Review by jup

Reviewed: 08/30/05

The good news? You get to pilot a fully stocked and crewed space vessel. The bad? Everything else...

Imagine. It's the far, distant future and the Human race has bravely gone out into the Universe to colonize distant planets. And, you are an employee of the trucking business of the future, food delivery. Now, since it is the future, everything moves quicker. Your ship can hurl across the Galaxy at about a bazillion miles a second, (Game doesn't give an actual figure. Instead, your engines are geared to be nine speeds.) fight off all sorts of dangers at any speed and your precious cargo has a half life of several hours...in proper temperatures. (Who know the coldness of space could rot food in mere minutes? Perhaps, future food has been bio-engineered to keep the customers buying daily? No more buying a week's worth of groceries at one time?) And, since you are the captain, you get to choose your crew and your mission/risk. Sweet.

Alas, the Universe isn't such a quiet and gigantic place as we all thought it was. As, every gosh darn time anyone even tries to truck their goods anywhere, there are all these small, Pirate ships hanging around...usually in swarms. And, for some unknown reason, they just love to come after ships hauling supplies (that can spoil in no time) and pillage them to no ends. May Trident have mercy to those who resist. As, the Pirate's second favorite past time is to shoot up the cargo ships so badly, that only those well armored, lucky personnel in the core of the ship can't die from excessive hull damage and system failures, via battle.

First step is to select your course from the three available missions. Then, select your crew from a generous roster, while docked at the company Star Base. Each position on board ship (Weapons, Scanning, Navigation, Engineer, Repair) can be filled by a crazy set of alien/robotic characters, each with their own set of personalities and tributes (good or bad) that they can bring to you. (Some characters can really get the job done quickly. Others...are reading manuals. Some can interact well with everyone. Others...fight on a telepathic level. A few...just seem to attract enemies like moths to a flame.) Once done, you ship out of space port and start giving orders via a semi-sophisticated interface. (It's like the best of Windows was ported in.) Joystick and/or keyboard can be used to issue commands in minimal time as the stars fly by in your left monitor. All the while, your right monitor is reserved for video conferencing. (Nothing like seeing them sweat, on the job.) Below the monitors is a complex, yet manageable set of tools to tell you what's going on...and, it hardly even eats up much space. (From left to right: Weapon status on all four kinds. Shield status on all sides and ship security condition. Gauge bars D and S. (I think D was a summary of damage to ship. S...can't remember.) A little light for emergency battery. (I think.) Ship flight direction indicator. (Operates too much on a 2-D plane, though.) Ship speed selection. And, message waiting indicators. (Nothing like having to answer 30 voice mails when 3 alien craft are currently shooting at you.) All this, compressed in a third the space of your twin monitors. Much like the Windows tool bar.) Next pixel down is where you get to interact with all the command choices that are possible for each function of the ship. There are alot. Yet, it's all pretty easy to understand, once you give it just a few minutes to learn. (It's not quite pull down menu stuff. Still...it comes pretty close.) And, still below that is the largest chunk of monitor space, where all the text information goes. Stuff like what the department crews have to report/say/annoy you about. Or, those all important stats on how much of your payload has already become inedible. And, of course, the way to choose commands and organize priorities.

As you soar out into the Cosmos, en route to that distant planet that is so desperate for the cargo that will spoil mere minutes after you deliver it, you discover that the Universe is full of unfriendlies. Aliens who figured out space flight so long ago, now closing in like locusts around your ship. Luckily, you have a scanning officer who is dedicated to figuring out who they are (species, what type of weapon will dismantle/destroy their ship...and even if they are friend or foe) and a weapon's officer who can use such information to blow their pesky bombardments out of existence.

As the stars fly by your exterior viewing monitor and the annoying pests of the Solar System flutter about in front of your eyes, making shiny balls come your way, you can take heart that your repair officer is hard at work, (or hardly working, in some cases) keeping the robotic repair droids in line, crawling about your ship and undoing the damage while slaving away on the damage burned equipment and the engineer is trying his/her/it's best to balance what should get priority power, when. (Did I forget to mention that your parent company, PSI 5 Trading Company, cheap skated you on the power generators? Which means it's all a question of IF you really wanted that reading light on...instead of your Fore shielding systems. Perhaps, that video conference monitor shouldn't be turned on during your power crisis...which is happening literally the whole journey. At least, you have the option of adding battery power to the generators. But, there sure is no bunny with a drum on the side of said batteries. They will be drained in no time...and, when the generators are shot up and burned out, those batteries will be very desirable to have charged up. Oddly enough, your whole ship wide computer can operate off of an invulnerable source.) All the while, the Navigations officer is just sitting there, pressing a button for more/less speed and another to use thrusters to turn the ship to a different heading. (It's quite possible he/she/it serves the coffee and types up the outgoing mail, too. As, the computer can do the same job when he/she/it is blasted to a lifeless condition by a hull decompression/lack of fresh air. (Oh, yea...ship computer can perform several jobs half as well as that of the crew specialists. And, it won't be complaining about how poor the conditions are, in the process.)

If you are good and your crew is strong, (or lucky) then you will eventually reach your destination in...some sort of shape. And, then...it is payday! Hopefully, you won't be forced to write anyone's funeral plans and pay the bills for the grievance. Or, have to pay for too on ship repair. And, do remember that if that cargo spoils, nobody will be dishing out the major space bucks for the stuff. So, get it all there, like a pizza delivery driver...and get that tip.

Graphics: 10 out of 10

For being so old, this game is rather rich in graphics. True. your whole view is either of the information sheets about available crew members or your captain's computer terminal. But, everything was given a rich, thought out look that was both colorful and constantly interesting to look at. They pack so much into that one interface screen and still left room for pure visual eye candy. The communications monitor is always showing either the company logo or a moving, highly colorful and well drawn image of the staff at work (differs for each character) as they foreward their requests/complaints/suggestions/questions/whatever to you...usually at the most inconvenient of times. (But, don't worry. The urgent messages have a way of standing out from the "YES! WE RULE! I shot that bozo in one hit!" kind of stuff.) In a world of C-64 games that were color/graphic poor, PSI 5 shines like a bar of gold.

Sounds: 10 out of 10

Each department gets it's own little musical jingle. And, then, there are interface beeps and communication incoming sounds. Other things have their own sound effects and it all works quite well.

Interface: 10 out of 10

The interface is very modern for it's time. Things right out of Windows were installed into this. Since the C-64 didn't usually have a mouse, a point-and-click joystick interface was in place. By pressing the stick left/right, you moved a highlight around the minuscule menu interface and pressed the button to go to a sub-menu. It was fairly efficient, in it's own way. However, keyboard interface was even better, by using both highlights and key stroke commands. (Almost like in Windows...it's scary.) For being an action game, it's all about issuing the commands and not being bogged down with side details. (Like, mini games where the captain must do the shooting or rewire the power grid...a la Game Boy Star Trek: T.N.G.)

Story: 8 out of 10

The game has promise of a fairly good background. But, like most action games, the player is given the freedom to make it up as they wish, question things that may not be answerable or just accept what is happening. The notion of ships traveling great distances with stores of stuff that pirates try to loot after boarding the ship and engaging in battle is an old and common one, anyhow.

Play time/replayability: Expect one game to last 10-30 minutes. Each mission has a certain amount of distance to travel and only so much time to get there before the cargo spoils. But, other elements come into play, like how well your ship holds up. How fast you choose or are allowed to go. If you stick to the direct course or try to find a less dangerous, scenic route. (As long as you have working thrusters, you can deviate from the direct path at any time.) If the pirates force you to a complete stop from too much damage. Power failures starve key systems. Factors like that. And, with so many options, (personnel combinations, routes, missions, etc.) replayability is quite high. (In fact, I wore my disk out a long time ago.)

Overall: 10 out of 10

This game is well worth seeking out, if one could even find it at a thrift store/yard sale/e-bay or in emulation form. The game was made for multiple systems of it's day. But, I believe that the C-64 version probably has the best looking/sounding port of the bunch.

There is another game out there, called Starflight. In many respects, this game and that one share similarities. But, their aims are very different. Starflight is all about the simulation of flying your ship to other worlds and dealing with events at you search for supplies/clues to a plot. PSI 5 is the exact opposite. It's a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants arcade action game, where things happen quickly and fuel load ratios couldn't matter any less. (Though, electrical system load is there and quite important...though, the interface is direct and simple.) So, if what you are looking for is a deep thinking, exploration of space...this game isn't for you. (As you won't be exploring any worlds or the alien craft or...anything like that.) But, if you are looking for a purely fun, thrill ride where you could care less how that race evolved to the point that it's hurling burning stones of death upon your ship's hull and your own wish is to turn it into space rubble...welcome aboard.

P.S.: (Major tip) DO NOT fire upon any friendly craft at any time. The big difference between a friend and a foe is the friend's have your ship schematics aboard. Tick them off...and they will blow you to scrap metal so quickly...

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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