Quatra Command Download (1994 Arcade action Game)

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Quatra Command for Windows is an old shoot-'em-up in the same vein as Kiloblaster and Raptor.

World: Quatra Command takes place in space. That's all you really need to take from this. Humans have apparently gotten pretty far out and there seem to be aliens around. There's really nothing to see here.

Premise: Fans of scrolling shooters will be familiar with this. You're out in space, you lose contact with your base, and it's up to you as the lone pilot to go out and shoot stuff. Simple and straightforward, and I'd really expect nothing more or less.

Plot: The plot is really nothing more than the aforementioned premise, as far as I can tell. Your mission is, oddly enough, not so much to directly save the universe or make sure a message is delivered, as is usual, but simply to take out as many aliens as possible before dying. This is an oddly realistic approach, considering your radio is broken and your character has pretty much decided to take on an armada on his/her own, when HQ simply wanted you to transmit information about it. Given your silence, one would assume that HQ would realize there's a problem and send in a force, and if your death is going to serve as a marker, you may as well make the best of it.

Characterization: This is actually a funny thing. While no-one is supposed to be around but you, there are several voices that pop up during play to repeat the text on buttons you click, and I personally find them hilarious in a retro camp way. There's an airy female voice on the title screen whose function is to shout, "OKAY!" every time you click the OK button on a pop-up to return to the title screen. When you lose all your lives, there's a guy who sounds like a stereotypical 80s gamer who hysterically shouts, "That's it. Game over, man! GAME OVER!" and if you place on the scoreboard, you're treated to a couple of guys saying, "Cool!" in a tone that brings up the image of a couple of Bill and Ted wannabes giving you double thumbs-up each. It's really all just dumb enough to be wonderful, with a sort of charm to it, as if it were made by a couple of surfers and their girlfriend in a California garage.

Systems: Pretty standard fare. You have a few lives, unlimited lasers, power-ups, and enemies. Quatra Command is very much a scrolling shooter in every sense of the word, which is fine, because it's familiar. A nifty little feature I didn't know about until after I started writing this review is the ability to change your game speed (I used software to slow it at first). You will definitely want to lower it, or else your game will only last a few seconds.

Controls: Quatra Command offers three different control schemes (keyboard, mouse, and joystick) which can be used interchangeably. Neither of the three is vastly superior on a desktop PC, but laptop users may have trouble using a touchpad mouse, since only two buttons are supported, and one action requires clicking both at once. Overall, it's incredibly friendly.

Gameplay: You start with three lives, infinite ammo, and a couple of tricks up your sleeve or at least the potential for them. In addition to shooting normally, you can get a "photon" power-up which allows you to fire "photon shots" with your alternate-fire key. These are able to hit cloaked enemies. You also can generate a force field for a period of time - in fact, you begin with one briefly to keep you from being wiped out before you even have a chance to start. The setup is pretty nice, if you manage to survive that long. Yes, this game is hard, at least at the default settings (the number of objects can be adjusted and the default medium speed setting is a bit fast). Not only do you have to worry about enemies, but you also have to avoid crashing into planets and asteroids. You only have a few power-ups, which give you photon shots, force fields, and healing. The power-ups all have the annoying habit of falling up instead of down, and they can be negated by other objects if they collide. Overall, it's simple but creative. A really nice feature of the game is that it automatically resizes itself to your resolution. The bigger your screen, the more play area you have, which is pretty neat. You may want to auto-hide your taskbar for the visual appeal, but it doesn't adversely impact anything to have it there.

Length/Replay Value: I'll honestly say I never reached the end of a level, so I have no indication of how long it takes or whether I almost got there. As accessible as the game is, it is difficult. Really though, it suffers from the old method of lengthening play time through repetition. If you do manage to beat all the levels (there are ten of them, which you can access at any time from the F2 config screen), there's no reason to go back and do it all over, short of wanting a time-waster.

Graphics: Quatra Command uses some pretty nice 256-color graphics. There's a lot of attention to detail in the planets and objects floating around, and the ship animation is what you'd expect from similar titles in terms of frames and positions. Overall, it looks pretty good.

Sound: There's a surprising amount of voice in this, some of which I touched on before. On top of what I mentioned, there are also death screams, many of which are uttered by other pilots as you blow them to bits. That's a bit confusing at first. The sounds are largely stock, but there's nothing wrong with them, and the music is pretty good. It's all in the form of ten-second loops, but the main theme is a sort of surfer-rock thing that reinforces the retro camp feel of the game, and with all the other sound effects ringing out during actual play, you'll barely notice the level music, whether it's the same beep over and over or Beethoven's Ninth. It really is a nice feature, because it quietly steps aside to avoid cluttering things any more than they already are.

Recommendation: You could do worse than Quatra Command. It's light and fun and has a sliding difficulty curve, and best of all, can be put right on your desktop and played like modern games. With some neat features and modern hardware compatibility, there's really no reason to not check it out if you have any interest in the genre. I give it 4 stars.

 

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