Personal Computer News


Benji - Space Rescue

Author: Bob Chappell
Publisher: Epyx
Machine: Commodore 64

 
Published in Personal Computer News #027

A Hound In Space

Can arcade games be educational? This one certainly tries hard to be. It lets you captain a spaceship around the galaxy, rescue kidnapped boffins, shoot up a few aliens, control supplies, navigate the ship, learn about planets, and nip back to Earth in time for tea. All this, and a dog called Benji, in an interesting Star Trek-type program.

Objectives

The game is aimed at the 10-14 year age range although younger and older children are likely to enjoy parts of it. A dog, Benji, is at the helm of the spaceship Star Woof (but don't let that put you off - it's a good game). Some scientists are being held captive on other planets in the galaxy.

You have to fly with Benji to the rescue and bring them back safely. The lowest skill level has Benji taking over all computations from you; at the highest, Benji relinquishes everything to you. There are elements of education, decision-making, memory training, and hand and eye co-ordination skills embodied in the game.

In Play

Benji - Space Rescue

A hi-res picture of Benji and a catchy tune start off the game, asking you to select from eight levels of rank. The higher the level, the larger the number of scientists, problems and computations. The screen shows your spaceship console. On the right are the display areas: message panel, fuel, altitude, speed, time, etc. On the left are the console push buttons for communications and commands. The rest of the screen is the console window.

A cursor passes over each button in response to your joystick. Pressing the joystick Fire button presses the screen button. For example, the console E button causes the engine room to respond and the window to display various data. Joystick movement sets the destination, warp speed and distance (at lower levels, Benji sets the last two for you).

Although the game is far easier to play with joysticks, it can also be controlled from the keyboard. The joystick is replicated by a 'diamond' layout using the A, D, W, X keys with function key 7 as fire button.

Benji - Space Rescue

Each department is called by its initial letter - T for transporter room, E for engine room, W for weapons etc - and each call is confirmed by a message, scrolled across the screen teleprinter-style, requesting your orders.

You can summon a status report, select destination and speed, and a variety of other options open to galactic superheroes.

Anyone familiar with the old Star Trek computer games will feel immediately at home with this one.

Benji - Space Rescue

The variety of difficulty levels, set by the rank of Benji, ensures that the game will sustain its level of interest. With Benji in almost total control it can be rather boring, but when he takes a back seat it is almost impossible.

The transporter room shows the amount of food, fuel, torpedoes and rescued scientists on board. You can beam up more supplies provided you are the right distance from a planet that has such supplies. The weapons room controls the ship's defences.

A hi-res picture of any of the planets can be obtained, together with basic planetary data (genuinely taken from NASA phots and references).

Benji - Space Rescue

The time taken to fly between two planets reflects the speed and distance. Stars are seen hurtling past the console window to a great rushing sound. If the calculations are wrong, the ship misses its destination and an asteroid storm has to be negotiated. On reaching the planet, the ship can be taken down to the planet surface.

Long klaxons alert you to the presence of any aliens and a simple but splendidly graphic arcade-type battle ensues. Scientists are rescued by flying low over a likely-looking hideaway and hovering there while beaming them up, with alien ships buzzing around you.

Up and away to the safety of space, you need to check supplies for the trip back to Earth.

A detailed booklet contains the instructions, as well as plenty of helpful facts and figures.

Verdict

The game has a wealth of detail and is enjoyable to play. It requires thought, planning and co-ordination. My two children, a boy and a girl, loved it. My guess is, so will lots of others - their parents too.

Bob Chappell

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