in your suit, so make sure you read the planet info before touch
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Starblade's presentation is polished. The ship and the backdrops are excellent. The atmosphere's maintained during play and the mid-50s science-fiction theme is really brought to life. Unfortunately the sprite animation can't compete. Planetside, the variety of backgrounds is pretty but the aliens are jittery and a bit blocky. Worst of all is the slow fade and the use of flick screen scrolling, which looks authentically 50s B-movie but irritates like hell after a few games. Sound is limited to the odd laser gun beep or a doos wishing shot
The number of worlds to fly to and the arcade sequences once there make Starblade a challenging task. The game requires a lot of tactical thinking and is sure to keep the interest there for a long time. The frustration sets in when the planets, obstacles and routes start to become familiar - a real drag, as the tantalising backgrounds are always different.
The concept's original and is sure to appeal to many. The options take time to get to grips with, but even the first few attempts lead to new occurrences and adventures each time. The overall prettiness plays a big role in creating a special atmosphere of space exploration, an effect that's only marred by the arcade section's clumsy feel.