Ancestor worship is going out of fashion, but back in the good old days all you needed for a religion was to stuff your dead relatives' graves full of tat in the hope that they'd put a good word in for you on the other side. If you're a fan of X-Com or Jagged Alliance, though, it's time to pay your respects, because Laser Squad is the game that really started it all. Programmed by software god Julian Gollop, Laser Squad is a tactical turn-based strategy game featuring only a handful of missions but huge replay value.
Despite rather basic graphics, Laser Squad has a lot of style, from the units (the names Sterner Regnix and Android Barker are forever etched in my memory) to the equipment available and the battle locations. Like most turn-based strategy games, Laser Squad allows your soldiers to use opportunity fire during the enemy's turn, though it is more costly in terms of action points than in other titles in the genre. You'll also find different firing modes, a nice selection of equipment, and a clever implementation of psychology. Troops can panic or go berserk and start firing madly all around them. This can be bad news if that trooper happens to be the one holding your heavy weapon! I especially liked messing around with timed grenades, explosives, and even lightsabres. Yes, you read that right; on top of all this gaming goodness you can outfit your troops with lightsabres and turn them into lethal hand-to-hand combatants. Choosing armour and equipment is a nice feature that gives you plenty of ways to approach the missions.
As a bonus, you can play this game in hotseat mode, and if your friend doesn't mind looking away while you take your turn, this can be highly entertaining. I'm giving this game a 4, not just because I loved it when it first came out, but because it's still a whole lot of fun. Special mention must go to the AI, which puts up a good fight and isn't easily fooled into doing stupid things. That isn't to say it's flawless, but it plays like an intelligent human, which is pretty rare in any kind of game, strategy or otherwise.
If you enjoy turn-based strategy, then you are sure to enjoy this. My only real criticism is that it could have been easily made into much more. Where, for instance, is the map editor and unit editor? Fans could have had many hours of fun creating and swapping missions. Had Mythos included one and a few extra missions, I would have had no choice but to bump this up to 5 out of 5.
Incidentally, if you like Laser Squad, then you could do a lot worse than check out Laser Squad Nemesis, a play-by-email game that is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, at $60 a year (!) it's not especially cheap, though there is a playable demo to download and try out before you buy. It's a shame they don't just offer the option to buy it outright, as many fans have been requesting. It has a highly active community, though, and if you're going to make offerings to any deity, I'd say Julian is as good a pick