ZX Computing

Psi-5 Trading Company

Publisher: U. S. Gold
Machine: Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in ZX Computing #38

Are you decisive? Could you command a space freighter? Do you hire the Glork or Fligronk?

PSI-5 Trading Company

Commanding a star freighter for the Psi-5 Trading Company isn't as easy as it's portrayed in games like Elite. The problems lie in the fact that you have to carry perishable cargo to far flung parts of the galaxy, in a scrap heap of a ship that's crewed by a collection of galactic oddballs, while being shot at by every pirate in the sector.

Having selected the easiest option (nothing's easy in this business!) or carrying 'nucleric' 120 parsecs to Kozzar-7, it's time to interview 30 candidates for your five crew positions. For each position, you have six weirdoes to choose from and can even punch up their record, but I doubt that'll help you. Since trial and error will sort out the good from the bad and the ugly, I opted for a 200 year old hairy Glork to handle the weapons, a man-hating Palagonan to scan space for enemy ships, a yellow blob called Yenx to navigate, the green scaly Fligronk to man the engineering department and finally T3XR9 to repair things (since he's a robot I thought he'd know what to fix and when). With the crew in position and me in the captain's chair, we headed for the stars.

The screen display is a mass of windows, instruments and displays as you issue orders to your crew that show your exterior view, speed, compass, damage and supply gauges, a picture of the crew member you're talking to and their controls.

Psi-5 Trading Company

You can select the crew and then their actions from duck-shoot menus and order engineering to get power through to the standard systems, navigation to plot a course and accelerate, scanning to search and identify other ships and weapons and repair to standby. That's just to get started!

The fun and games really start when another ship approaches. If it's a friendly ship and you accidentally fire at it you could break a long-standing treaty but if it's an enemy you can't afford to leave it alone. Now you must act quickly as scanning must get a fix before weapons can fire any of its four weapons either at a specific target or at will. The battle is shown in your view window but you probably won't get a chance to watch it as things really heat up. Messages flood in from your crew as systems are damaged and need repairing.

If you survive you may get a chance to organise repairs before the pirates strike again. Fail, and you'll be destroyed and the pirates will ransack your ship. Either way your mission report will count up the profits or losses of your mission as it deducts repairs costs, casualties and lost allies from cargo profits, early bonuses and bounty for zapping the Chilank, Zeltoad, Flarkan and Trantot pirates.

There's no doubt that Psi-5 Trading Company is an excellent game... but is anyone good enough to play it?