Title Red Mars Game Type Management Sim Players 1-3 Company Elbox Computer (1999) Compatibility All (1mb Chip 1mb fast CD) Submission Joe Malloy Review Red Mars is a turn-based strategy game with all the popular components to keep you hooked: Resource management, Research, Design, and what strategy game would be complete without a Combat phase. There's 30 missions to play along with 'free play' where you can set up games for up to 4 players either computer or human. Basically the game revolves around building mines to extract 8 different types of ore. You then have the choice of sending this ore to a Power Plant to make money for making buildings and researching new robot parts, or to a Factory as resource for building more robots. In order to win the game you need to manage your resources wisely, if you don't have enough money then you cannot build, repair or upgrade robot parts. If you don't manufacture enough robots you will be overrun in no time by the waves of marauding nasties. Each time you start a mission the enitre map is blacked out and you are given an assortment of Robot Units, of which there are only four different types, Technicians, Miners, Warriors and Pioneers. Movement is comparable to Civilization with regard to what you can and cannot see. Each Robot Unit can have a maximum of 9 Bot's, although some of the units that you start the game with may only have eight. Technicians are used for manufacturing both buildings and robots, they have different skills in manufacture which effects how long the job takes. Miners strangely enough, are only good for mining. Warriors are used for punishing your opponents and defending buildings. Yes, that's 'opponents' and you can play against a maximum of three, so you're never short of something to obliterate. The only other unit that is different from the robots is the Pioneer, early in the game this unit can move the fastest, build the fastest and prospect the best. Things start getting tricky right from the off, before you can build a mine you must first do a bit of prospecting, "there's ore in them thar hills" but what type???. Prospecting is carried out by Miner bot's and the pioneer unit. Pioneers are good at this and can survey with a range of 3 squares in every direction. Miners, however, can only survey as good as their field of vision, this is dependant on which type of 'head' they use and until you research a decent head you're limited to 2 squares. You can build the most basic type of unit with just 2 types of ore, but, before long, you will need to mine all the types of ore, especially if you want to fit your warriors with that new Incinerator arm you've just invented. Once you've built a couple of mines you will need to build a Power Plant, Factory and Laboratory. These buildings come in three sizes and it's a case of, the bigger the better. Each type of ore has an equivalent value; Uranitite is the most valuable and rarest so sending this to the Power Plant will reap you lots of cash. The Laboratory is essential in winning the game, the more cash you pump into them then the quicker your technology will advance. On the Lab options screen you can specify how the research funds will be distributed between Heads, Torsos, Legs, Mining Arms, Technicians Arms, and Warrior Arms. As you can imagine the more upgrades you research then the better your units can manufacture, mine and fight. I'm not even going to attempt to work out how many different configurations of each of type of robot you can have, trust me, don't go there. Other buildings include Repair Centre's these are useful for repairing damaged units, however, if you loose a robot (or three) from a unit, you cannot replace them. The maps are really huge so its best to try and keep your buildings localised, this will help when trying to fend off those nasty Robots. You can always build teleporters if you do find a patch of ore you must have - very handy indeed, considering how slow Robots move to start with. Combat is where the game play changes, you cannot control your robots during battle but you can give them starting formations, set their preferred weapon arm (i.e. laser on Left arm, anti-matter on Right arm) and set firing distance. The effect of shooting depends on the power of a weapon, resistance of the torso to that weapon and the distance to the target. When battle commences you are presented with a kind of isometric 'slice' of terrain with these tiny robots running about blasting shots off, all you can do at this point is watch (and cheer if the mood takes you) and see if you've got your tactics right or not. Ok what's missing then?? Only Warrior units can attack. Shame - some miner bots look very scary. The combat sequence's landscape is repetitive and always flat. After each mission your researchers forget everything so it's back to square 1 - Not too bad though. You can't fit your latest designs onto old units. Each robot squad has 9 men, if you lose a few in combat you cannot replace them. Graphically it won't blow your socks off but who cares right? What I liked. Designing robots is good fun (once you've got a few upgrade under your belt!) The mission 'difficulty' setting seems to be just right. The game play is so absorbing that the hours fly by. Overall, I like it and would certainly recommend it to any one into strategy games. Don't be fooled by the low spec requirements, some of the best strategy games appeared on the ZX Spectrum years ago and are still playable now. Once you get into it you can't turn the damn thing off.