Dave Lawrence was lucky enough to have first shot at the latest
adventure from Superior - and found it's a must
When a game comes complete with a novella to describe the scenario, you know it must be something special. Superior Software's latest release, Exile, is one such game. It is set on the hostile planet of Phoebus, where the crew of the landing craft, Pericles, have been subdued by the evil professor Triax. You must try and rescue them.
Exile is an 'arcade adventure' and seems to draw ideas from a number of previous BBC games.
The game runs fine on an unexpanded model B, but is greatly enhanced by adding one bank of sideways RAM. The enhanced version also works on a Master.
The action starts with your spacecraft in geostationary orbit above the stricken Pericles. You must work out how to get out of the airlock (not difficult) and then find a path to the planet's interior.
Once inside you need to spend some time exploring and getting used to the control keys. This is quite tricky at first, but after a while you get the hang of it and it's great fun zooming around with your jet-pack. Besides flying around, you can walk or even crawl.
You are unequipped initially, apart from the jet-pack, so it's essential to arm yourself against the hordes of roving nasties. These come at you in several forms. First you'll be buffered by harmless birds and mischievous imps, but later you'll be attacked by posionous bees, vicious birds and even the robotic crew of the Pericles!
Avoiding (or shooting) the inhabitants of Phoebus is really only a side-line; there are numerous puzzles to solve and there isn't just one way to succeed. Opening the door at the start is relatively easy, but later on there are fires to deal with, doors to open, turrets to shoot, transporters, secret passages, friendly robots, magic mushrooms and the dreaded windy shaft!
Exile does not feature lives in the normal way, because you never actually die! Instead you are teleported away at the last second. You can 'remember' up to four teleport positions, so when you reach a safe place, it's advisable to 'remember' that place. The positions are stored on a stack - you go to the last one and when all four are used you are returned to your ship.
The game is graphically very pretty. The scenery is large and detailed, especially the two spacecraft. The scrolling is not smooth, but acceptable. Sprites are rather on the small side, but charmingly animated. The bees and birds fly about very convincingly. The imps run around, throw things at you, then hide in their flowerpot! Little worms ooze out of the ground to crawl about and the intelligent robots chase you with their jet-packs.
The use of sound is well done; with most things bleeping (or talking with the enhanced version) in some way. One oddity is that if you pause the game while a sound is playing the effect pauses as well.
I liked many aspects of the game: its attention to detail; the windtunnel-like dust effects in the windy areas; the water bubbling in the flask; the sparks in the fires; the beehives and the birds' nexts; and being able to aim your gun at any angle.
There is a save game facility that again, due to memory problems, is slightly strange - you press SHIFT-f9, then CTRL-BREAK and reboot the disc!
I did find the game frustrating in places, but I found it great fun to play - I'm certainly going to try and finish it sometime. Exile is certainly a contender for the best Beeb arcade adventure for a long time. It's definitely the best game this year.