A mini-revolution occurred in the arcades during the early Eighties when a chap called Don Bluth and coin-op giants Atari developed the Dragon's Lair coin-op, an awesome graphic extravaganza which used video-disk technology to give the player the impression that he was interacting with a cartoon show. It was very popular, and even though the technology was unreliable, Don Bluth developed a second laser game, Space Ace. By last year, computer technology had advanced enough to allow Dragon's Lair to be converted to the Amiga. Now Space Ace is here.
The first game was set in the mythical Dark Ages and starred a blonde, square-jawed hunk of a guy by the name of Dirk Daring. Space Ace, as you'll have guessed, takes place many years into the future. Ace, the hero, and his girlfriend Kimberly are off to crush the tyrannical alien Borf and his gang of weird hench-things, when the big, blue baddie himself appears, whisks Kimberly off in his spaceship and blasts laser bolts at Ace.
That's where the game begins, with you reacting to Ace's movements in an attempt to negotiate 33 different scenes, rescue Kimberly and defeat Borf all at the same time.
Control is simple: at certain points in the game you have to choose an action for Ace by pushing the joystick in one of four directions, or pressing fire. The correct decision moves Ace on to the next piece of animation, while failure results in the loss of a life. Timing is critical too - the right move at the incorrect time also spells disaster. Successful completion of each scene adds extra points to your total, an extra life being awarded at every 10,000 points.
Dragon's Lair suffered from the fact that the gameplay was amazingly simplistic and that you could go all the way through the game in one sitting. Space Ace, unfortunately, is exactly the same, and in fact is even less challenging. It took me about 45 minutes to finish the game. And after that the appeal wanes.
The graphics may be awe-inspiring, the sound cannot be faulted, the amount of disks have even been cut down to four, from the original's six, and you don't need a megabyte expansion to run it on. But strip away the visuals, and you've got an unbelievably simple game. Just choose one of five directions at any crunch point and you either win or lose. Utterly pathetic.
Space Ace is an amazing computer demo. But at £44.95 it's scandalously over-priced.
Cartoon-quality graphics and amazing sound make this a stunner to look at and listen to. But the gameplay is unbelievably poor, and it's possible to complete the game within an hour of purchase.