ZX Spectrum Starglider
Starglider was a 3D vector graphics game released by Rainbird Software in December of 1986.
The developers of the game were those 3D specialists Realtime Software, who had already given Spectrum Gamers some excellent titles in Starstrike 1 and 2 and the classic arcade Battlezone type game 3D Tank Duel.
Anyway, Realtime and Rainbird did it again with the excellent Starglider, another brilliant addition to the ranks of 3D vector space games.
There were two versions released, on for the standard 48K Spectrum and another (with enhanced features) for the Spectrum 128 and Spectrum +2. This review will concentrate on the enhanced '128' version.
Starglider had a nice backstory to set the scene in true classic gaming fashion:
For many years in a galaxy far, far away... the planet of Novenia was at peace. An automated defence system (The Sentinels) had kept unwelcome callers from outer space at bay. These huge sentinels had one policy - shoot first, ask questions later.
This rather ruthless policy worked well for a long time, until The Sentinels destroyed a harmless flock of protected interplanetary migratory birds known as Stargliders.
Under orders from Inter-Galactic green brigade, The Sentinels were immediately reprogrammed not to shoot down these harmless and gracefull creatures.
The ruthless Egrons hatched a plan to finally conquer Novenia. They disguised some ships as Stargliders and used them to bypass the Sentinel defences. With no other armed forces at all Novenia soon fell under the rule of the evil Egrons. Which was no doubt a bit of a drag.
Two Sentinel repair workers (Jason and Katra) witnessed the attack on Novenia from the safety of one of Novenia's moons. Our two heroes embark on a mission - to destroy the invading aliens using an obsolete museum fighter equipped with lasers and the capability of carrying two missiles. This is where you come in...
In this (another of our classic ZX Spectrum Games) there were more than sixteen different types of enemy craft to destroy. Each craft had to be dealt with in a slightly different way.
The action took place over the now barren land of Novenia. You had to guide your antiquated fighter around the dusty atmosphere using a co-ordinate system which divided the surface of the planet into a 100X100 grid.
The game had plenty of options for you to get your teeth into before commencing the game.
Two types of gun sight were available to you which were fixed or floating.
Before starting the game it was up to you to choose which one you desired. Floating sights affected the control of the ship - it 'followed' the sights as you moved the sight around.
Fixed sights (like a classic WW2 fighter) remained in the centre of the screen, and the ship had to be manoeuvred until the enemy craft appeared inside the target square.
An optional centering system could also be enabled or disabled at the start of the game. Automatic centering could be set on either the vertical or the horizontal axis, in all directions, or not at all.
Fully automatic centering was handy for the player as it returned your ship to straight and level flight when you left the controls alone.
This enhanced version of Starglider also included digitised speech (which would inform you of events as you were mid-mission), a superb three channel title tune and extra missions that either involved destroying an invader or picking up some extra powerups for your craft.
Custom add-ons included super missiles which had a longer range, power packs which temporarily negated the need for you to refuel, and a rear view mirror (being able to 'see' the action behind you was very impressive at the time).
Once you made it to the latter levels you needed these extra power-ups as the enemies were more deadly than in the standard 48K version.
Repair depots dotted the Novenian landscape and you could enter them with careful flying to fix up your craft and pick up a missile (as long as you didn't already have two fitted).
Your ships instrument panel displayed horizontal bars showing shield strength, power reserves and a fuel guage. Two vertical indicators showed how high you were and how fast you were travelling. The height bar would warn you and flash red if the craft went too close to the ground - hitting the ground was a quick way to drain your shields.
In another smart piece of coding the game would switch to 'missile view' whenever you fired a missile. You had to 'home' the missile in on target before it ran out of fuel - which could be a little tricky. The 'super missiles' gave you a longer flight time to find your target.
Three missile hits were required to destroy a main enemy fighter, and when you did an instant replay of the destruction was showed to you - yet another great touch by the programmers.
10,000 points later and you were onto the next level and the game became more difficult...
Starglider was heralded on it's release due to it's polished presentation (the cassette was even accompanied by a 64 page novel), supberb sound effects (including speech you could actually understand!), smooth and well animated vector graphics and excellent gameplay.
This game had a perfect mix of arcade action and tactics - you had to plan your routes across the planet and know where to pick up your repairs and extra missiles. The 128 version had worthwile enhancements over the 48K version - using the extra capabilities of the machine well. Crash magazine awared (the 128 version) an overall score of 97%. Even though Starglider retailled at a whopping £14.95 the depth of the gameplay and bundled novel justified the high price.
The test of time:
Your humble reviewer here remembers Starglider very well. In amongst the vast ZX Spectrum games that are available, Starglider remains one of the best vector shoot em up's you can get. The animation is still pretty good and the game moves along at a fair old pace. Still playable, Rainbird's classic is worth digging out again. Oh, and the digitised voice is pretty sexy too.
This classic game is definately worth playing after all these years.
Give this one a go and glide again.
We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Starglider for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: 3D Vector Game (Arcade Game)
RELEASE DATE: Christmas 1986
RELEASED BY: Rainbird
DEVELOPER(S): Realtime Software
PRICE: £14.95 - UK
Mart tries to recapture his youth (and fails) in Starglider - Classic Gaming:
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