Amstrad Computer User1st December 1986
Published in Amstrad Computer User #25
Imagine (sorry) an isometric version of Jack The Nipper, set in a world far, far away where machines spend their t-states trying to create organic life. This is the background to Electric Dream's new release - Prodigy. The story runs thus:
The Machine Sorcerer Wardlock has been experimenting in his Mechlabs, and created organic life. Until now Mechworld has been the sole province of things that go clunk, and things that squish have been unknown. Wardlock's changed all that. His first experiments just produced Globewels and Bloberites, strange shaped creatures that he allows to wander the Mechlabs at random, Then came Solo the Syntleman, sentinent and humanoid. He's a synthetic man, and up 'til now has spent his time wondering how to escape the nightmarish laboratories.
The arrival of Neje, a human baby (presumably from under a goosedroid bush) spurs him into action. Nejo needs almost constant attention, nappies to change, and feeding. The Bloberites and Globewels take an altogether unhealthy interest in the brat, and he needs protection, This is obviously no place to bring up a young spacer, so Solo tries to go over the wall.
Mechlabs are divided into four zones: Ice, Fire, Tech and Vegie. The inhabitants of the latter are called Vegie burghers, I suppose. Travel between zones is by teleport, which works only slightly better than BR on an off day (Mondays through Sundays). Ice Zone contains oxygen bubbles, from which Solo can replenish his air supply. He can tell when he needs to do this from his suit display, which also tells him how much milk Nejo's got and when he (Nejo, not Solo) needs a shower.
Milk can be had from Chef MechDonald (another burgher) by threatening him/her/it with the Bubblegun which Solo has. This is also his only defence against the failed experiments mentioned above. To be an experiment is one thing, but a failed experiment. No wonder they're angry.
The plan of action seems simple enough. Lying around the labs are four Power Keys, one per zone, which have to be fitted into the Lockfire. The security computers can also be befuddled by fiddling with the terminals which can be found here and there. Helpful hints are suggested by the teletype in Solo's suit, which also imminent catastrophes.
And so Solo the Syntleman sets forth to bravely zap what no syntleman has zapped before. The assorted monsters both hinder him, sap his strength and send him hack to his starting point. Najo trys to follow him, but can't travel as fast as Solo and is more vulnerable. Solo can either slow down his search and allow the baby to accompany him, or dump the infant somewhere safe and make haste. But he must always leave enough time to get Najo to a shower or milk when the need arises.
The graphics are the traditional 3D maze set inside a border containing information about the game in progress. Green screeners will be pleased to see a feature for their phosphor. There's some unusual intro music which is quite atmospheric in a tuneless sort of way. In all, quite intriguing.
All this man looking after a baby seems a bit pretentious to me. Prodigy is simply a roam around a maze game. I t is very difficult, but with practice grows on you. To get the most out of Prodigy you need a fair bit of patience and persistence.
As a feat of programming the game is impressive, it has a huge map and a massive array of monsters. A lot of work has gone into the Mork I graphics but the game is not one of Electric Dreams pest.
A large decorative border is described as a feature of the game. What it really hides is a programming short cut. Scrolling 16k of screen with animated figures and keeping track of off-screen aliens (not to mention looking after a baby) is just too much for Mr Z80 to cope with.
It works well and the proggy succeeds in keeping a lot of balls in the air at one time. Not a particularly special game but something to while away the hours.
What's this? Androids running away from mad inventions, with a baby in tow? Sounds quite original. So it's a shame that it's nearly just another 2.5D hunt-the-key maze game. The twist is this nicely animated baby that crawls after you and generally gets underfoot. Makes things more difficult, true, but disproportionately more frustrating, especially with the turgid joystick response.
Graphics multi-coloured and nice, playing area small, action awkward. I might have enjoyed it if I could have played it...