Screenshot of Comando Quatro

Comando Quatro

(Zigurat, 1989)

Four beings – a World War II fighter pilot, a devil, a miner and an albino gorilla – have been mysteriously transported to another world. Each one begins the game in a different zone – a military base, a cemetery, a mine or a jungle – but their minds and bodies are linked, which means that you can change the character you are controlling and swap them between zones. Understanding their characteristics and knowing which one to select in any given situation is vital in order to progress in this platform game. However, the game constantly changes the zone you are currently in every few seconds, just to make things more confusing! The gameplay is not as complicated as it seems, although it’s easy to select the wrong character when you’re losing lots of energy. On the other hand, the graphics are very colourful and appealing.

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Screenshot of Comando Tracer

Comando Tracer

(Dinamic, 1988)

The three planets belonging to the XATOR Confederation – Zorak, Alfard and Grisum – have been taken over by intelligent androids, and the only way to remove them is to destroy the planets. It seems a rather drastic solution! Explosive devices have been placed on each of the planets, and you have to arm them by flying around the planets and collecting batteries to insert into them; each device requires three colours of battery. This game was re-released in the UK as The Last Commando, and it’s a very good space shoot-’em-up indeed. The graphics and music are both up to Dinamic’s high standards, although completing the game requires a lot of luck as well as skill.

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Screenshot of Combat Lynx

Combat Lynx

(Durell, 1985)

Reviewed by Robert Small

The thing that impresses the most about Combat Lynx is the rolling landscape effect that has been created as you fly over the hills and villages. It really is an impressive graphical trick and it’s worth loading up just to take a look at this alone. The rest of the game is also rather good. The loading screen is rather poor but the wireframe rotating helicopter when you are landed at a base looks excellent. Your engine noise is unobtrusive, which is always good. In terms of gameplay this is another game that sits on that fine line between arcade and simulation. Most will be able to fly about OK but there are a lot of readouts to monitor and keys to remember. Despite the scalable difficulty it isn’t an easy game by any stretch. However, the various weapons, large map and good mission variety (it’s not all about combat) should see this game given a chance.

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Screenshot of Combat School

Combat School

(Ocean, 1987)

The Elite Marine Corps are the toughest army in the USA, and you’re aiming to be recruited and join their ranks. You’ll have to complete some gruelling events first to show your strength, including an assault course, three firing ranges, an iron man race, arm wrestling, and lastly, a fight with your combat instructor. If you beat him, you’re in, and you’ll be sent on a mission to rescue a hostage in a US embassy. This is one of those joystick-waggling (or perhaps that should be joystick-wrecking) games, and in all the times I’ve tried it, I’ve managed to complete the assault course once. Nice graphics, nice tunes; shame that it’s far too tough. If you’re strong enough to tackle the assault course, you’re probably good enough for the real thing!

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Screenshot of Combat Zone

Combat Zone

(Alternative Software, 1987)

Colonel John D. Mentor has been called out of retirement to enter the Combat Zone. Flying your spacecraft through six levels, you must destroy ten enemy installations (represented as flashing objects on the ground) on each level using your unlimited supply of bombs, while simultaneously firing bullets at waves of alien enemies. Other ground targets can also be bombed to give you extra fuel; if you run out of fuel, the game ends. This is a fairly standard vertically scrolling shoot-’em-up with bright, colourful graphics, although this means that enemy fire can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from the backgrounds. However, the sound effects are poor, and the game is too easy – a fact that even the game’s authors seem to acknowledge when you complete the final level!

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Screenshot of Comet Encounter

Comet Encounter

(LiveWire Software, 1986)

The return of Halley’s Comet was big news in 1986, and this game sees you attempting to become the first spacecraft to land on the comet itself – but you’ve got to fly through a long obstacle course before you reach the comet. Starting at the top of the screen, you must guide the spacecraft through the scenery and dodge the moving aliens. However, on many screens, there’s very little room to manoeuvre, as you will discover when (if?) you reach the fourth screen, which I found impossible to complete. The graphics, while lacking in colour, actually aren’t all that bad, although there are only two or three sound effects. Anyway, the game is much too difficult.

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Screenshot of The Comet Game

The Comet Game

(Firebird, 1986)

This game was supposed to have been released in time for the appearance of Halley’s Comet, but the deadline was missed. Anyway, a manned probe has been sent to explore the surface of the comet, and while it’s on its way there, you have to complete twenty tasks, picked at random from five sub-games ranging from playing with electrical circuits to making the tea! Complete a task and you’re OK; fail and the game is over. Most of the games are enjoyable, but it’s such a chore having to play them over and over again. It would be nice if you could actually pilot the probe.

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Screenshot of Commando

Commando

(Elite, 1985)

It’s one man against an army as you go it alone and advance into enemy lines and try to reach the fortress, as bullets, grenades and rockets explode all around you – there’s no way you’re going to retreat. You have to try to replenish your own supply of grenades as you’re doing this, too. From the first moment you start the game, you’ll be shocked at the amount of action going on – there’s no time to take a breather here. The graphics are OK but are a bit blocky, while the music, again reasonable, becomes irritating – and where’s the rat-tat-tat of gunfire? It’s a good game, but a bit too difficult for my liking.

See also: Duet.

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Screenshot of Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Games

(Tynesoft, 1986)

This collection of six sporting events is also known as European Games, having been rebranded after the cover artwork depicted an athlete giving what looks like a Nazi salute – oops! In each of the events, you have to waggle the joystick or press two keys alternately, although unlike a lot of games of this nature, you don’t have to do this really quickly. The six events are the hammer throw, swimming, cycling, running, the long jump, and weightlifting. The graphics are poor and the animation is laughably bad, particularly in the swimming and running events, where the athletes move a bit, stop, then move a bit more, then stop again, and so on. To borrow an athletics-based idiom, the bar for qualifying is set very low, and you can progress to the next event even if you don’t qualify. It may not break your joystick, but I’ve played much better multi-event games than this one.

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Screenshot of Compendium

Compendium

(Gremlin Graphics, 1987)

In the old days, families would gather around at Christmas time to play some traditional board games. This is a compilation of four games – Snakes and Hazards, Xmas Ludo, Shove a Sledge and Tiddly Drinks. The first two are variations of well known board games, while the other two are very different, and so awful that they’re not worth looking at. Up to four people can play a game, but unfortunately you can’t play against the computer, and playing a board game on your own is not exactly fun. The graphics are reasonable, and there are some excellent renditions of Christmas carols, but there’s nothing else to get excited about.

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