Title Pioneer Plague Game Type Shoot-em-up Publisher Madarin Software Developer Bill Williams Players 1 Compatibility OCS (Select at bootup for AGA machines) HD Installable No Submission Christopher Owen Review The Story The story behind Pioneer Plague is as follows... In the future, available habitat on the planet Earth gets slightly overcrowded, you know, breeding and all that, and the rate at which we can colonise other planets effectively is not quite able to keep up. A solution must be found. That solution is the Pioneer Probe Mark IV. It's job is to float around in space, terraforming planets it finds into paradises complete with beaches, highrise apartments and cafes. After it finishes on one planet, it replicates itself and it's many copies buzz off to various corners of the galaxy to repeat the process. Hmmm. Predictibly, something malfunctions, and we end up with an army of probes wandering around converting planets into huge sprawling metropolis's, quite ugly indeed. Uh oh. Of course, another malfunction causes the probe to terraform planets even if they are already inhabited, converting the hapless lifeforms into raw materials for construction. Yikes. Oh, and naturally the probes can construct fleets of robotic ships to defend itself with. Damn. One last thing, the probes are coming to YOUR home system and that spells one thing: Big Trouble. This is where you step in. The Game Basically, the object of the game is to fly your fighter across the terraformed planets, trying to stop the spread of the Pioneer Probes by destroying hatches on the surface which launch more Probes off the planet, while all the time defending yourself from waves of attacking fighters. If one of the probes manages to get away, you will have a harder time trying to contain them and stopping them from spoiling all the planets in the system, which is the ultimate objective of this game. One of the unique features of this game is the ability to program two drones with up to five attack patterns. These drones are absolutely vital to your mission, as they can defend you from attack, suck energy from the city to top up your shields, and destroy flak emplacements on the ground. At the start of the game, you have the opportunity to go to the drone programming simulator and to program the five patterns by moving the drone around with the joystick. When the game starts, you can launch a drone with your pattern of desire by pressing the corresponding hot key for that pattern. You can also save your patterns to disk so that you can just load them in next time you play. A nifty idea that really adds to the game and makes it stand out from the others. The only other part of the game to mention is the flying from planet to planet sequence. The game presents you with a 3D wormhole style grid and you must try and "spear" a gravity well to escape. The longer you spend in the wormhole, the more time the Pioneer Probes have to set up more hatches on the planets, and the more work you will have once you get there, so your mouse skills are important. Graphics This game was released in 1988, and I must say that the graphics are quite good for a game made in the OCS era. This of course may have something to do with the fact that many of the game's screens are rendered in 4,096 colour HAM mode, which makes for some very nice static screens. The actual graphics in the action sequences of the game are adequate with the game's storyline allowing for repetitive, drab cityscapes in the background, with occasional large bodies of water. Sprites for the fighters are nicely done, with the player's fighter being a particularly large sprite. The player's instrument panel is well layed out and lets you see at a glance just how deep in it you are, with such things as number of hatches remaining, fuel and shield levels, and the status of your drones. In general, the graphics in this game have been well implemented, and fit in with the game's style neatly. Sound The music in this game has been put to good use in adding to the frantic nature of trying to hunt down and destroy hatches while fending off hordes of bad ships. Explosions are suitably loud and forceful, reminiscent of those found in Silkworm. A nice touch is having the music tempo while you are in a wormhole get faster and faster while you try and escape from it, constantly building the pressure on the player to try and spear a gravity well. All in all, good use of the Amiga's four channel stereo has been made, a fine achievement for a single disk game. Conclusion I have to say, Pioneer Plague is one of the more played games in my collection, and while it is not brilliant, it is a decent shoot em up with some nice elements. The games difficulty is particularly hard, and in the six or so years that I have owned it, I have yet to beat it. You are doing particularly well if you survive the third wave. There are only a few minor quibbles with the game, one of these is that the pace of the game later on makes it very hard to take your hand away from the joystick to deploy your drones. It is hard enough trying to dodge laser fire and mines without having to do it with only one hand, although playing totally from the keyboard alleviates this problem somewhat. To finish, Pioneer Plague is an interesting shooter with some original ideas and a nice resource management element thrown in. A decent addition to any games library.