North Star

by Ben Daglish, John O'Brien, Steve Kerry
Gremlin Graphics Software Ltd
Crash Issue 50, Mar 1988   page(s) 24,25

Producer: Gremlin Graphics
Retail Price: £7.99 cassette, £12.99 disk
Author: Jon O'Brien

Orbiting Earth, surrounded by mystery, is the largest space station ever conceived. Built to solve problems of overpopulation and starvation on our planet, the vast construction was nearing completion when Earth lost all contact with it - and in Northstar you are sent to investigate the silent space ark.

But aliens, scheming to destroy human existence with their devastating weapon of predictability, have occupied the station. You must eliminate the hostile forces, complete each of the levels of the space station, and reactivate the life-support system - that is, if any of the human staff are left to make use of it.

Of course you carry a weapon, a short-distance lance, and earn points for destroying aliens - patience and quick firing are important. And you can bound over the obstacles that block your path.

To help you survive the rigours of space. you have been equipped with implanted oxygen converters, and an onscreen indicator shows how much breathable gas remains. If it falls to zero one of your four lives is lost, and you are no closer to solving the strange and dangerous problem of this eerie space station.


Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: superbly-designed characters and a fantastic use of colour, complemented by attractive animation
Sound: atmospheric synthesized tune and attractive spot effects
Options: definable keys

Northstar is really good and had me hooked in minutes. The graphics are superb, with loads of colour used to excellent effect, and brilliant characters. And the highlight of the fine sound is a synthesized tune on the title screen with the novelty of varying volume, fading bits and everything! There's load of playability and an addictive challenge too.
MIKE [90%]

Northstar is very much in the Exolon mould, so it's very playable and addictive. The graphics are tremendous, with beautifully compact animation on all the characters and detailed, colourful and unusual backdrops. And you don't notice how small the playing area is, because there's such a mass of detail: for example, there are clouds of dust when your character skids, and your weapon is an extendable claw which needs to be controlled rather than a gun spraying bullets. It all contributes to the unearthly atmosphere. The presentation is equally excellent: the title screen is superb, and the strange music fits the unusual atmosphere well. The gameplay is excellent: it's not so much a question of furious blasting as of timing and strategy combined with killing. Northstar strikes a balance between frustration and addictivity, and it's a compelling and successful game.
GORDON [91%]

Northstar looks simple but it's surprisingly addictive. There's not much colour, but the screen is quite effective and the gameplay provides a lively all-action arcade adventure with plenty of opportunity for the death and destruction of the alien horde. (Running around jumping over barriers and biffing aliens with my hydraulic arm reminded me of school athletics!) Northstar is very playable and exciting - all it lacks is a rough tough tune.
NATHAN [90%]

Presentation: 93%
Graphics: 88%
Playability: 91%
Addictive Qualities: 90%
Overall: 90%

Summary: General Rating: One of the best walk 'n' whacks we've seen, colourful and detailed as well as addictive and playable.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 28, Apr 1988   page(s) 48

Reviewer: Duncan MacDonald

Well, what can I say about Northstar?? (Why not say that it's a nutritional timesaver for today's busy 'Mum on the Go'? Bung it in the microwave for seventeen pico-seconds and hey presto - scrumlicious E336 shapes enveloped in lumpy brown spook-sauce. Yum). No, I'd never get away with that, I'm going to have to tell the truth.

Northstar (a space-station which is overrun by, gulp, aliens) is a right-left, left-right scrolling shoot 'em/avoid 'em/collect 'em up. Run, from left to right, through level one and you'll reach a lift. This will take you down to level two. Run, from left to right, through level two and you'll reach a lift. This will take you down to level three. Run, from left to right, through level three and you'll... ("Okay, okay, I think we've grasped it!" - lots of astute YS readers). Anyhow, your ultimate goal is the 'Northstar Project Centre' where you have to 'reactivate the life support systems.' Crikey!

Nothing actually 'shoots' at you in this game, but any 'sprite-contact' is fatal and believe me, the aliens come at you hot and fast. The killing of certain aliens results in an ascending bubble (catch for extra points), while others result in ascending star-shapes. Catching these stars, lights up little icons at the bottom of the screen, but as they weren't mentioned in the instruction-sheet I was sent, I'm afraid their purpose eluded me, and I'm far too thick to work these things out on my own. Anyway, these 'spook-icons' aside, I'm afraid that Northstar isn't going to break any records in the originality stakes, so let's weight the price, gameplay and graphics.

Gameplay: Control response is good and the difficulty level is pitched correctly, ie pretty hard but by no means impossible.

Graphics: Nicely coloured backgrounds (inducing some attribute clashes), prettty good scrolling and nice sprite animation (especially some boingy 'spring things' on the first two levels).

Price: Crikey... Eight quid!!

Eeerm, let's put it this way: if Northstar was a three quid 'budget' game, it would have scored ten points. At eight quid it scores six. Make of that what you will (draw a graph if necessary), and buy according to taste. What more can I say??? (How about 'Yibble yibble'? Ed)

Graphics: 8/10
Playability: 7/10
Value For Money: 5/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Overall: 6/10

Summary: Slowish Exolon-style scroller that's long on style but short on originality. Not bad, though.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 73, Apr 1988   page(s) 54,55

Label: Gremlin
Author: In-house
Price: £8.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tony Dillon

Isn't clairvoyance a wonderful thing? I mean, isn't it amazing how the people who write the dodgy storylines on cassette boxes can tell us exactly what will happen in, say, 500 years' time. Funny too, how they always say the same sort of things. For example, in the year 2499, a huge space station is going to be built. But, just as it is about to be completed something will go drastically wrong (again). An alien force will take over (again) and this one little robot fellow will be sent up to conquer the aliens (again). Sounds like a lot of fun, eh? Guess you know what's coming next. Guess what? You're going to be that little robot.

Yes, in Northstar, you get to play a little robot who has to destroy a whole alien force. Why a robot? Well, there's no oxygen out there, so a human wouldn't survive 5 minutes. Inferior races, eh? (Why do I keep using the word, eh, eh?) You are armed with a grabby arm kind of thing, a little like the club in Rygar. With it you can destroy the aliens as well as opening pods that contain extra points or weapons such as smart bombs. I tell you, you need them, things can get pretty hectic. And talking of pretty, the game is. Very pretty. The graphics are clear and large, and the animation is quite good, as is the scrolling. Colour is used badly, though. In Spectrum terms, that means that a lot has been used in large lumps with very little thought. The attribute clash is appalling and the enemy are practically invisible when you see them walk in front of something yellow. Tut tut.

Overall: 7/10

Summary: A competent and fun scroller, but overuse of colour has caused major attribute problems.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 4, Mar 1988   page(s) 44

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.99, Diskette: £14.99
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99


An alien horde is running riot over a heavily-inhabited space station, built to ease the pressure of over-population on Earth. The task of destroying the intergalactic interlopers and re-activating the life-support systems falls on the player's broad shoulders. Written initially for the Spectrum and Amstrad by Gremlin newcomer Jon O'Brien, conversions to the Commodore 64/128 and Atari ST are likely to follow very soon.

North Star is little more than a simple but enjoyable horizontally scrolling platform shoot 'em up reminiscent of Gun Runner - a title Hewson released last year. It scores well on the graphical front with both the Amstrad and Spectrum versions being colourful and extremely attractive.

As our hero rambles through the space station -comprising several separate levels - additional equipment is collected from bonus pods scattered around the corridors. Extra features include the ability to shoot upwards, anti-skid boots and temporary invincibility, plus a Smart bomb for the mass elimination of alien species.

An oxygen meter slowly ticks away at the bottom of the screen, signalling the inevitable approach of death. This is replenished by further collection of bonus pods, which also give extra score.

Like other games of this kind, the gameplay can prove annoying until the layout of the landscape and the location of the bonus pods have been learned. Once that knowledge is secured, however, North Star provides worthwhile entertainment for quite sometime.

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Overall: 80%

Summary: The Spectrum North Star is surprisingly slower than the Amstrad version, but certainly offers a clearer view of the action, making gameplay somewhat easier. Colour has been used extremely well, and although there's the occasional clash, this doesn't detract too heavily from its appeal. Music is short, but good, and the effects help considerably. Again, the fact remains that North Star doesn't have an awful lot on offer for the thinking games player, but is excellent fun for the occasional mindless blast.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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