Uropa 2: The Ulterior Colony logo CD32

He's always been told he's a space cadet, so Hugh Poynton was the obvious choice to review Austex Software's new shoot 'em up adventure.

I 'm glad I'm not going to be around in the far future, it sounds lke it's going to be a pretty grim place - global warming, meteorite collisions, computers taking over the planet and, of course, global thermo nuclear war. Things are never, well, nice,. People don't seem to live in global harmony with all people and animals in the future.

Well, Uropa2's future is also pretty grim. Basically, the Solar System is divided between the Intercorp Tekits (goodies) and the Kapones (baddies).

The Kapones are an evil rebel force who are in cahoots with some even more evil aliens who want to use the Kapones to help them take control of the entire universe. The Kapone's main communications base for summoning the evil slimy aliens is based on the moon of Uropa, which orbits Jupiter.

You play the part of a Tekite warrior robot and your mission involves Kapone's communications base before they can 'phone home' and get alien help. To make matters worse the Kapones are holding some colonists hostage, so your floating metal mickey has to conduct a series of special ops to rescue the colonists and blow up the base.

Most of the action is set in the communications base. This portion of the game is viewed from an isometric 3D angle. The graphics here are quite chunky, but not bad. As in all adventure games, the aim is to wander about and explore the area, picking up clues, ammunition and equipment. Also essential are the wall terminals, which, if accessed give you all the important and essential information needed.

Your Tekite warrior will need to get to the Kapone base in order to kick some alien butt. This is done on the unfortunately named Hovar (mmm, very scary, a really hard spaceship named after a lawn mower). It isn't exactly a tie fighter - it can only steer left and right and you can't alter your altitude.

Using this intergalactic Lada you navigate your way to whichever base station needs sorting out. Watch out for the Kapone fighters however, because they're about twice as big, and twice as mean as you are.

Although in general a pretty good game, Uropa2 does have a couple of flaws. Firstly, I actually found the Tekite droid rather difficult to control until I got accustomed to it, but that's probably more to do with the fact that I haven't played many isometric games and just had a little difficulty orientating myself.

After a few plays I was fine but on the first few attempts, my little tin can was wandering around like I'd just drank 10 pints of extra strength Droid Brew.

Another small whinge is the fact that if you actually manage to rescue some colonists and get them to follow you they will run around like headless chickens and block your path so you don't actually get anywhere. The only solution to this quandary is to zap a few of them with the droid's laser sword. Bar the giblets on the floor, unlimited mobility is all yours but it does seem to defeat the object of the game to a degree.

Uropa2 attempts something quite refreshing. It is part shoot 'em up, part adventure game which means it strikes a balance between mindless blasting, and actually using your head to solve puzzles.

Graphics wise the game is OK. Not stunning but acceptable. If I have a major criticism it would be the fact that the surface levels just aren't developed quite as well as they could be. The idea is brilliant, but unfortunately, it just doesn't live up to the promise. The Hovar gets wasted far too quickly, and the action is so fast that it is next to impossible to blast the enemy ships.

Although it does have its flaws and can look a little rough around the edges, Uropa2 is still not a bad game. It is very challenging and there is enough depth to ensure that you will keep coming back for more, which, when all is said and done is the hallmark of a good game.

Uropa 2: The Ulterior Colony logo CD32 Amiga Format Gold Award

Vulcan's second offering in their Mega Series is a futuristic strategy action game. Andy Smith dons moon boots and thinking cap...

Uropa 2 is the name of a moon so don't go thinking this is a sequel because there was never a Uropa 1. Anyway, this moon has been invaded by a bunch of evil Kapone droids and they're holding the moon's colonists hostage. Your job (and I bet you can't guess this) is to go to the moon and rescue them. Simple.

Uropa 2 is a mission-based action game involving combat and puzzles. Its 10 missions are split between charging around various bases on the moon and driving a hover vehicle across the surface. For the moment we'll stay indoors because this is the best part of the game.

At the start of each mission you are given a brief rundown n what's expected of you and basically left to get on with it. You control a droid in an isometric 3D world of rooms and corridors. Objects can be found and used and enemy droids fought.

Your instructions are vague so it's down to you to figure out what you're supposed to be doing and although the puzzles are fairly straightforward, you've got to think a little laterally to solve them. For example, on the very first mission you'll find that once you've explored the base you start in and picked up everything that's about (walk up to objects like tables and such like to search them) you'll get stuck.

Your only option is to teleport to another part of the base where the only door out of the room you've arrived in is locked. Smart ones will figure out that if yo drop the explosive with a time fuse, which you found earlier, then teleport back to the main base before teleporting back again, the door will be blown open.

Like everything else, it takes a little while to get used to the game environment. Once you have, you realise that the puzzles may be complex but never to bizarre or difficult. This makes playing the game tremendous fun.

The combat is extremely enjoyable too. Weapons are collected during the game that you can use on the enemy droids that will inevitably be encountered on your missions.

Even though the combat isn't exactly action packed - you simply stand in front of enemy droids and shoot away at them until they conk out - it's actually very satisfying. But it's not a case of just blasting everything you come across. Knowing when, were and how to attack the enemy is crucial to success.

And so to the surface missions.
When you are 'up top' you control a hover vehicle. Controls are simple enough: forward, back, left, right and fire. Usually you're told to go to some place or other and either find or destroy something. Everything is in solid 3D and it all moves very quickly and smoothly, but it's out on the surface that you'll come across the game's most annoying feature.

...the puzzles may be complex, but never too bizarre or difficult. This makes playing the game tremendous fun.

After just a couple of minutes of driving around you'll be informed that some enemy craft are in range. Fine, time for a bit of full-on combat.

And it's full-on and fun, the explosions are great, there's some baiting from the enemy and normally you'd think this was fine. But then when you've killed off the last of the enemy, there's about a 30 second delay before you're told there are a whole load more of them coming at you.

This would be alright if it only happened two or three times but it doesn't. They just keep coming. No matter how many of them you destroy you know there'll be another wave along in a minute. It's not disastrous but it becomes boring sooner rather than later.

Don't let me put you off though, Uropa 2 has enough going for it that you don't mind the odd niggle. I haven't played a game that's as much fun as this for a long time. The missions are large and though there are only 10 of them you'll find they will take some time to finish. The clever combination of puzzles, tight-ish time limits and combat works really well.

And the time limits are a lot more subtle and sophisticated than you might expect. For example, on the first mission you'll discover that you can morph into an enemy droid - handy for sneaking around the base without being attacked - but you're limited to how long you can get away with the disguise, so you've got to finish a couple of crucial tasks before you change back into your original form. You obviously don't want this to be happening when you're in a room full of enemy droids.

Vulcan's first CD game was a bit crap (The Strangers, AF102 55%) but this one's most excellent. The best thing you can do to reward them, and to give yourself a serious slice of fun, is to get hold of it. And if you're wondering why you need to contact Weird Science (if you can't find Uropa 2 in your local shop) that's because Vulcan have handed over the selling side of their business to them. Go and get this game now because it's great.

Uropa 2: The Ulterior Colony logo CD32

Price: £29.99 Publisher: Vulcan Software 01705 670269

Vulcan step into the future with this space adventure from Austex. Recent Vulcan releases have not been critically acclaimed - will this game see them back on track?

Uropa 2, put in its most basic terms, is a supercharged blend of Impossible Mission and Battlezone, set against a sci-fi backdrop with a lot of chrome. Vulcan Software's second foray into the world of CD-ROM gaming promises an epic of exploration, discovery, adventure, and action. That's a lot to promise and it's no secret that Vulcan's track record has been somewhat spotty.

The company have published some very clever titles, but these rarely aspired to be anything more than, well, derivative - the likes of Hillsea Lido and Timekeepers. Some of the company's more recent offerings have met with the ire of reviewers. Along comes Austex Software, developers of Uropa2, to attempt to rescue Vulcan from this slump.

Rescue it is!
Funny that I mentioned rescue, because that's much of what this game is about. It's the future and mankind has spread beyond the Earth, making the cold moon Europa one of its primary bases. To help with the hard needed to maintain an interplanetary empire, humans have developed two 'races' of intelligent robots to help the work: Tekites and Kapones. It seems though that the Kapones have grown tired of their roles as third-class citizens. They've teamed up with some alien enemies of Earth and have seized control of the Uropa2 colony.

As a Tekite in the special Centurions strike force, you are sent on ten ten successive missions to break the Kapone stranglehold on Uropa2 and free the colony. Not to mention showing those aliens that humans and their robot lackeys are not to be messed with.

The game is played out in two settings. The first is in a 3D isometric world of interconnecting rooms of the colony, ranging from hallways to living quarters to research labs. In most rooms there will be items to interact with - shelves and cabinets to search (the shades of Impossible Mission here, complete with the "searching" wait bar), computer terminals to read clues from, and special items such as lab equipment whose ultimate purpose may be hidden at first.

There are also humans - the hostages on Uropa2 who you are charged with rescuing. They're useless most of the time, move slowly and get in the way. They also tend to walk right in to hostile situations.

That's right, it's not all just easter egg hunt. The Kapones have their operatives stationed around the base, and they'll shoot you on sight. Trying to defeat them with the measly "laser sword" you start the game with is difficult enough, keeping the humans from walking directly into the line of fire is even harder.

But, no game of this sort would be complete without some sort of power-up, and true to form you can gather weaponry enhancements and various gadgets to make destroying the enemy easier. There's even the old "weaponry vending machine" concept you might recall from Alien Breed and a host of other games - because goodness knows, you want to send your crack commandos into hostile situations lightly armed and low on cash.

The bases are equipped with transporters that can zap you between a limited number of locations, but sometimes you have to take the mission on the road. This is the second stage of the game, where you board a "Hovar" craft and set out across the surface of Uropa. On the surface, you can travel between buildings, pick up yet more power-ups and curiosities, and mix it up with Kapone flyboys who send an endless stream of tauntsat you as you dogfight at high speeds on the surface. The 3D hovar sequence engine is fairly smooth and detailed - you won't mistake it for Frontier any time soon but it does the job.

Of the two, it's the less inspired setting for the game, but it allows for two serial linked Amigas to play deathmatches, so it can't be all that bad. On the other hand, in later missions it becomes necessary to launch massive strikes against Kapone bases rather than the discreet surgical insertions of your Tekite droid, and nothing is more rewarding than blowing up a polygon building and turning it into lots of little polygons!

Atmosphere on Uropa
Austex and Vulcan have gone through considerable effort fleshing Uropa2 out into a real experience. The 3D intro, while somewhat grainy and not of award-winning calibre, has a voiceover that sets the mood quite nicely. Virtually all of the text you'll encounter in the game is played back as speech, and the mission descriptions are similarly dictated to you.

The overlapping distress signal you hear early in the first mission is particularly disturbing. In both the station and the hovar views, the game automatically maps your location and where you've been (and has information on locations you haven't yet been to in the hovar view).

The game can be played in both ECS and AGA, although the differences are not staggering - you'll notice some extra dithering and a little less chrome in the ECS version. I was surprised because the AGA version didn't seem to be lacking a lot in color - it is slightly cartoonish, but still effective. The flip side, of course, is that the AGA version could have been so much more spectacular.

Control issues
If you're going to regain control of Uropa2, you're going to need control over your Tekite.
This is a bit of an adventure. If you so chose, you could drive just about all of the game from keyboard or CD32 joypad, although the former lacks something in the response department and the latter gets really confusing, with all sorts of combinations of buttons to press.

I found that the easiest compromise was to use the joystick most of the time, the keyboard when necessary, and the mouse for interacting with the various computer screens in the game. This is something less than ideal, however. Note: Although you can use a CD32 gamepad, the CD32 is not directly supported. You would need an expanded CD32 with hard drive in order to play, and even then the system requirements suggest a 4X speed CD-ROM drive rather than the CD32 2X,

The game's inventory system can take a little bit of getting used to. Weaponry and items are catalogued separately and sometimes getting them to work exactly where you want them is a challenge - for example, you can't seem to drop time-delay bombs right next to a door you want to blow up, you have to give it a little room, but it took me a few minutes to actually try that out and be comfortable that it would really work.

The documentation for Uropa2 is on the CD-ROM in AmigaGuide format. This is fine, although the layout is slightly confusing, it seems there was a slight omission or error in a couple of parts (at one point, the manual says it is going to describe six items but in fact only lists four), and has no pictures, which would have been nice in order to give a real overview of the GUI, rather than a descriptive overview.

But after a little experimentation, you'll get the general idea. Uropa2 multitasks, so you can check the documentation while your game is on pause.

The next epic?
With the ability to save games for later play and the progressive nature of the missions (you can't start #2 until you've finished #1), Uropa2 is a game that requires you to make a commitment if you want to see it through.

Working through the puzzles and blasting through the baddies takes some time, and there are 10 missions to play through. The real question for a game that offers this sort of challenge is: is it worth my time? I would have to give that a qualified yes. The game revels in pulpy science fiction conventions.

Enjoy them. Sometimes the voice-overs go over the top. Laugh with them, not at them. And yes, your Tekite does look rather like a tin can with stubby arms. But that tin can with stubby arms has been charged with a serious mission!