Gargoyle Games is a new company situated in Birmingham, and Ad Astra (To the Stars!) is their first game. It's quite a debut too.
This is an arcade space combat game which features very large graphics, all depicted in a very solid three dimensions with perspective. There are 20 segments, with each segment being made up of seven phases. At the start of each phase and after a lost life, large planetoid-shaped asteroids hurtle from the depths of space at the player's ship. These cannot be shot but must be dodged. As the last of these is vanishing under your ship (hopefully), alien craft appear as dots in the distance and then swoop down on you firing bolts. Five different types of aliens attack in eight different formations, firing two types of laser bolts at you.
This is followed by a large mine layer, which crosses the screen, loosing streams of rotating mines. These should be blown up as soon as possible because if they blow up themselves they fire off bolts at you, which come across the screen, making two directions filled with flying weaponry. Then come the spinning saucers, also firing at you. These need to be hit several times before they really blow up.
The last phase is a Way Station. Before the sixth phase starts, a security code appears for the next Way Station, and as the station appears, the player must input the correct code. An incorrect entry results in loss of a life. A correct entry results in a welcome message and an extra life.
The screen display is full of different coloured stars. Your ship is a large V-shaped craft which is able to move all over the screen, and is equipped with rapid fire laser bolts.
Control keys: Alternate keys bottom row left/right, second row=down, third row=up, four corner keys will fire alternatively the cursors may be used
Joystick: Kempston, ZX 2, AGF, Protek
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: very good
Graphics: generally excellent, with effective sense of perspective
Skill levels: progressive difficulty
Features: one- or two-player game.
'The first thing to hit you in the eye with this game is the stunning graphics. The 3D effect is quite strong, especially on the asteroids, which not only come from the distance to sweep hugely past you, but are shaded as well. The rapid fire from your ship makes a fireworks display if you fire and move rapidly about the screen. The graphics move very smoothly and very fast, which is just as well, because all the craft, yours and the aliens, are very big. Dodging planetoids, aliens and laser bolts can be done using the perspective. You can nip upwards and sail over the top of something. This all takes quite a bit of practice. With its superb graphics, speed and mass of alien weaponry, Ad Astra is a difficult and addictive game to play.'
'The 3D graphics are extremely well detailed - the moons especially so, with shading, craters and even a rotational effect as they roll towards you. Your ship is very manouvrable and fires really well. The explosions are particularly good: large, detailed and effective. They reminded me of cartoon film animation. It's addictive because you want to get through the next stage to see what they will throw at you next.'
'The rotating moons move towards you at increasing speeds depending on what stage you have reached in the game. These are very well animated. Aliens appear in the distance and zoom in on you, but not very smoothly, as they basically go through two stages, dots, then full sized, moving down the screen. On the second screen, however, the yellow rotating aliens move very well towards you. Moving on to the third screen, the graphics are slightly more basic; the large minelayers are quite simple, though nicely drawn, but the rotating mines work well. Exceptionally addictive at first, but after a couple of hours play this wears off.'