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Three stunning new games for the new year from the west country's premier software house. Pete Connor goes all the way to Taunton to preview them for you.
In the county town of Ian Botham country - and Amstrad Action country - is one of Britain's classiest software houses, Durell. You'll know them from Harrier Attack and Combat Lynx. Now they've got three stunning new games poised to make a big impact on Arnold owners early in the new year. We've made the long and arduous journey to Taunton to bring you the good news of Critical Mass, Saboteur and Turbo Esprit.
This sizzling game takes place on an asteroid, which seems only fair since it will remind many old hands of that arcade classic Asteroids. Old hands, though, may have to just sit back and admire - this is a game that requires the quickest of reactions and toughest of nerves.
It all happens on a remote asteroid in an outlying system of the Terra Foundation where nasty aliens have primed the anti-matter conversion plant to go bananas. You have to get through and deactivate the thing before it reaches critical mass and makes a critical mess of everything for a few thousand parsecs around.
You get around on the asteroid's surface m what the Durell mob like to call a' skidoo '. a neat and nippy little craft controlled by accelerating or by rotating left and right - just as in Asteroids. This ‘vectored flight' will pose beginners some tricky problems. If you want to turn round the oniy way to do it is to rotate 180 degrees and thrust. Not easy when you've got a vicious alien on your tail.
Critical Mass has five distinct stages before you reach to your goal. After you've boarded the skidoo which emerges. like Venus, from a clam-like garage - you set off across the hostile landscape, blasting anything in range. As you make progress, aliens become more numerous and much nastier. As well as gigantic golfballs rolling around evil worms will rear ther ugly heads from the alien soil Previously static mines will rise and come whirling after you; chaos clouds of molecular disorientation will blast you off course Each gruesome death you die sees your ship exploding into a million particles of disintegration.
There's just about everything you could ask of a shoot-em-up m Critical Mass- speed, mayhem, fear and monsters from outer space, all executed in graphics of the highest quality. Experience the thrills and the chills soon on the Amstrad.
You skidoo zaps on alien or two
Critical Mass was programmed originally on the Spectrum by Simon Francis, an 18-year-old from Crewkerne In deepest Somerset. He's a pretty quick fellow at the keyboard: Robert White once brought him an Amstrad to consider, called back two weeks later to see how was getting on - and picked up a completed game.
Simon, though, is not doing the Amstrad version of Mass, which has been entrusted to Dean Lock, one of Durell's outside programmers.
Simon Francis - the Critical Mass man
Do you sincerely want to be a hero? Do you really want to penetrate a top secret, high-security base, do battle with dozens of guards, wrestle with man-eating dogs, find and capture a staggeringly important disc, plant a bomb and then fight your way out to a helicopter on the roof to make good your escape?
Well, you don't need to join the CIA or the KGB just have a go at Saboteur, An evil fascist dictatorship has taken over the country don't ask me which country - and your task as a mercenary is to capture the disc containing the rebel leaders' names and then escape before your bomb does for the baddies.
You won't find it easy this game has 118 rooms. And they're not laid out in a simple way. You have to go through sewers, take underground trains in the right order, find your way through a maze of tunnels and a tangle of girders. So you'll need some nifty mapping skills.
Not to mention some hardened combat skills. From the moment you leap out of your dinghy at the start of the game it's action-packed stuff You somersault and jump around, engage in karate chop-ups with guards, find and use a variety of weapons, all the while keeping an eye out for those snapping doggies. The animation is superb and these action scenes are really tough.
The fun and excitement of Saboteur are virtually doubled by the fact that after fighting and finding your way in to the building, you have to find and fight your way out - with that bomb ticking away all the time. The tension is almost unbearable.
Look out — there's o Dobermann about !
Saboteur Is the work of 18-year-old Clive Townsend, a Welshman now resident In Taunton. It Is, In fact, his first commercially released program - an earlier effort for Durell was deemed unfit for human consumption. Saboteur is all Clive's own work, from original Idea through to programming of both Amstrad and Spectrum versions.
Clive has a slightly punk-look to him, an air accentuated on the day of visit to Durell by the fact that he had only recently emerged from his bed. Despite his predilection for the Pot Noodle, he did manage to eat some fresh-ish food at lunchtime.
Of the wacky bunch at Durell, Clive is by far the wackiest. One of his favourite hobbies appears to be jumping from bridges: only the week before my visit he had leaped 20 feet into the raging torrent of a weir. Unfortunately, he missed the torrent and hit the brickwork, incurring a painful heel injury.
Although he regularly stays up half the night working on programs, Clive doesn't think his long term future lies in computing: 'I want to be a child psychologist', he says, ‘because I like kids and because I'm interested in people's brains.' Still, there might be time for a few more programs as good as Saboteur before Clive hangs up his assembler and dons the white coat.
Fasten your safety belts it's going to be a bumpy ride. This is a driving game par excellence, from the man who brought you the outstanding Combat Lynx Mike Richardson. In his new program he doesn't just give you the chance to drive around like crazy and shoo: people. No, he also gives you the chance to do some good by ridding the world of some very evil people - international drug traffickers.
Seated in your Lotus Turbo Esprit you drive through a city in pursuit of the smugglers. Buildings loom up on every side. Traffic lights halt your progress - unless you want to flatten a few of those pedestrians crossing the road. Watch out for them again at the zebra crossings, or you'll lose even more points. Roads change from two lanes to six in the twinkling of an eye.
Before you know what's happened you could find yourself being pursued by the very people you were pursuing a moment ago. But don't wor ry - all you have to do is acceler ate like a lunatic, turn a couple of 90 degree comers around the block and come up on their tail before fixing them in your cross hairs and giving them a dose of instant law enforcement.
The individual delivery cars are backed up by hit squads posing an additional threat. Your ultimate aim is to get the armoured van the cars are delivering to. But there's a lot of driving. shooting and mapping to do before you'll get that far.
|Mike Richardson first made his mark on the games playing nation with Scuba Diver; a strange and compelling underwater game on the Spectrum way back in the summer of 1984. Arnoldians, though, will probably know him best as the author of Harrier Attack, one of the games provided in the Amstrad introductory pack - a cool 100,000 must have been given away already, and as many more been sold over the computer counters of the country. |
But Mike's most impressive achievement — until Turbo Esprit -is probably Combat Lynx, a fascinating game in which you pilot a helicopter over a large area while engaging a variety of enemies in combat. It's a game that's lasted really well: you only have to look at our Cheat Mode pages to see that.
Turbo Esprit is, In a way, a developement of the same idea. Instead of flying over a landscape, you drive through a cityscape. But the idea didn't come so simply. At one of Durell's Think Tank sessions Mike came up with the idea of Honeycomb Planet, a Combat Lynx derivative in which the player would guide his ‘copter through the 3D caverns of a planet. It proved to be too slow. Robert White suggested a similar idea in a city. In the end they came up with Turbo Esprit.
Apart from being Durell's best-known and best-regarded programmer, Mike is famous for what Robert White calls his ‘laid-back attitude'. He also has one of the driest senses of humour this side of the Gobi Desert. Mike used to be a chemist. But, as he says, ‘It gets a bit boring after the first ten years'.
The view through from the controls.
He's held in exceptionally high regard by Robert White and the rest of the Durell team. Robert White says of him: ‘I could tell him to write a program about jellyfish and it would be really good'.
The Amstrad version of Turbo Esprit is in the hands of Nick Wilson. He may only be 17, but he's been programming for four years, the last one and a half of them at Durell. He's written a platform game called Mineshaft on the BBC and converted Combat Lynx to the same machine. Obviously a young man of many talents.
Nick Wilson - slaving away lo get you Turbo Esprit
The Inside Story
Now get this right: it's pronounced Dew-Rell, with the accent on the second syllable You'd better get it right because, because mis pronunciation of the name, says Robert White, is 'the one thing that makes me hysterically traumatised.'
Durell is the name of the company because it is Robert White's middle name and because it seemed more suitable than the only other alternative he had Wobblesoft. After spending a few hours m the Taunton off ices of the company you might wonder whether Wobblesoft wouldn t more accurately describe the slighty manic atmos phere that prevails.
It's the sort of place where the bank manager rings up as he did during my visit to ask if they've got any good games for his new Arnstrad 6128. It's the sort of place where it hardly seems unusual :hat Robert While began as an art student, trained as a teacher, changed to Quantity Surveying and ended up designing hospitals on computer before starting his own software house with an Oric and a few programs he d now rather forget.
it was in 1983 that Robe: t's ad in the Somerset County Gazette attracted the attention of Mike Richardson. who promptly wrote Jungle Troubles and Harrier Attack - the programs that started Durell on the road to success Now there are 9 full-time programmers employed a: Durell. plus another three freelances who can be called on when the need arises. The launch of the three games previewed . here should make them one of the most important software houses around in 1986.
|Business Insight |
Robert White holds some pretty Here are the censored forthright views on the state of the highlights software industry and its future.
Robert White - the founder of Durell, still going strong at 32
Team photo In one of Taunton's mony beauty spots
AMSTRAD ACTION #5
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