SOFTWARE REVIEW: TRACKER by Richard Karsmakers
You switch on the TV. Within nanoseconds, an artificially smiling
face, apparently belonging to the man behind the universe's most
successfull TV show: "Tracker", appears on the flat screen. The
liquid crystals on the screen quickly form and take other shapes
to match the transmitted signal of Trumbel Bullard, the game
master. You had already seen the show many times before, but it
exercised a strange kind of attraction, so you just keep watching
it whenever it was humanely possible. And you weren't
particularly the only one watching "Tracker"; a highly effective
network of sattelites and cables broadcasted the whole thing to
an average of 70% of the universe's population every time -
actually, Egron got most of its income through advertisements
before, during and after the show. An amount running into
billions of credits.
The setup was very simple. In the early days of Egron, the
Imperial Prator was keen on conquering as much from the universe
as possible, and therefore decided to train a very effective army
to achieve this goal. Experts in universal warfare were engaged
into a comittee that was to design the most perfect training
machine obtainable. So they came up with an advanced training
centre indeed, built to stimulate young pilots to help Egron
achieve the goal of Galactic Domination. It was an intelligent
combat machine that would increase the reaction speed of trainees
- and give them hell at the same time. The heart of this
"Tracker" combat training machine was the Centrepoint computer,
that controlled the defense from intruders, the repairs that had
to be performed after a trainee had blasted something to bits,
and things like that.
But now, over two centuries after the machine was built, over 60%
of the universe was under Egron rule and the machine was useless.
Destruction, however, was made virtually impossible because of
the Centrecomputer - being an intelligent power, killing all that
wanted to destroy it and constantly repairing every little damage
that was caused. The idea rose to create the biggest TV
attraction in human history out of this former training complex -
people from all over the universe could try to fly a Skimmer
craft into the maze and destroy the Centrepoint computer. The
price was immortality, the expectation was death.
Thousands of people had already died, including many inhabitants
of Novenia, your home planet. The game master was currently
interviewing another potential corpse: The 4387th. It was a girl.
Pretty good lookin' she was, and you wonder what made her commit
this act so equal to suicide. Recently, most contestants had been
older people, people with suicidal tendencies or with no hope
whatsoever for the future. They had far too slow reaction speeds,
and usually didn't quite survive the first couple of Cycloid
attacks. This girl had a glance of triumph in her eyes. She might
have a chance.
After the brief interview, the girl stepped into the Skimmer,
almost certainly heading for a quick death in the maze of
a thousand trackways. She smiles precariously at the camera sonde
that hovers quietly around her Skimmer - one of the couple of
dozen camera sondes that were to cover each horrible detail of
the battle for life and death. After all, that's what the people
liked - lots of blood and guts. Fear in her eyes. Sweat pouring
down her neck, wetting her shirt that she got from the game
master (she was originally wearing a shirt with a Funeral
Director's slogan on it, which was against the strict "Tracker"
rules). That used to increase the rating up to over 70 sometimes!
You see her leaving the safety of the harbour, into the vicious
and hostile world that was controlled by the inscrutable
Centrepoint computer. Within a matter of seconds, the first
Scouts appear, firing an occasional plasma ball. She dodges them
like she'd never done anything else in her life and zapps them to
hell. Loud explosion release themselves through the four
ovradially controlled precision speakers belonging to your
somewhat old-fashioned TV set. You slowly move to the edge of
your seat. Will this girl really have a chance? Is there a
possibility that she will not end up in the battered and
neutronised remains of her Skimmer, blasted against some callous
wall? But then you see through her techniques - she's got the
wrong one. You want to shout to help her, but realise that it
won't be of much use anyway. She's much too slow as well, and
within a few minuted she's limited to her last Skimmer
reincarnation. She frantically clutches to the controls of her
machine, when suddenly a Defender appears around the next corner.
The whole universe (at least, an estimated percentage of well
over 70%) is now witnessing the game master shouting at the
frightened girl: "Sorry babe, you've given us one more tracker to
remember.....Shame you're doing to die in 2 or 3 seconds!" The
Camera sonde zooms in at her eyes, and the next moment you see
her large, beautiful eyes pouring with tears and pure fear. One
moment further, the screen is filled by a white flash, and again
a loud explosion fills your room. The screen wobbles and turns
blank. You almost hear the game master curse because he's lost
one of his precious sondes. She's history. No blood. The program
rating will probably go down.
You KNOW what she did wrong. She followed the obvious road (like
all contestants did) - right to the Centrepoint computer rather
than destroying one sector at a time, thus gradually working her
way to it. And she forgot to destroy the communication centres as
well - just flew right past them, almost hit them with the tips
of her Skimmer's wings. Yes, she should have taken the outside
sectors first. Your thoughts focus on one idea: You, destroying
the "Tracker" complex...
You've checked everything. The routine interview (that will be
permanently displayed on a special monitor on your gravestone
untill the end of the universe, so the game master added with a
bit of a laugh) has just been performed. It even made your forget
the troubles that you went through getting to Egron (being a
Novenian, and at war with Egron, this was somewhat difficult).
Will you be able to destroy the "Tracker" Centrepiont computer?
Can you evade the dozens of tireless fighting machines that you
will undoubtedly meet on your battle? Can you out-run the repair
speeds? Can you even greet your mum and dad while doing it?
You'll never know, unless you've decided to join the wide range
of people who already bought Rainbird's new game "Tracker", a
strategical arcade action game with artificial intelligence
elements, selling at $24.95. The plot (and an amazing plot it may
be called indeed) is great, but is the game of the same quality?
The package is, again (like in most Rainbird products I've had
the pleasure to see or play), very complete - a disk, a small
novella from James Follett, a Contestant's Playguide, an A3
poster and a player reference chard. The program works on both
color-and monochrome monitors, and asks a password at the very
beginning of game play (one of about 60 words, which can be found
on a given page, paragraph and word in the 19-page novella).
When the game has actually started, the graphics immediately
leave a highly functional impression on the player. And, later,
it turns out to be some kind of a multi-screen 3D combat
simulator (with solid graphics at high speeds). The game indeed
lives up to the standards set by the plot and the novel
The game is controlled by means of the mouse in combination with
the keyboard, and the playing area is formed by a web of
trackways divided into seven sectors. You'll have to destroy all
six outside sectors, and finally you'll have to destroy the
Centrepoint computer. The screen is divided into two screens: One
combat/map screen and one 'radar' screen for the current Skimmer
you're using (you have eight of thse crafts). Saving and loading
a game is also possible, thus assuring many days of gameplay in
this highly intelligent and strategical environment. But just
don't get it into your head to load a game called "*" - have you
ever seen the Mindware debugger?
I have taken the liberty of putting some slight hints & tips into
my introductory story, so you'd better read it again if you
already have "Tracker". You might learn something from it,
although I doubt that you'll learn more than just the atmosphere
the game breaths - a game of thrilling excitement and fear...
Overall rating: 9
Remark: Incredible plot and depth
Thanks to Rainbird for sending me the game to review!
1st Floor, 64-76 New Oxford Street
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.