Commodore User1st January 1987
Published in Commodore User #40
The Star Glider is not the ship you fly in the game with its impressive cockpit views and flight controls you see in the screenshots.
It's actually the craft of the ugly Egron Commander - Hermann Kruud whom, according to James Follet, author of the "story of the game" 'bore a striking resemblance to an elongated red billiard ball that had sprouted arms and legs'.
This C64 page sci-fi yarn comes with Star Glider game and is one of the main reasons the package costs a fiver more than most other games on the shelves. I had better say that the box also contains a poster, a player's guide booklet, and a key guide as well.
The game itself is not your standard 3D vector graphics aardvark - even if it looks like just that in the screenshots.
Its basic classification is of a 3D shoot-'em-up with a bit of strategy thrown in. A bit, not a lot.
Amongst much useful play information contained in the story - like what part of a Star Glider to aim at and the like - you also find out the plot.
You are Jason and Katra - pilots of the Airborne Ground Attack Vehicle (AGAV) - which is sent in to battle with Cap'n Kruud's dudes - who sneakily get past your home planet - Novenia's - outer defence systems.
To avoid being challenged by the Sentinel fighters' computers the Egrons disguised their ships as Star Gliders - a rare breed of intergalactic migratory bird - which the Sentinel's computers had been programmed to allow to pass unchallenged.
So it's into the AGAV and start blasting. Cue you and Jason - or Jason and you, depending on your sex.
First you have to master the AGAV controls - which are many and sophisticated.
Tells you what direction the AGAV is heading.
Get the nasties in the centre of this before letting fly. There is hardly any time lag between pressing Fire and your laser hitting the target.
Nice graphics show the laser bolts glowing white and red as they rip into their targets.
If this gets too low nip into a Silo pronto.
Slowly worn down by enemy fire and collissions - replenished at Silos.
Down on the joystick for up and vice-versa - but you can also use the keyboard.
AGAV's energy source - topped up at Fuel Towers.
Shows you all Stompers, Walkers, Stargliders, Bute Fighters, Armoured Vehicles, Egron Battle Tanks, Pyramid Mines, and Lotus Star Starfighters in the immediate vicinity.
Increased by space bay and decreased with Shift key. Two functions that have to be executed with keys - as are TV missiles - though these are joystick-controlled once launched.
Gives precise position - certain co-ordinates are worth remembering, remember.
Once-happy Novenia is the stage for this battle beyond the stars. The AGAV Radar has sectored the planet into a 100 x 100 grid - which scrolls in all directions in the central display screen.
You will find many different type of enemy - from the gangly Walkers to the awkward, but persistent Stompers who determinedly pound the ground with their spindly, clod-hopper feet.
If some of these nasties give you a hard time you have to dodge into a silo for repair. Your shields and lasers are repaired inside a silo and you also pick up one TV-guided missile.
TV missiles are essential if you want to give the Egrons a taste of their own medicine - you need three direct hits with a TV missile to kill a Starglider for example. As you can only carry two at a time you had better remember the position and co-ordinates of as many repair silos as possible.
But just knowing where to find a silo is not enough - docking with one is the really hard bit. The bloody things just won't stay still - spinning constantly through 360 degrees.
The secret is to slow the AGAV right down with the Shift key - bring the altitude down until you are almost on the planet surface then slowly increase speed till you begin to edge forward. The Silo will spin nearer and you will be able to see the opening. Hovver till the opening is right in front of you then burst forward - the AGAV will do the rest itself.
The vector graphics are impressive inside - you see the TV missile standing on the floor and the sides of the Silo rushing past you until Docking is automatically complete.
Once docked and repaired, you can immediately re-launch and start bashing the Egrons or interrogate the computers inside the silo to get the low-down on the enemy.
This is neat. As well as telling how tough each of them are you also get a visual display - spinning through 360 degrees so that you can remember what they look like for when they come hurtling towards you in combat. With sixteen different type of nasty, each requiring different attack strategies, this is very handy indeed.
One thing the Silos won't do for you is re-charge the AGAV's energy. To do this, you have to fly between the two tall energy beacons that criss-cross Novenia.
Somehow the Egrons have perched an Armoured Vehicle atop one of the towers so it is wise to let it taste the heat of your lasers before you approach to refuel.
If you can manage to blast the Egron and re-fuel in one manoeuvre you can regard yourself as a pretty neat AGAV flyer.
Re-fuelling is where the game comes into its own and you really feel like flying. Unlike straight flight-sims, or games like Tau Ceti, you can actually fly around objects in Starglider.
If you sweep past something - a refuel tower or a silo - it is then actually behind you in real-space. You can turn the AGAV right round, fly back, and make another attempt. However you bank, or dive, the graphics of other objects respond authentically. It is this that makes Star Glider special.
There is no doubt that Star Glider is good. The more your play it, the more you get to like it. The question is - is it five pounds better than Mercenary say, or Tau Ceti?
As far as Mercenary is concerned I would say no. The Novagen game is the best vector graphics arcade adventure launched so far - with a loyal band of fans. Tau Ceti is also a similar game, which is damned near as good as Star Glider at half the price.
Whereas these comparisons have to be made - you also have to point out that Star Glider never set out to be the best arcade adventure ever. The games designers were aiming at the "best arcade shoot-'em-up with vector graphics". In my opinion, they have achieved this.