After a less than auspicious start with Space Station Zebra (reviewed last month) Beyond Software (part of the EMAP group who also own Computer & Video Games magazine) have really launched themselves with this colossal arcade strategy game. 'A program which makes other programmers gasp,' it says on the excellent packaging - and perhaps it will.
Psytron comes in a large box containing the cassette, a competition entry form (more later) and a very detailed 20-page booklet explaining how the game is played, and what Psytron is. It looks rather daunting but is essential reading. However it can be read in stages until all the six levels of the game have been absorbed. Psytron is not a game for a few moments play it will take ages.
The action all takes place on a huge base on the planet of Betula 5. The planet's atmosphere is not compatible with humanity, so the base is sealed within its own life support system. The base has an inner ring from which radiate the various surface installations. These are the medical centre freezetime generator, oxygen unit, docking bay and teleport centre, recycling unit, pleasure dome, crew quarters, fuel dump, power plant, matter disruptor and the food store. The game provides 10 screens which are views of the base, seen from the centre and all the way round.
The Psytron is in sole charge of Betula 5, and as the Psytron, you will have to undertake everything to protect the base. Shooting aliens out of the skies and dealing with the remote droids they drop which run around the inner ring to blow up the vital airlocks make up the arcade component, but repairing facilities and deciding what installations to sacrifice at critical moments makes up the strategy element.
Psytron is a game of six levels of progressive difficulty which have been designed to take you into the game step by step, piling more and more responsibility on your shoulders. Each level must be mastered before the next is attempted. The computer looks at your last five scores and calculates an average- if it's over the passmark then you can move on to the next level. The computer keeps a service record of your achievement which may be saved and reloaded after game load. This is all important because the service record is used in compiling your overall score for the final level. Beyond are running a competition with a prize of a QL computer for the winner. If someone conquers the game completely, then they will win, but it is considered almost impossible to survive for an hour on level 6, which is really required to get the special code. The competition closes on November 30, and if not already won, the prize will go to the highest scorer at that time.
The screen display is split, with a little over half the top being the monitor views of the base (10 in all). These views are drawn in detailed black line and cross hatching with a yellow strip for the ground and a pale blue for the sky. It all looks like a comic drawing. Below is the white and black ringway with airlock access. In this ringway enemy droids are dropped and they can be seen running along to their randomly selected detonation points. Below is the screen report which details what section of the base you are seeing, and updates damage and status reports. Other info provided includes fuel levels, percentage of damage, crew status and time.
At the bottom right-hand corner is a 3D view of the ringway looking along it. This will show a droid on the run. Your pursuit droid also shows up on the ringway and may be guided to chase the enemy droid until it comes into view on the 3D panel. It must be destroyed by fire before it reaches its destination.
Meanwhile, overhead enemy saucers are constantly attacking the base from all directions, dropping bombs which explode colourfully. A gun sight is provided. The enemy saucers are animated in 3D as well.
Describing this game in a review would take pages, and there is a great deal more to playing it than we, have said here - after all, it takes 20 pages for the producers to describe it!