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Released: 1987

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Mastertronic

Developer: Icon Design

Submitted by: Steve Halfpenny

Computer games at their best can be the ultimate virtual reality but you don’t need a reality synthesizer for that form of electronic trickery (whatever that is, Mr Sony). Ever been transported to another world and jumped into the role of a Han Solo type as he shoots up aliens, navigates via faster than light teleporters and rescues the hostages? I’m sure we all have to an extent but twenty years ago you could do this for the unbelievable price of £1.99! (And a Speccy of course!)

In Rescue you play a security officer on a futuristic space station that is currently under attack so it’s probably all your fault! Anyway, there isn’t anybody to blame you, everybody’s pretty much worm food at this point. The only thing of any worth on board are cryogenically frozen scientists and their experiments, one of which is apparently the ultimate discovery (a cure for cancer or male baldness?!). Problem is, typically we don’t know which test tube it’s in, so you’re best off guiding all of these professor types and their findings back to the only escape craft. You can only do this one by one as for some reason, the station can only awaken one science guy at a time, but thankfully, the awoken party is easy to locate via a nifty little radar map in the top corner of the screen (beats the pants off a Tom Tom). What makes things tricky is that these fellow are especially terrified of the current “alien invasion” situation (pansies) and run around like lunatics whilst your main character valiantly tries to place crates and other items in their way (like yourself!) to ease them in the right direction. Or in other words, the AI of the prisoners in Rescue is so unashamedly awful that you have to wonder what is so smart about these geeks in the first place. Hopefully with some skill and the patience of Saint Clive, soon you and the smart ass you’re rescuing will reach the escape ship screens (conviniently where you also start the game) where they’ll hopefully run into one of the eight red pads located on the craft causing them to freeze instantly and go back into suspended animation. Then it’s off to bring back another survivor, if there are any that is, located in another area of the station. Don’t forget to grab their experiments (depicted by a clear test tube sprite) as one of them is apparently the ultimate discovery, remember? Then you’ll need to pick extra fuel for take off (probably best to do this first) and then, er, take off because the longer playtime goes on, the worse things get. There is constant change in Rescue as you’ll notice more damage to the station, more items destroyed and more scientists murdered in cold blood!

Yes, if things weren’t tricky enough, the aliens that teleport around the fairly big play field in this flick screen affair are not your usual slimey or big headed variety. These things look more like military vehicles and make ED-209 look like a right wuss. Enemies can drain your lifeforce through either collision or by constantly shooting you until you bite the dust! There’s one in particular, a TANK no less, who is very reminiscent of Death in Gauntlet in that he’s practically indestructible unless you shoot a missile blowing him (and the rest of the screen) to scrap metal! You see, you have this nifty little laser gun which not only finishes most of these menaces in one shot but helps you to shoot up boxes and discover all kinds of goodies (medical kits, bombs, perhaps even extra ammo to replace what you’ve just used to blow the thing up in the first place!). Your shots also bounce off walls which can both help and hinder depending on your current situation (a nightmare whilst you’re just two screens away from getting a hostage home free ).

What’s really neat is that there are the many different endings to Rescue. Ultimately you will free all eight scientists and all experiments but then this is akin to the C5 making a comeback and becoming a major success. If you’re lucky, you’ll just get through it and your ending message will congratulate you for rescuing sufficient men, reviving the ultimate discovery and give you other results. If not, you’ll get a good telling off for failing to save a few lives and test tubes or perhaps you’ll explode on take off if you didn’t salvage enough fuel!

Rescue never had a sequel nor did it appear on any other format. And that’s a real shame. I feel there’s room for something quite exceptional with this idea… a whole new mission with a different map to explore or even a level editor would have went down a storm (PC remake anyone?). As it stands, Rescue is a one off, albeit really enjoyable experience if at times, an extremely frustrating one. Now should I try and guide this last scientist to safety or should I just shoot the &%$£*$?!?!