Reviewed by Jim Short


Issue 20

Mar/Apr 86

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64K cassette for XL & XE £9.95
48K cassette for 400 & 800 9.95
48K disk (all models) 12.95
1 player

You are cruising through space when your ship suddenly goes out of control and you are forced to crash-land on the nearby planet of Targ. You immediately find yourself slap-bang in the middle of a war between the normally peaceful Palyars - inhabitants of the planet - and the invading Mechanoids. Adopting a Mercenary role (more out of need than out of choice) you proceed to explore the planet, hoping to find the ways and means of escape. It will be a long and sometimes frustrating process, but it can be done. Indeed, escape can be achieved in a number of different ways, but you must box clever. You can choose to swear allegiance to either side or play them both off against each other in a bid to lay your hands on the intergalactic craft which will take you away from Targ. Your only true friend in all this is the ever-reliable BENSON - an almost human PC which you managed to salvage from the crash - and he will keep you well informed of any important happenings and won't hesitate to offer advice whenever he thinks f you need it!

And so the scene is set for MERCENARY- 'Escape from Targ', (the second game from Paul Woakes who's previous effort was the enormously popular ENCOUNTER (in my opinion, the best ever game from a UK programmer). However, if you're expecting ENCOUNTER Mark II then think again. Using hi-res vector graphics (geometrical 3-D shapes), MERCENARY is not so much an arcade game as a unique combination of flight simulation, adventure and arcade action, which Novagen describe as a 'World Simulator'. The game is based around a player's-eye view of the proceedings with the action taking place in real time as you set about exploring the cities of Targ and their mysterious subterranean complexes, all the while becoming more deeply embroiled in the continuing conflict between the Palyars and their robot foes.

When you are tired of trekking around on foot you can hop aboard anyone of a variety of high-speed craft which will make travelling a whole lot quicker and easier. You will also find many objects scattered about in random locations which can be picked up and dropped at will. Some will help you in your quest, others will not. The rest is for you to discover. MERCENARY is, above all else, a game of exploration and discovery. A complete new world has been created for you to explore, so the idea is simply to get out there and get on with it!

To be perfectly honest, I had rather mixed feelings about MERCENARY to begin with. Whilst recognising it's technical merits, I couldn't really fathom the game out even in it's initial stages. I was told (by BENSON) to go to a certain location where the Palyars wouId offer me a job, but I spent literally hours wandering around in circles unable to co-ordinate the directions. And then I discovered how to work the compass properly and everything clicked into place. Now I'm totally hooked on the game. It's brilliant!

So far I've explored the underground complex, traded with the Palyars, double-crossed the Mechanoids and ran off ith their leader, and I'm determined to escape from Targ if it's the last thing I do (which it probably will be!). It's worth mentioning here that, as MERCENARY could conceivably play forever, you can save current gameplay to disk or tape at any time.

I confidently predict that MERCENARY will become an Atari classic in much the same way that Elite has on other micros. Forget all about zapping t aliens for once - that's only for 'Sun Readers' anyway! - and enjoy a game that requires logic, cunning, wisdom, imagination and a host of other resources you won't find on the end of an itchy trigger finger. Have you got what it takes to become a MERCENARY?

Footnote: If you do manage to escape from Targ it will be beneficial to you in MERCENARY II. It's great to know a follow-up is already planned.