8-bit wargamers received something of a gift a few years ago when Firebird released a £1.99 game called Rebelstar. It became an instant cult hit and fans of the game pestered the author Julian Gollop for more of the same. Laser Squad eventually appeared on the smaller machines and now, after a long wait, it's finally available on the Amiga.
If you're unfamiliar with the game, it's a one or two player tactical wargame played over a set number of turns, viewed in pseudo-3D. Each player controls a bunch of troops -the exact number depending on the scenario - and the idea is to accrue enough victory points, by destroying specific items or numbers of the enemy, or achieving other objectives, such as making it from one side of the game map to the other. Each and every member of your forces has a set number of 'Action Points' which are used up by movement, firing, changing weapons and other actions. Combat occurs whenever two enemies spot each other and the screen display changes to allow the attacker to position a cross-hair sight on the target and then choose a variety of shots depending on the weapon and amount of action points left.
For example, a member of the blue team spots a member of the red team and elects to fire at him. Blue then has the option of either automatic fire, a snap-shot or an aimed shot: the more accurate the shot, the greater the cost in action points (the automatic option only appears if the character has a weapon with automatic fire capabilities). There is also an option called opportunity fire, which occurs whenever a member of the opposite team wanders into the line of sight of one of your troops who has at least half his action points left. So the whole game revolves around the player trying to achieve his objectives without leaving his forces stretched and quite possibly defenceless.
There are five scenarios on the original disk with expansion scenarios planned. The scenarios include The Assassins in which the player has to break into a base and eliminate one Sterner Regnix, and Rescue From The Mines in which the player must rescue some imprisoned comrades. Obviously, in two player mode one side is always trying to stop his opponent achieving his objectives. The game ends when either the set number of turns expires or one side gains enough victory points.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND The graphics are not exactly state of the art but they are colourful and everything is well drawn: and besides, it doesn't need outstanding graphics to play well. Sound is limited to either a tune which plays throughout or spot effects, both of which are fine. For a game of its type it's a heck of a good looker.
JUDGEMENT The game system is simple but very effective and it doesn't take long to get to grips with. The seven difficulty levels for most scenarios will keep you playing against the computer -which takes no prisoners - for a long time.
It is even better in two player mode when your human opponent makes some unexpected moves! Laser Squad is a terrific game that is superbly playable and can definitely be recommended as one for the library of any gameplayer.
Turn based strategy game
Long before any of the X-Com games was made, Krisalis created Laser squad - turn based, squad strategy game (it was made for C-64 and Spectrum computers, and later for Amiga). Equip Your soldiers with guns, ammo, explosives, medical kits... and complete the mission. There are many things You can do with Your soldiers such as ducking, aim shots, auto shots, planting explosives and many, many other things. What I really like is that once You kill an enemy You can search the body and get his equipment, but if You kill him with explosives or rocket launcher it's impossible to search him. These little things make the game more realistic and fun to play.
This was one of the first turn-based strategy games I ever played and it hooked me totally. Normally you are controlling a Squad of Soldiers and have to solve a mission, but you have the option to play the other side which may include playing robots and aliens. There are only 5 missions to play but these differ tremendously in size, mission objective and general settings. Granted that you can play both sides you have actually 10 different missions to play.
Everything you want from a game like this is there: Equipping your squad with weapons and armour (even Light Sabres are choose able!), use of line-of-sight, opportunity fire, throwing and timing of grenades, psychological effects like soldiers getting panicked, cover and strategical deployment of your forces during setup. But the best feature is the ability to play this game against a friend in a hot-seat game!
The KI is okay, the mission and side you are playing is much more important. For example you will have a hard time when the computer defends the moon base (defence is much easier), on the other hand the computer will get extra big robots while playing the offensive side in the "attack of the machines" mission which are very tough to kill. A human player gets only one of these monsters, the KI fields 2-3. That means winning all missions with both sides is quite challenging.
This all is quite impressive if you consider how old the game actually is. Graphics are okay, especially for a strategy game. But the intro song deserves a special mention, you would have to search for a long time if you were to find something comparable.
Tips on gaming: Everything revolves around opportunity fire and who has to run into it. That means be patient if you are the defending player and plan ahead if you are the attacking player, creative use of grenades is key here.
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