Have you ever had to get out of bed in the middle of the night for a drink of water? It's a terrifying experience. I used to live next to a graveyard, which made the whole procedure even more horrific. First you have to get out of bed really quietly so that you don't disturb all those monsters that are hiding under the bed; then you have to run silently downstairs, and close your eyes as you pass the window that looks out onto the graveyard. Once in the hallway, switch all the lights on, thus waking everybody up. You are now safe from any aliens that might be lurking in the larder or hiding underneath the coats. Gremlin's Space Crusade is a bit like that, except you're not allowed to turn any lights on. Eek!
Space Crusade is the Grem's follow-up to their number one smash, Hero Quest. Like that, this is a conversion from an original Games Workshop boardgame but it comes from a far more elaborate game and it's a much closer conversion. Like Hero Quest, the idea of Space Crusade is to complete a number of missions. Before we have a look at those though, let's just have a peek at the plot.
I need my own space!
It's the year 2525 million and space travel is easier, and quicker, than taking the tube from Picadilly Circus to Liverpool Street. Y'see, a few years back we discovered an entire universe running parallel to our own. It's called Warp space and was home to all the lords, ladies and gentlemen of Chaos. Eek. Unfortunately, cos of mankind's meddlesomeness, a these chaotic peeps have escaped from the Warp and decided that they quite fancy a few of our planets. Double eek!
This can only mean one thing - it's time for a jolly big war. The Hundred Years war, which actually lasted for 116 years, fades into insignificance next to the War of Strife. During this happy time whole solar systems perished and the aliens gorged themselves on the bodies of entire planets for 5 000 years. It looked like the end of the line for Mr Human when who should rise up from the masses but the Emperor of Human Space. (Human space ? You mean bedrooms and pubs and things ? Ed) No I mean stars and suns and living rooms. He was a bit of an ace chap really. With only a brillo pad, yesterday s copy of The Guardian and a quarter of Kola Kubes he unified his empire and made all those creepy aliens quake in their shoes. And all cos of Kola Kubes, marvellous. (Aren't you forgetting those men in big white suits of armour. Ed) Oh, yeah. Mr Emperor also created the Space Marines who were the greatest warriors ever and set about sending all those aliens back to Chaos.
Marines? Is this where we come in?
Yep! A very important ship has been invaded by aliens whilst hurtling through Warp space. On board are three chapters of marines: there's the Blood Angels, the Ultramarines and the Imperial Fists. Each chapter consists of a commander and four plain or marines. You can take charge of one, two or three chapters. But you'll only get really confused. Anyway, it's much more fun playing with a couple of friends. The idea is to equip your chapter, choose a mission and set off into the very depths of the ship to zap aliens, run out of ammo and get back to the docking claw alive. Here's an example - 'A marine squad have been wiped out whilst testing a secret experimental weapon. Locate the experimental weapon and return it to the docking claw.' Along the way you can either act heroic and kill all the aliens you come into contact with or you can try and avoid them. You can also waste time by fighting the other chapters of marines. This can be fun, if completely unrewarding.
It all sounds so simple, doesn't it? Well, surprise, surprise, it isn't. It is, in fact, incredibly difficult cos those pesky aliens are just so darn clever. If you're not carefull you'll find yourself completely surrounded and unable to run back to the docking claw. More often than not, you'll fail your missions and a rather nasty message telling you how completely incompetent you are appears on screen. If you succeed then you'll get congratulated and your commander will be promoted through the ranks from Sergeant to, finally, Captain Senior. Promotion also gives you the chance to collect honour badges which mean that you can choose more equipment at the beginning.
Or aliens before they actually become aliens, if you see what I mean. When you use your scanner to find out just where those unearthly dudes are hanging out, some of them will appear as said blips on the map screen. They'll also come up on the main screen as blue podules when you scroll around and as soon as one of your marines spots one of these, it'll turn blue. Get even closer and you'll be able to tell exactly what sort of alien it is, and kill it. Hurrah! When you bash an alien the screen transforms itself into 3D and you can see your close-cropped chappie turn Mr Monster into a puff of smoke in massive detail. It's ace. There's a whole bundle of aliens to get rid of from orks to soul-suckers, and chaos marines to gretchins. They've got just one thing in common - they're all completely nasty and the sooner you get rid of them the better. Bleurgh!
Killing aliens is definitely fun, being killed by aliens isn't. Sometimes you can get out of being zapped by rolling your defence die. If it works then the alien dies. If it doesn't, erm, you're a gonna. Basically. Random events can also help you out, these occur before each alien turn and can actually be quite handy. For example, there's Master Control which gives you control over all the doors, so you can squash aliens in them. Wahey! Sometimes you get given a secondary mission which is a way of picking up some extra points. So, even if you don't complete the primary mission, you can still pick up some points.
Anything else we should know?
What, apart from the fact that it's completely stonking? No, not really. Space Crusade is actually tonnes better than the boardgame cos you don't have to have played it for a month to understand all the rules. All those things that take up so much time whilst playing the boardgame, like the rolling of the die and sorting out the random cards, have all been incorporated into the computer. It's so much easier! Mind you, there's still plenty for you to learn. Much of Space Crusade does depend on luck and the die, but a hell of a lot of it is down to skill. It'll be ages before you manage to finish all the missions, that's for sure.
What else? Well, the graphics are dead clear and the gameplay's dead fast considering the mass of facts and figures that have been crammed into the Speccy. In fact. The whole thing is so well done that you wonder why, if they can make Speccy games like this, people like Gremlin aren't going to be producing many more games for our li'l ol' Spec. I think you lot should go out in your droves to buy this one and prove to Gremlin that Speccy games are worth their while. Go buy, Spec-chums!
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