"Things are more like they are now than they ever were before."
Dwight D. Eisenhower
ST SOFTWARE REVIEW: SIMULCRA BY MICROSTYLE
by J. Horneman
Lord Jason felt vaguely uncomfortable. Everything seemed
completely normal in the quiet inn on the waterfront: some
sailors who had returned to shore after months on sea were
celebrating their return and the usual drunks were hanging on
the bar, trying to forget. He was lurking in a dark corner,
drinking some wine, as was his habit. The fact that all was as
it should be made the sense of impending danger even more
unnerving. Just as he was about to take another sip from his
wine, the door opened and a group of soldiers entered. Lord Jason
felt the hairs in his neck rise. The leader of the soldiers, a
tall, lumbering sergeant with a red moustache, asked some
questions of the landlord, who reluctantly answered and pointed
in the direction of Lord Jason. As the men made their way across
the room, Lord Jason tensed and prepared for violence. The
sergeant stopped at his table, coughed, and asked,
"My humble apologies, my Lord, but would you happen to be Lord
"So I am," replied Lord Jason in a sardonic tone.
"Ah. Well," said the sergeant, "I'm afraid I must ask you to
accompany us to our superiors. It has to do with a certain
"Do as you please," said Lord Jason, and thrust the table
forward with all his might, thereby causing a great deal of chaos
and incapacitating the sergeant and his men. Quickly, Lord Jason
jumped over the crawling soldiers and rushed out the door.
Outside, he mounted his steed, Azatoth, and rode off in the
direction of the city gates. Behind him he could hear the loud
curses of the sergeant, and soon after that the sound of pursuing
horses. As he neared the gates, he looked back. Twelve riders.
That wasn't good. He whispered a word in Azatoth's ear and felt
the dark grey stallion increase his speed. Now those fools would
see why the horses of his homeland, the hills of Morelay, were
called demon steeds. Lord Jason smiled grimly. Behind him, the
city became ever smaller.
After an hour of frantic riding , Lord Jason had lost the
soldiers. He slowed down to a canter on a dark forest road and
contemplated on why they had tried to capture him. He had hoped
the incident with the document had been forgotten, but obviously
this was not the case. Lord Jason gnashed his teeth. They would
never get it, as long as he lived. Suddenly he heard riders,
approaching fast. They were coming towards him. Friend or foe? He
decided not to risk it, and turned around. There had been a
crossroads not too far back. He increased his speed and took the
left road, which was no more than a narrow path. Recklessly, he
gave Azatoth free rein and thundered down the trail, branches
lashing his face and snapping off. He heard the riders behind
him. They were after him! Azatoth was too tired to run at top
speed. He would have to hope they would get lost in the forest.
They didn't. Lord Jason had left the woods behind him a long
time ago, but the riders were still after him. Azatoth was
getting exhausted, flecks of foam covered his body. When Lord
Jason took a quick look over his shoulder, he could make out the
blue uniforms of the riders in the pale moonlight. This spelled
trouble. He was riding over a long, flowing plain now, covered
with rough grass and patches of heather. Only as he saw the
yawning chasm coming up and heard the surf far below did he
realize he had been heading towards the coast. He pulled on the
reins, trying to turn and get away in another direction, but it
was too late. The riders had caught up with him. He was
One rider moved his horse forward. It was a young captain, who
was still breathing heavily from the long ride. He managed to
catch his breath and said triumphantly :
"So, Lord Souleater, will you give us the manuscript? Or will we
have to take it by force?" He grinned.
Lord Jason didn't move. He considered the alternatives, examined
his situation. His lightning mind saw the only possible way out.
"Never! You will never get the review for Simulcra!", he cried,
and steered Azatoth over the edge of the cliff.
Alright, I admit, that was a bit corny. The most important thing
however, is that I finally finished this review. Anyway, what
about "Simulcra" then?
So what's the story? Simulcra is a gigantic computer network
used for battle training, which generates a symbiotic association
with it's operators through cortex-chips blah blah. Sadly, it has
been infected by a virus, incapacitating all logged-in pilots.
The only way to remove the virus and save the defence force, is
to log in yourself and attempt to close down the main power
generators on each level. However, each power generator sustains
a power barrier, which cannot be crossed, and each level is
filled with highly aggressive aliens. Only a fool would enter
here... or a hero.
At least, that seems to be one of the versions of the plot in
"Simulcra"... it's all a bit vague. I certainly couldn't figure
out the introductory novel, and that had nothing to do with it
being written in German. Oh well, the plot isn't important.
The first thing you notice about "Simulcra" is that it is quite
probably inspired by "Tron". The horizon in the game, certain
types of aliens, it all has that same atmosphere. The second
thing I noticed was that it was an excellent piece of
programming. If you're a programmer like me, you'll certainly
appreciate the 3D explosions, the light-shading and the shadows.
Yes, that's right; every object casts a shadow on the landscape,
and every polygon is made brighter or darker depending on it's
angle and distance to an imaginary lightsource. There's a lot of
cheating involved of course, but it looks brilliant nonetheless.
And the explosions are really 3D. Just fly your craft against a
power barrier and watch the sparks fly along an imaginary plane.
Then rotate, and watch the sparks rotate as well. It can't be
described, you have to see it. All this, combined with a
beautifully designed control panel makes for a game which is
worth it's money for aesthetic achievements alone.
But, as everyone knows, pretty pictures are easy, gameplay is
hard. Well, "Simulcra" has got loads of that too. The moment you
enter the first level (after having seen the brilliant animation
sequence), you are shot at. Only frantic turning, moving forwards
and backwards and shooting like hell allows you to survive. The
aliens appearing out of the darkness and the maze-like quality of
the levels makes this game completely absorbing.
Every alien you shoot leaves behind a pod. Here is a list of all
types of pods and what they do :
- SU : Speed-up
- RAD : Activates radar. Extremely useful.
- FFG : Gives you target-seeking missiles.
- TAD : Targetting system for the missiles.
- BAT : Restores shields.
- ECM : Electronic Counter Measures. Confuses enemy missiles.
- SFB : Gives you solid fuel for your booster.
Booster? Yes. In glider-mode your simulcraft can fly around.
This can be very handy and is sometimes essential. Sadly, it is
quite hard to fly extremely short distances.
On the battle-grid you will find small hangars, revealing either
an extra life or a complete shield restoration when shot. Apart
from various unfriendly installations, you will regularly
encounter power barriers, which cannot be crossed and deplete
your shields on touch. To remove these, you must find and disable
the barrier generators. Destroy them, and you can watch the power
barrier slowly retreating. You can actually drive after it if you
want, it's all done properly in "real" time. If you destroy the
final generator, the entire level dissolves in a spectacular way.
The game is by no means easy, especially on the later levels.
Try shooting a power generator while being shot at by some tanks,
or driving along a deadly power barrier... but it's certainly a
lot of fun. The only negative points I could find were the odd
control (the "camera" doesn't rotate with the same speed as your
craft, making fast turning and shooting a bit hard), and the fact
that you have to play all the levels each time you play (no
passwords or save game facility).
To end this, I would like to mention that "Simulcra" was made by
Graftgold. It's a bit confusing, but I believe the game was
started by Dominic Robinson ("Uridium", "Zynaps") and was
finished by Steve Turner ("Dragontorc", "Quazatron", "Rana
Rama"). These are two people I respect quite a lot and therefore
they are mentioned here.
The interesting bit :
Value for money: 8-
Price: DM 89,-
Hardware: Colour monitor and joystick
Remark: Passwords to the levels
Editorial note: Thanks, Jurie, for finally submitting it to us.
As fate would have it, this review reached the proper destination
on January 13th 1992.
Two days earlier, ST NEWS Volume 7 Issue 1 had been finished.
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.