Twin geeks?

Zone warrior logo

ELECTRONIC ARTS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

If you come down to fundamentals, then the major developments of the human race, technologically and socially, can be put down to a handful of men and women who made the major breakthroughs, followed bu a few more people who capitalised on their predecessors' success.

Take, for example, the lion-clothed chappie who invented the wheel. Imagine if he had died or had been kidnapped the night before finally finishing his secretive chiselling at the back of his cave. The wheel may never have been invented.

It is possible that someone else may have come up wit the idea but it is more likely that his mates would have been sitting around a campfire to this day wandering what that brilliant idea of Arthur's was, having no idea but being utterly convinced it would come back to them if they didn't think about it and talked about something else entirely. To this day the roller-skate may never have arrived.

What about the guy who discovered the power of steam in ancient Greece? Now if he had mysteriously disappeared, not only would we not have been able to travel from Stockton to Darlington in 1825 but no one would have invented that nice little whistley thing that lets you know when the kettle boils.

Now, you may well be wondering what the Sam Hill this has to do with a computer game. Well, the horrendous scenarios that I described, the disappearance of eminent figures in our history, is the idea behind Zone Warrior.

The Earth of the thirtieth century has been under threat for years from a race of aliens known affectionately as the Geeks. So far they have managed to hold the Geeks off but now that may be extremely difficult. The Geeks have captured one of two prototype time machines that the Earth's scientists have been developing.

The Geeks plan to travel to key points in the development of mankind and destroy the pioneers of that time zone like the chap who invented the wheel, and like the chap who discovered steam.

You have been chose to travel in the remaining time machine and destroy the Geeks before they manage to disinvent the wheel, and very probably disinvent your existence as an indirect side-effect.

You know the sort of thing - because the wheel wasn't invented when it should have been your dad wouldn't have knocked your mother of her bike and seduced her on the way to the hospital, and you would never have been born. If you don't exist then the aliens have free rein to go and wreck the rest of humanity and write a completely new history for Earth, hoping the outcame will be that by 2967 civilization has ceased to exist, or at least to be civil. Hell, it stopped that being in the 20th century!

Enough of the politics - what the hell does this game do? Well, it's aplatform game in which you control a character that has been described around the office as Turrican on steroids, but I don't believe it's anywhere near that good. The main character's great and "well 'ard" but the gameplay is a bit short on action.

The main body involves leaping from platform to platform, ducking and avoiding assorted immovable objects that hurt, like spikes or venus flytraps, and trying shoot the Geeks that have oh-so-cunningly disguised themselves to match their surroundings.

This bit is dead easy - the more difficult bit is wandering around the maze-like levels and trying to find all the hostages, and the keys so that you can progress to the next level.

It's fine when you are doing it but when you lose your third life at the end of one of the levels, it becomes a real chore, not a challenge, to carry one and do the whole level again.

If you can overcome this though, or play in short bursts, it can be OK, if you don't mind a lot of exploration and map reading. It reminds me of a pint of Tennents - it's good... but not that good.

Zone warrior logo

The geeks are coming! Or rather, the geeks are unfortunately already here and are hell-bent on destroying the earth. The year is supposedly 2967, and the Startroopers of the United People face their toughest struggle yet in the ten year war against the evil invaders. They are ectoplasmic bug-eyed monsters of all sizes and zoological classifications. They carry power-tools and use them recklessly. They are the sort of creature you bump into down the Do-It-All on hungover Sunday mornings.

Killing time
But now they've stolen a time-machine and are infiltrating the past in the hope of destroying human history. One solo Startrooper must venture back to the corrupted time zones and undo the damage they have wrought. So off we venture, on a monotonous journey through Earth's past. What follows is a series of tedious platform shoot-em-up levels in which geeks need to be destroyed and hostages - for a token plot gesture - must be rescued.

The hostages, we are told, are in fact key members of each time-zones scientific community. The geeks figure that kidnapping them will prevent their discoveries and inventions leading to the technologically-advanced society of 2697 AD that the geeks are having such a problem conquering.

To complete each level, you must rescue ten conventional and then one final hostage. Held behind locked doors for which you must find a key, this eleventh man is the last barrier between yourself and a confrontation with the head geek - victory earning you passage to the next time-zone.

Get those geeks!
Upgrading your standard 1-way Hyperblaster is best done as quickly as possible. Picking up the relevant power-up icon transforms your blaster to a Turrican-style three-way, then even a five-way blaster. Other power-ups include a cluster gun, a Flamethrower that narrow-mindedly adheres to its name tag and throws flame, and X-Bombs. All these and more completely fail to add an exciting variation to your armoury. Got all that? Good - they're all just a power-up icon away.

And so the game goes on. And on. And on. A poor-mans Turrican, Zone Warrior is a sad example of an ill-designed platform shoot-em-up tarted up with fancy presentation and an 'original' plot. The graphics are lousy and sprite collision detection is at times seemingly random. Our hero looks like an old 8-bit sprite and moves as if he has had a cucumber inserted where it shouldn't be, while the cannon-fodder baddies unconvincingly flicker on and off the screen.

Does Zone Warrior have any redeeming points? Yes - the music's quite good. But unfortunately, that's about all that can be said for it.

Zone warrior logo

Brauchbare Soundeffekte, ordentliche Sprachausgabe und eine ausgezeichnete Titelmusik - was will man mehr? Na, wie wär's beispielsweise mit einem vernünftigen Spiel?!

Es ist schon erstaunlich, wie unterschiedlich die Games sind, auf die man das Etikett "Plattform-Action mit Hüpfen & Ballern" pappen kann: Es paßt auf Geniestreiche wie "Turrican 1" & "2" ebensogut wie auf diese Soundhülse ohne Inhalt! Der Vergleich kommt nicht von ungefähr, denn hier erinnert so einiges an "Turrican 1" - der Held, die ausbaufähige Laserwumme oder die Steinchen zum Wegballern.

Manches, wie die kleinen Bömbchen, wurde auch von "Rick Dangerous 2" übernommen, anderes (Rumhangeln an diversen Stangen) kennt man z.B. von "Robocop 2". Auch sonst gäbe es eigentlich eine Menge Features (Sonderräume, Waffenkammern, Help-Funktion etc.), die einen 'ne Weile vor den Monitor fesseln müßten.

Aber die fürchterliche Wahrheit ist: Zone Warrior macht keine fünf Minuten Spaß!

Nach dem (netten) Intro springt man bloß noch lustlos von Plattform zu Plattform, macht die winzingen und wenigen Gegner nieder, befreit ein, zwei Gefangene, sammelt gelangweilt das herumliegende Zeug auf und fragt sich dabei, wann es endlich richtig losgeht.

Ein Zeitlimit hätte der Sache wenigstens noch einen Funken Spannung gegeben, aber sowas gibt's natürlich nicht - stattdessen bloß Zwischen- End- und wasweißich-Sequenzen, Horizontalscrolling, schwachbrüstige Grafik der verschiedenen Zeitepochen und eine mittelprächtige Steuerung.

Aber leider halt absolut nichts, wofür es sich wirklich lohnen würde, den Computer anzuschalten. (mm)

Zone warrior logo

It's spooky, isn't it, how every alien lifeform that comes into contact with the Earth decides to attack it? Things are a bit more complicated this time because the Geeks (the latest galactic empire to try their chances against you) have decided to sabotage human history by sending a Geek Commander to various important points in it, with the aim of eliminating the events that shaped us into the successful, peaceful and generally agreeable bunch that we are.

So already we've got our 'levels' set out for us - five in all: Prehistoric, Egyptian, Medieval, Japanese and Future. On each one you've got to rescue some hostages, kill the Geek Commander and his chums, collect keys and pick up add-ons.

All this slots into the inevitable bloke-walking-around-shooting-things-framework, with a few refinements here and there. The bloke in question is fairly versatile - not only can he walk around and shoot things, but he can also crawl through tunnels and hang from the ceiling.

Uninspired by all this, but aware of my responsibilities as a reviewer, I dutifully played the thing through a few times and came to the following conclusions:
1) The graphics are okay, but not brilliant.
2) The sound effects and music are okay, but not brilliant.
3) It plays okay, but not brilliantly.
4)The ceiling could do with a new coat of paint.

There's nothing actually wrong with the game as such. It's just not particularly enthralling. 'Inconsequential'- that's the word. Under different circumstances - lower price, lesser computer, five years earlier - it might have made a slightly more audible splash, but I can't honestly recommend spending money on it. Not until it comes out on budget, anyway.