Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Academy'

Rating:5 User: Matt_B

After the big hit that was Tau Ceti, Pete Cooke revisited the same theme with this follow up. The basic idea behind the game is that of training to become a GalCorp skimmer pilot; essentially the role you had in the previous game.

To do this, the game has twenty missions. These are much smaller than Tau Ceti's huge planet spanning play area, but offer much more in the way of variety. Some, such as the aptly titled "If it moves..." are pretty much just plain shoot 'em ups, whilst others will test your navigational, puzzle solving and all round skills. There's even a mission called "Tau Ceti Revisited" in which you take on the challenge from the previous game, albeit somewhat slimmed down.

A nice feature of the game is that you can design your own skimmer. Much of the equipment; jump/door unit, scanner, ADF, target/track unit, missiles, flares, AMMs, etc. will be familiar to those who've played Tau Ceti but there are a few interesting additions such as the delay bombs which allow you to blast groups of enemies or take out heavily armoured buildings. You also get to pick the screen layout of your skimmer, which allows you to place all the viewers and gauges to suit your preferences.

The whole game has a nice graphical user interface; missions, skimmers and other options are all selected using a pointer that you move with joystick or selected keys. At certain points in the game there's a text interface too where you type in commands for the skimmer. A neat touch is that it'll still recognize some misspelled commands e.g. it'll figure out that you meant launch if you type lunch.

The graphical effect in the main game is similar to Tau Ceti with objects given an effect of depth by light sourcing and shading. However, it runs all with a bit of extra zip here suggesting that Cooke had been doing a fair bit of optimization, and this is most telling in the shoot 'em up missions that have none of the simulator-like sluggishness of Tau Ceti.

Audio is fairly limited though; just the occasional click of lasers striking your skimmer.

If all that wasn't enough the game comes with a nice bonus on the flip side of the tape; a Star Map from Sol program that allows you to identify stars and constellations in the night sky, including some of the locations for the game itself. Starry Night Pro it isn't, but it was pretty good for 1986.

Overall, it's a great challenge; even if it takes a little getting into. There's at least ten hours play getting through all the missions and a lot more if you want to hone your scores up to 100% on them. I'd think this about as good as it got for 3D space games on the Spectrum..