Commodore User1st April 1988
Published in Commodore User #56
Unitrax, eh? Sounds a bit like Parallax to me, looks a bit like it too as it happens, only not as good. To be fair, the storyline is unrecognisable, but then you don't want to give the game away too soon, do you?
The year is 2410 AD and a whole bundle of nuclear power stations which were supposedly safe forever are about to make Chernobyl look like a damp squib. Not that this really matters any more because the Earth was vaporised long ago in World War IV (why weren't the power stations destroyed as well?). So what's all the fuss about?
Well, a bunch of smart cookie astronauts left the party before the fireworks started and set up a space colony. You have been chosen to save everyone from nuclear destruction. How do you do it? Isn't it obvious? You blow up the reactors. I always said it doesn't pay to examine these storylines too closely.
And so to the game. You are dropped on the workstation by a mothership and must immediately set about looking for a bomb. The cowpat style craft follows prelaid tracks which form a maze on the workstation surface - no fancy diagonal scrolling - it's strictly up/down, left/right. What happens next is that you get blasted from all sides by a bunch of not-very-friendly muties.
Here's where the real frustration creeps in, which is all to do with the way the joystick controls work. A tap in the appropriate direction sends you on your way and you keep going until you pull in another direction. This makes turns tricky, because you have to sit the stick at the exact moment you pass a function. If you miss, you have to go into reverse and try again.
All of which would be fine were it not for the fact that you fire with the joystick as well. I don't mean the fire button only, no no. As well as pressing the button you must push the joystick in the direction you want the bullets to travel. This is great because you can shoot in eight directions, but what you can't do is shoot and steer at the same time. So what tends to happen is that you spot your junction coming up and prepare to make the split-second turn when a nasty appears heading straight for you. You have two choices; ignore it and take the energy loss consequences when you collide, or blast it away and miss the turn.
If you ever manage to get the hang of this you can head for a reactor with your bomb. To blow it up successfully, you have to hit three of those nudge/gamble type things you get on fruit machines. They say log on/log off, and you have to hit the button when log on is lit. I wouldn't say this was easy, but I couldn't get it wrong even when I tried.
To be honest, Unitrax is, on the whole, unremarkable, but I like to be positive about these things, so I'll say that the sound is nice and the pack picture is really great.