Sinclair User

Micronaut One

Author: Tamara Howard
Publisher: Nexus
Machine: Spectrum 48K

Published in Sinclair User #64

Micronaut One

Oh, alright, I admit it, when I first saw Pete Tau Ceti Cooke's latest, Micronaut One, the only thing that I could think was Ooer!

And with good reason. Micronaut One defies any other sort of description. Not only that but it contains some of the most brilliant 3D graphics ever seen on the Spectrum. For the first time ever, as far as I'm aware, you've got solid 3D fast scrolling creating a brilliant illusion of travelling along tunnels.

One recent point of reference would be Firebird's Hive.

Micronaut One

Don't even think about it - there's no comparison.

Micronaut is real and solid - you'll believe you were there!! And also, Pete Cooke knows all about gameplay.

It's the graphics and gameplay which matter here so the story behind Micronaut is simple.

Civilisation has taken something of a turn for the worse. Mutations are rife, barbarism is the order of the day and society has built this computer. But not just any old computer. Due to the fact that metal is in such short supply, computers have to be formed out of (gulp) living biological organisms. The resulting biocomputer is a bit on the unstable side, and needs constant maintenance. And then, there's the Scrim to think about.

The Scrim are the bad guys. Or, in this case, the bad flies. A mutated descendent of the common fruit fly, Scrim feed off the energy generated by the biocomputers. Owing to the fact that they lay eggs left, right and centre, and spin sticky webs all over the place, the scrim tend to block off access to the Energy Transfer Units (ETUs) leading to lack of maintenance, extreme instability, a short explosion and a nasty case of death for all concerned. Mass elimination of the Scrim is therefore the order of the day, making Micronaut One a sort of computerised, space-age version of Rentokil.

Dealing with the Scrim is not easy. Flying around in your craft, armed only with a rather puny generator, it's important to keep up the energy levels, or else your generator won't kill anything. Scrim eggs are practically indestructible, and the larvae and adult jellyfliers are pretty, tough too. So you have to keep on topping up the energy levels of your own craft, as well as those of the biocomputer. Energy clouds are useful here. Don't, as I did, keep firing at the little swarm-like things that keep coming your way, they're not masses of Scrim, they're energy particles, and if you fly into them, you'll absorb them. (By the way, when you do come across a Scrim, you'll know about it).

Scrim are huge. Great big umbrella shaped things that fly straight into your ship and make you go all wobbly. Huge wobbly larvae which head butt you and push you backwards for several feet. Golf-ball sized eggs which no amount of firing at, pushing about or swearing at will destroy. And thick, sticky webs which cling to the ship, and ripple gently as they pull away from the window.

The graphics are astounding. The sensation is of flying through tunnels, things appearing around corners. Scrim flying out of nowhere, and larvae leaping out at you. The ETUs are huge, blinking eyes; solid graphics which seem to fill up half the screen. Attribute problems are avoided by the use of two colours.

It's a triumph of programming, and a fiendishly difficult game.- There are several windows which you can summon from the main menu to help you. Maps, ETU energy displays, information about the Scrim. The skill lies in knowing which window to summon up when you get a message or a warning. A monitor will tell you where the webs are, and which of the ETUs is in danger. It's up to you to get there and sort it all out. And boy, is that hard.

There's also a race game in here as well - if you really want it - which is five laps of the tunnel as fast as you can go. It doesn't appear to be very interesting, there's nothing to shoot at, or obstacles in the way. but as an exercise in learning the layout of the tunnels and learning to fly the ship, it's pretty useful.

Micronaut One is pretty ingenious. It requires thought and strategy to get through it but instant oblivion is always around the corner. It's a really nice mix of blast and skill.

Overall Summary

Brilliant 3D graphics, and gameplay. You may take a while to understand it, but in the end, you'll be hooked.

Tamara Howard

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