A&B Computing1st November 1985
Published in A&B Computing 2.11
On the surface a simple game, Death Star provides a multitude of variations on the basic theme and makes subtle demands on the player in the quest for higher scores.
The quality of the graphics in Death Star is what keeps the eyes fixed intently on the smoothly travelling ship which you control. The asteroid rocks floating free in the void and the busy workers make for an exciting screen.
Your ship can bump into anything it likes without suffering fatally, which means that you can concentrate on the task of mining asteroids (by firing into them) realising sinibombs and scooping them up. The workers buzz about you trying to snatch the sinibombs from your grasp, to take them off and build the Deathstar piece by piece. If you thrust over towards the Deathstar you can observe the process, reminiscent of insects at work, in action.
The psychology, history or reasoning behind the building of the Deathstar is never really explained. But when it's complete you have to watch out! Deathstar comes after you and you must begin the process of dismantling it again with your sinibombs.
Usually you travel forward at a constant speed in open space. It is not possible to brake in your pursuit of planetoids and the Crystals they contain. The only time this motion is suspended is in the (extremely) rare circumstances of getting (gravitationally?) trapped between two planetoids. If this wasn't space flight, it might even be a bug.
As often with such games, much of the skill is in balancing the acquisition of points (200 for each Crystal, 500 for each Warrior, 250 for each Worker and 500 for each Deathstar piece) with the main objective of destroying the Deathstar itself (worth 15000 points). It is possible to go on collecting points after you have grabbed your limit of 24 sinibombs. The screen flashes to indicate that the Deathstar has been built (20 pieces complete the job) and you then begin the hunt. By now however the Deathstar is active. Best usually to acquire a full load of bombs, to release one to discover its whereabouts, and to find the Deathstar before it's complete, preferably replacing any bombs used in the search on your journey. A general idea of position can be gained from a scanner at the top of the screen.
Dicing With Death
As soon as the Deathstar is complete you have to learn a new skill, flying away from the Deathstar, accurately releasing bombs to deplete it, piece by piece. You have to watch tip and tail because planetoids will fatally slow you down if you bump into them. The 24 bombs to 20 pieces of Deathstar calculation means that you are going to have to be accurate. Mining further crystals at this stage is not easy with the Deathstar in hot pursuit.
When you do dismantle Deathstar this stage ends and the message "Sinistar Destroyed" is displayed. SINISTAR is of course the name of the original arcade game and an Atarisoft production. They are probably working on their ST version right now!
And what's in a name? The Deathstar destroyed, you are propelled through warp drive, a relaxing bonus shooting workers. And then on to the Work, Warrior, Planetoid and Void zones, each appropriately named.
You'll eventually get the hang of baiting the Deathstar, luring it to its end, bombing its pieces into the darkness. The shimmering scales are turned into mere gaseous space garbage.
When you do, the journey from screen to screen will become familiar and you'll give yourself time to look up at the high score turning over above the display. The Warrior Zone will test your dogfighting abilities and the Void your tactical sense.
Death Star immediately sits you down at the keyboard with its fast, smooth graphical display. It's a busy screen but bumping into things doesn't mean instant "Game Over". This encourages investigation and soon the addictive challenge of a good arcade game takes you over.
The Electron version of Death Star has all the game playing features of the BBC game. However, the sound suffers in comparison. Electron Death Star however is similarly compelling with the unique game format. Unfortunately there's not much to compete with in the Electron market when it comes to something as good as Death Star.
Death Star also works without problems on the BBC B+ 64K and 128K machines, so this could be new owners' first taste of a BBC arcade game.
Death Star could become quite a cult game if not a classic. It's for old style arcade players and not for simulation or sports buffs. It retains all the necessary simplicity while introducting a new element, often the key to massive success.