It's rare that C&VG makes a conversion Game of the Month - but Zoids on the C64 is much more than a conversion, more of a completely different game!
Binary Vision and the Electronic Pencil Co. have come up with a game which will change your idea of what makes a good game. Zoids shows the way games should be going - it's sophisticated, absorbing and addictive.
At first glance, Zoids doesn't look like much - just "another" icon-driven game. But once you start playing around with the icons you'll find an exciting array of windows spring up to grab your attention.
Rob Hubbard - the darling of C64 music right now - also comes up with some suitably robotic sounding sounds for you to play along with. Zoids has all a games player could ask for: action, strategy and adventure.
The basic idea of the game is - as in the Spectrum and Amstrad versions - to rebuild the Mighty Zoidzilla, last hope of the Blue Zoids.
The playing area is divided up into three main areas. A plan view of the map with two sets of icons to the left and right. The icons access various windows and functions. The graphics don't fill the whole screen - but give the impression that you are within an enclosed space within the Zoid.
The map gives a display of your immediate surroundings, (a tiny fraction of the overall terrain) marking on it enemy cities, mineral mines, power stations, and so on (yellow symbols) and enemy Zoids in red. The blue symbol represents your Zoid.
The result of selecting any other icon in the target-select window will depend on which of the mode icons are active.
Your weapons include a Railgun, which fires metal projectiles at your target, and missiles.
Missiles are activated like this. Accessing the icon opens the "prepare to fire" windows. Load your missile with an appropriate amount of fuel using the arrow icon. Then activate the launch icon at the base of the window. A new set of windows opens.
The large windows at the left displays long range views of the elevation (side view) and hearing (plan view) of your missile. At the far left of the window are two gyroscopes together with close-ups of the side view and plan view of your missile which are highlighted in white when selected.
Jamming electronic signals is difficult - but must be mastered! Almost all the Red Zoid installations/weapons can be jammed and rendered useless. Once you've decided to attempt to jam something a window will pop up showing the target signal in the top half and your own output in the bottom half. Your aim is to produce a wave which precisely matches the target wave.
In Navigation mode the map is shown as grey on the black and is overlaid by a yellow, gridded display giving an approximate version of the routes available to you, and any bridges on the routes.
You control an octagonal system of shields. Each of the eight plates protects one of the Zoid's vital functions as represented by the eight segments. As you Zoid incurs damage these plates are progressively weakened making certain systems vulnerable to damage.
You can rotate the plates by using the arrow icon in the centre in order to best protect his most important systems.
There are eight city networks each containing several cities, a raw material mine, a power station and radio transmitters.
Mounting an attack on a Red Zoid city requires some strategic thought. One way to do it is to first attack a nearby power plant causing a power drain and weakening the city's shields.
But this alerts Red defence systems and a missile attack will come your way. You can either attempt to jam the missiles systems - quickly! - or fire off some sonic or heat flares to divert it.
Then wipe out the radio station to prevent your city tawrget getting off an alert message to surrounding cities. If you don't, a lot of Red Zoiods will be heading your way as soon as you blast the city - at least this way you get a bit of breathing space.
However the city will dispatch some Hellrunners to convey the plea for help to other cities. But if you've dropped some mines in their path before you attack then you'll be able to wipe a few of them out.
Then zap the city using your Railgun or missiles.
With a bit of practice you'll soon be dashing around causing all sorts of havoc and enjoying what must be one of the best games ever for the C64. If you miss out on this one, you'll regret it for the rest of the year! So don't.