Sinclair User13th May 1988
Published in Sinclair User #77
The Empire Strikes Back
Yes, yes, yes. I know that vector graphics are really becoming a little bit tiresome after all these years. And what only a few people seem to have realised (Starglider's authors and some others) is that the only way to make people sit up and take notice of a game like this is if it is fast.
Even Domark's first stab at the trilogy's conversion, Star Wars was OK in most respects, but it just wasn't quick enough.
The Empire Strikes Back, however, is a much more satisfactory affair after all. Sound has been completely sacrificed in an attempt to eke out more speed from the poor old Z80. And they've really done a pretty fab job.
Your mission is one of pure destruction, shooting out radar towers, Tie fighters, dodging asteroids and shooting big walkers, little scouts and generally having a whale of a time.
You control your fighter with simple up, down, left, right and fire commands. A lot of thought has been put into the controls. You're not left with a sluggish cross-hair, stuck in the middle of the screen. Instead, we've got a rather nice cursor that moves across the screen, appropriate to the direction in which your craft banks. This results in you having a faster and more accurate way of shooting the bad buys.
There are three skill levels, all of which entail the same mission - a progressively more fraught affair which moves from ground-based combat with the telegraph-poles and walkers through a space battle with the Tie fighters and on to a fantastic asteroid-dodging thing.
The levels, it has to be said, aren't particularly varied, but they're so nicely done it doesn't really matter. A minor point that I would raise, though is that you haven't really got much of a sense of danger, although I think that this is probably inherent in 3-D games. You feel as if you're going to crash into something whether you try to dodge them or not. I think it's something to do with the fact that your shields get drained when you hit something rather than losing a life - there's no sense of it really mattering if you get hit until it's too late. Half of the time you don't really notice that you are incurring damage. The fact that there's no sound doesn't improve matters, either.
Empire, whilst remarkably simple and maybe even a little bit tired as a formula, is simply the best of its ilk. It's fast, easy to play and doesn't require a great deal of thought. In short, it's just a great deal of fun.
Slick rendition of a classic arcade game. Classy.