Format reviewed: Amstrad CPC
Publisher: Blade Software
Developer: Target Games
Submitted by: Neil Reive
Best game ever! There, I've said it. There's no taking it back now. Many people – including several ex-Amstrad Action staff – regard this game as the best CPC game ever. It's an influential strategy game that broke the usual boring mould of shoot-'em-ups and platform games and its influence on strategy games can be seen years after its release.
Following the Spectrum’s release in 1988, the game finally appeared on the Amstrad CPC in 1989. Laser Squad is a science fiction tactical wargame that is played in a series of game turns. Each player takes turns to control their individual units, which represent humans, droids or aliens. For each turn, units are given a limited number of “Action Points” which can be used for performing functions such as moving, equipping weapons, firing, opening doors/locks, etc. Once all “Action Points” are used the “End Turn” option can be selected and the computer (or human player 2) takes over for their turn. The eventual winner of a mission is the first side to reach 100 victory points.
A unique feature of the game is the realistic “hidden movement” system, which means that the enemy will not appear on the map unless they have moved into the “field of vision” of one of your units. Another strategic element that is essential to winning missions is “Opportunity fire”. If a unit is left with at least half its “Action Point” allowance at the end of their turn, then they will be eligible for “opportunity fire”. “Opportunity fire” is triggered when an opposing unit enters the “field of vision”, where you can then take the chance to fire at the enemy with your remaining APs.
An Expansion Kit was made available in 1990 with two extra missions: The Stardrive and Laser Platoon. Both missions boasted improved graphics and gameplay. Over a decade later I was still playing Laser Squad, struggling to get the dusty old CPC down from my spacious attic and firing up the now unreliable tape deck into action. Great times and a great game.
Format reviewed: Commodore 64
Publisher: Target Games
Developer: Nick Gollop
Submitted by: Mat Allen
Somewhere in the mists of time, the Gollop brothers developed and coded the classic Rebelstar. At some point later there was the excellent X-Com series. Somewhere in between was this, one of the greatest strategy games of all time, and certainly one of the best unit based combat games ever released.
This feature has barely enough words to scratch the surface of the complexity and depth that the game offers, so it is best left to try and describe it in terms of what you can expect when playing. The simple answer to that is just about ruddy anything. Having kitted up your troops and deployed them to the map, it's time to set about completing the objective. Let's take the first one in the game, Assault on the Moonbase.
You have five guys looking to bump off their ex-employer within his house. Defending it are several robot sentries armed with lasers. Each turn your men have a certain number of "action points" to spend performing tasks such as moving, shooting and opening things. As you move about the building you must be careful not to run into enemies without having enough points to shoot back. Or then be caught in sniping fire next turn. Your men can only see other units within their line of sight, meaning it is entirely possible to be caught unawares.
You could try the stealth route, sneak round slowly and take one room at a time. Or blaze in with a group of people and hope to overwhelm the enemy. Or if you're that gung-ho, buy a rocket launcher and take the building apart piece by piece! The game offers many tactics and strategies for each scenario which adds to the longevity.
The computer AI is pretty good, it knows when to attack and when to retreat, but nothing can beat facing a real person as the AI lacks the subtlety of approach and sheer unpredictiveness that a human can provide. One of those true classics that sadly not enough people know about and should be heralded more.