First produced for the Commodore 64 by Epyx, Impossible Mission was a game which some C64 owners used to advantage in the arguments about whether their computer or the Spectrum was the better games machine. Now there's a Spectrum version of the game, published by US Gold, which follows the action of the original very closely although the sound effects have suffered in translation.
You play the role of a crack secret agent on a mission to save the world from the evil doings of the ultimate hacker. A mad professor type, Elvin Atom-bender, has accessed all the defence computers maintained by the superpowers, and is currently trying to puzzle out the codes which will set off a missile attack so huge that the whole globe will be destroyed. Elvin has amassed a fortune from hacks into computers run by banks and financial institutions and has constructed a massive underground complex patrolled by a variety of robot guards. The game is played against the clock starting at noon, you have a mere six hours of game time in which to penetrate the madman's underground lair, discover his security code and penetrate his control centre.
Each room within the complex has several levels, or platforms, on which items of furniture and computer equipment are to be found. Small one-person lifting platforms may be used to access the different levels within each chamber, and the thirty two rooms in the complex are linked by a network of tunnels and lift shafts.
Elvin has a computer system which monitors the entire complex at least one terminal on this system is found in every room. If you have the appropriate password, it is possible to temporarily deactivate the robots in that room so that pass- age through it is much simpler. Alternatively, you may wish to use a terminal to reset the lifting platforms to their starting position in the room. Accessing a terminal is simple just approach it and push forward on the joystick which causes it to display a menu screen. Without the appropriate password, however a terminal will not accept input...
The platform reset and robot 'snooze' passwords can be found by searching the pieces of furniture and equipment scattered around the rooms. The password to the control room is only revealed once thirty six pieces which make up nine puzzles have been collected and assembled puzzle pieces are also concealed in the objects.
Searching a piece of equipment is easy: you just approach it and push forward on the joystick whereupon a window appears on the screen with a bar graph display which diminishes as you search. Some objects can be searched very quickly, others take some while. If you break off a search, perhaps because a robot is approaching, it can be resumed where you left off so long as you don't leave the room. Once the search is complete the window reveals what has (or hasn't) been found.
The defence robots all look the same, but behave according to different programmed patterns. Some of them can fire a deadly electrical charge, others can home in on your agent; most of them patrol a section of catwalk, moving up and down its length. Contact with a robot loses you ten minutes of game time, as does a fall through the bottom of a chamber. Certain items can only be searched when the robots have been disabled, and a strategic approach is necessary if you are to complete the mission a finite number of 'snooze' and platform reset passwords is available.
The mission would be truly impossible were it not for your portable computer. This machine keeps track of the rooms you have passed through, giving you a constantly updated map of the complex which includes a marker for your current position. Your computer can also be used to help assemble puzzle pieces pressing the fire button while you are in the lift causes the map display to be replaced with an icon-driven menu screen.
Whenever you find a piece of the main puzzle, it is committed to your computer's memory. You can manipulate these puzzle components through the icon driven display, moving them from memory into a work area and flipping them over horizontally and vertically and changing their colour. It is also possible to dial up the computer at your base to ask for on-line assistance in solving the puzzles but this costs you two minutes of game time per call.
Each completed puzzle consists of four elements and there are nine puzzles in all. Each time you solve a puzzle you are rewarded with one of the letters in the evil Elvin's master password. Once you are in possession of all nine letters of the control room access code, you may enter, thwart the madman's plan and save the world from destruction.
Saving the world brings a bonus of 1000 points, with one point added to your score for every second remaining on the game clock when you enter the control room. If you don't actually save the world, you still get points for finding puzzle pieces and passwords as well as for solving each of the nine puzzles.
Control keys: CAPS left, Z right, P up, L down, B-SPACE fire
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2 Keyboard play: average
Use of colour: not inspired, problems with the animated figures
Graphics: straightforward. Can be confusing when the agent is searching
Sound: footsteps and effects for robots and lifts, but no speech synthesis
Skill levels: one
Screens: thirty two rooms, plus corridors and portable computer display
'I didn't think Impossible Mission would survive the conversion from C64 to Spectrum but it seems to be more or less the same. Graphically, this platform game is good - although there are a few glitches. The sound is obviously not as good as the C64 version but it is quite well used all the same. The various types of droid all look the same, so you don't know what to expect when you sneak up behind one to search an object. My main niggle is that you have to be exactly lined up on a lift platform before you can move it up or down. Generally I'd recommend Impossible Mission as it is a very playable'
'The Spectrum conversion of Impossible Mission, as might be expected, falls down on sound. The realistic, fading scream as your agent falls into one of the pits in the floor of a room is totally absent - not a squeak on the Spectrum. The sound of his footsteps and the main lift is also disappointing when compared to the Commodore version. Otherwise the game is a very faithful conversion. It is, however, a bit of a pain to play. While your agent scampers around, somersaulting and jumping with glee, using the lifting platforms is a pest. You have to position your man very precisely for them to work which makes life that bit more difficult. A couple of buglets seem to have crept in too - on one screen you can somersault through the platform above you for instance. Overall a good game, and one which is much more than a platform jumping game. Joystick skills as well as brainpower are needed to save the world in this one. Annoyingly frustrating, it's quite addictive.'
'Impossible Mission is a classic Commodore game because of its ace graphics, sound, brilliant game content and speech. I wondered how the Spectrum version would compare with the 64 version as I loaded it in. I didn't wonder for very long - a few minutes play soon decided that. The graphics are pretty murky with heaps of attribute problems and the animation isn't anywhere as good as the CBM's, it's pretty slow and jerky. The sound is pretty reasonable for a Spectrum game but the game has no speech which made the original game something really special. All the other original features of the game are here and the game plays fairly similarly, apart from the control being unresponsive and the difficulty in judging a jump. I suppose I've been spoilt by playing the 64 version but I still think it could've been improved upon . . . never mind though - it's still Impossible Mission.'