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"Games of the Week!"

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On the whole this is quite a jolly little shoot em up, the only problem is that it has dull spots. On the first level, for example, there is nothing to do apart from dodge the rocks and the very occasional hostile sphere. Perhaps if there had been more things to do it would have been great fun, but as it stands the competent graphics and nice touches are let down by the poor game content.


Critical Mass could have been a good game, but unfortunately it isn't. In fact it's quite boring. Attractive graphics don't compensate for monotonous play elements and if only there was something more to do then it would be great. But as it stands there is little to hold interest for long and as games go it is barely average. Hopefully some highly superior form of follow up will be released later in the year to make up for this disappointment.



Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Critical Mass
1985 Durell Software
Programmed by Ron Jeffs
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the eleventh issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: February 9th, 1986).

Durell, 8.95 cass, joystick or keys

Once again, your mission is to save life, the universe and everything. Alien forces have captured an anti-matter conversion plant which supplies power to colonists in a distant planetary system. The aliens are threatening to turn the anti-matter plant onto 'self-destruct' and wipe out the entire planetary system, and a couple of neighbouring stars, in the process -- unless they receive unconditional surrender. But since this would prove a fate worse than death, it's up to you to travel across the surface of the asteroid on which the power plant is sited, infiltrate the alien enemy's positions and disable the anti-matter converter before it achieves Critical Mass.

You are put in control of a rocket-propelled hover craft with high speed strike attack capabilities, according to the armaments manufacturer's sales blurb. The craft doesn't make contact with the ground, thus avoiding seismic detection, and is equipped with a powerful laser device. It is protected against collisions or alien attacks by a force field, but every collision drains energy until the field eventually implodes and destroys the ship. The energy status is displayed to the left of the screen and is replenished if you can avoid bumping into things or firing for a while.

For the benefit of less skilful pilots, a further protection device detects when the craft is about to implode and ejects you before the event. Your character can then use the emergency jet pack to travel to a dome-shaped energy pod where a new ship can be found. On the journey, the shipless pilot is unprotected and must avoid contact with rocks and other life forms which drain energy, such as deadly 'sandworms' which pop out of the ground and wriggle ominously. An indicator, in the form of a large arrow, is provided and shows which direction to travel in.

During the early phases of the game you only encounter alien long distance raiders and unfused mines, but as you progress through the zones the opposition becomes increasingly hostile with fused and guided mines to avoid or dispose of as you see fit. Once you have travelled through all of the zones, you will find yourself near the power plant. This is protected by a score of nasties such as amorphous clouds of molecular disorientation. To enter the power plant you have to disable the force field gates by shooting the front of the turret that is between them. This is not easy and with the addition of the clouds you are more than likely to end up spinning off into the distance.

[This screenshot was not in the original review]

Inside the plant there is an energy beam which draws you in and must be destroyed by shooting the centre of the pyramid-shaped energy concentrator in the middle of the device. Failure leads to vaporisation of you and your craft.

The game is played against the clock, which ticks off the time remaining before Critical Mass is achieved and points are collected by doing away with alien defences on the way to saving the universe.


Though not overly keen on this slick release from Durell, it didn't take long for me to find my level and discover the great mindless appeal
Critical Mass holds. Having a jolly jaunt about a smooth scrolling alien landscape is a bit of a laugh, though not really worth paying for. Graphically things are quite neat with very nice sprites indeed and impressive scenery. Game-wise it's dull. I don't like the way that numerous amount of keypresses are required just to start with different options, having to be input every game. Overall Critical Mass is uninspired and not really worth the asking price.


Presentation 92%
Pleasant attract screens and comprehensive instructions, but unnecessary irritation caused by delay before play.

Graphics 87%
Smooth moving (though not particularly well animated) and defined characters.

Sound 28%
Awful tune and grotty FX.

Hookability 59%
Though easy enough to get into the game fails to seduce due to its weak content.

Lastability 58%
The eight zones are tough to complete, but will you want to?

Value For Money 57%
Insufficient game for the price.

Overall 59%
All very nice to look at but very little game to play.




Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (25 Nov 2004)

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