Marsport

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1985). Gargoyle Games (GG). Designed by Roy Carter, Greg Follis. Platforms: Amstrad, Spectrum.

Marsport is an "arcade adventure" (see Exile), a precursor to the action Adventure form that flourished largely in the UK during the 1980s. While it was well regarded at the time of its original release – as was its better known predecessor, the Celtic fantasy game Tir Na Nog (1984 GG, Spectrum; 1985 C64; 1986 Amstrad) designed by Roy Carter, Greg Follis – the game now seems of largely historical interest. Marsport is set in the 25th century, the first of a projected trilogy of which it was the only member to be completed. In the game's backstory Earth is protected from an aggressive alien species by a gigantic Force Field, but the invaders are on the point of breaching this defense. The player's character is sent to infiltrate the eponymous Martian city – now occupied by the enemy, and made more dangerous by the malfunctioning guard Robots deployed by its Terran computer system – and recover the original plans for the energy shield, which contain the information needed to make it impenetrable to the aliens' attack. While the eerily deserted submartian environment is evocatively depicted, using an unusual two-dimensional view which simulates three-dimensional visuals by rotating the display whenever the player changes direction, the gameplay is dominated by combat and the solution of physical puzzles, most of which suffer from a distinct lack of credibility. Considered as a work of science fiction, the game is perhaps most valuable for the demonstration it offers of the difficulties faced by the developers of early visual Videogames who wanted to depict a convincing fictional reality. (Text Adventures were generally less affected by such problems, since their designs were not so restricted by the technical limitations of the underlying hardware and they lent themselves naturally to the presentation of long passages of descriptive text.) The manual for Marsport contains a moderately detailed history of the game's milieu, including references to works by Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, James Blish and Gordon R Dickson, but very little of this is realized in the actual gameplay.

Related works: Sweevo's World (1986 GG, Amstrad, Spectrum; rev vt Sweevo's Whirled Spectrum) and its sequel Hydrofool (1987 Carter Follis Software Associates, Amstrad, Spectrum), both designed by Carter and Follis and featuring the arcade Adventures of a comic Robot, are officially set in the same universe as Marsport. [NT]

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