Day Of The Viper
Not a lesson in herpetology, but a flight through time and space to a far-away research station in the depths of the Universe, where you must wrest highly classified weapons information from the evil Gar and return the station to normality.
Gar? Well, the folks on Earth decided that it was about time they built a super automaton with the reasoning powers of a human, the calculating abilities of a room full of Cray silicon and the destructive capabilities of an assault vehicle, and send it out to perform menial mining tasks.
Of course with all those assets at its finger (or should that be pincer?) tips, the animated dustcan decided to chuck in the mining lark and rampage through the solar system destroying all in its path, and the rest, as they say, is Hollywood plot.
You and your attack droid have been assigned to the mission. Beam down to the SLDF (Sun League Defence Force) complex on the planet, locate the 25 hidden floppy disks that make up the weapons research currently in the hands of Gar, kill him and his forces and re-program the central computer. Not exactly afternoon tea with your favourite aunt, right?
To achieve these ends, you take remote control of the attack droid Viper-5. Everything that appears in the game is seen through special cameras attached to this robot, and objects and other creatures are manipulated via him (why are robots never female?).
The SLDF complex is reminiscent of those 3-D maze games of yesteryear. Walls at each side of your field of vision stretching away to a "meeting point" somewhere in the distance.
All of the Viper's functions are controlled using the mouse - the weapons, radar systems, plotter and shields are switched on by clicking the relevant button.
The complex itself is built on five floors with approximately 25 rooms on each floor and countless corridors, cul-de-sacs and dead ends. Cavorting hither and thither brings you into contact with items such as energy crystals and passcards, and, unfortunately, the forces of the enemy.
In order to deal with those aggressive mechanoids you switch on the weapons system, move the mouse pointer into the viewing window where it becomes a crosshair, and blam away until you've reduced the creature to a twisted pile of smouldering metal.
Sooner or later you'll start to encounter the floppy disks and the mission will be underway (or you'll be killed in the first encounter with one of Gar's metal minions; it's a tough life as a space ranger).
From the opening screen you just know the sound effects are gonna be good. The game opens with a heavily throbbing electronic beat which is suitably eerie, and continues with some of the best spot effects I've ever heard in a space game. The whoosh of sliding doors, zaps of laser guns and clicks and buzzes of the various systems being switched on and off are magnificent.
The graphics are pretty, animation is smooth, but the whole display is rather limited in that the main part of the screen consists of a control panel, and the animated display for the most part shows walls, walls and more walls with an occasional door to break up the monotony. That said, the display conveys a sense of "being there".
It must be difficult to write yet another foraging/scavenging game involving the player travelling around a 3-D building collecting objects and to inject it with a note of excitement, yet that's exactly what Accolade have managed to do. From the moment you invade the complex, encounter and deal with your first enemy and try to figure out the code which will operate the lifts, you're completely hooked.
You just have to round the next corner, open the next door, blast one last rampaging mechanoid before bed. Fortunately, Day Of The Viper has a Save Game feature making it all there the next time you feel the urge. And with this game, there'll be lots of next times.