I remember playing Starquake as one of my earliest childhood games, playing it on the family's 286 IBM compatible back in the late 80's. This game has the potential to suck in quite some hours of time, and for an arcade-style game, it is quite complex and involved. The game was widely distributed, and maintains a following even today in some corners of the 'net, and no wonder; Starquake was released on no less than eight different platforms!
At the beginning of the game, a starquake somehow messed up the core of a planet. You are crash-landed on this planet, and have no choice but to fix the core before it explodes. The world is a dangerous place, teeming with life of all kinds, and pretty much all of it wants to kill you (some thanks you get for trying to save their planet, hmm?). There are also mechanical hazards, such as big spark gaps that will fry you instantly, helicopter-like machines that will kill you instantly, and spikes. Watch out for the spikes...
Despite all the hazards, you are not without a few tools at your disposal. You have a ray gun which will kill the enemies, and you can create small (but rapidly-vanishing) platforms with which you can rise up into the air. You also have a personal shield, which will protect you from most of the enemies out there (with the exception of those nasty helicopter things). Watch out though, as all three of these things require energy, which is measured in a bar at the top of the screen. Let yourself run out, and that item won't work anymore, a condition that almost always leads to dying.
In addition to your tools, there are numerous power-ups and devices littered about the planet that can aid you in your mission. Some of the power-ups recharge your guns, shields, and platforms; others will give you extra lives (you'll need them, because there is no way to save the game). There are also hovering platforms all around the surface of the planet. With these devices you can move around and explore (using the arrow keys) without wasting platforms. When you are on these hovercraft, your weapon receives a major power-up; it can shoot in all four directions, and the shot will bounce off of the terrain and screen edges, as well as penetrate some objects. The drawback of hovering is that you are not able to pick up keycards, core pieces, or use “Cheops Pyramids”. The only item that you can grab are the power-ups.
The easiest way to get around the game map is to use the teleporter booths that are located in various areas of the map. They are activated through five-letter codes, which for the most part, you will be required to discover as you move about the map (each pod gives you its code).
The general object of the game is to collect core pieces, and bring them to the core of the planet in order to repair it. The game distributes all of the objects in different locations each time you load the game, as well as changes which nine pieces you need to fix the core. This way, each game is different, and you never know where to find what you need. To help you, there are objects called “Cheops Pyramids” (they look like little arrows), which will let you trade different items that you find for other items, perhaps the ones that you need to fix the core. You'll need to find a security pass to access these though. The same goes for security doors that are found in some parts of the map.
The game uses CGA graphics, but makes full use of its two characteristic four-colour palettes, with two levels of intensity. Therefore, on a properly configured CGA machine, different screens of the game will appear in either palette one, or in palette zero at either high or low intensity. This is rather nice, because it gives the game some colour variation.
The sounds are basic internal speaker noises; they help add to the gameplay, and don't become too irritating, since there are no attempts at music, or screeching noises.
This game was extremely advanced for its time, and scores very high on the addiction scale. The most irritating thing about it is the lack of a save-game feature. This presents a large problem because it is easy to get yourself stuck in a situation where you are trapped without any platforms or hover-pads and therefore can't leave the area you are in, which might lead to a game-over scenario. Because of this added frustration, I can't give this game a perfect score, and so I'm going to rate it at a 4. Try this one, and relive one of gaming history's most underrated and forgotten gems.
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