Overlander


by Gary Tonge, Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, Simon Cooke
Elite Systems Ltd
1988
Crash Issue 56, Sep 1988   page(s) 12,13

Post apocalyptic (that means Mad Max) fun on rough-tough roads.

Producer: Elite Systems
Out of Pocket: £7.99 cass, £12.99 disk
Author: Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, Gary Tonge, Peter Tattersall, Mark Cooksey, Simon Cook, Richard Underhill, Darren Pegg

Having gone cute temporarily with Hopping Mad, Elite have returned to the biff-bang-wallop format with this Mad Max-ish game set in a world far different from our own. This futuristic post-apocalyptic type game seems to be very popular with a lot of software companies at the moment. Not that I'm complaining - I like this type of game, and Overlander is a good example of the genre. And if nothing else - what about that programmer list!?

We all know that the Earth's ozone layer is being destroyed by the gases used in underarm aerosol sprays (roll it on guys...). By the year 2025 there isn't any ozone left and the Earth has been turned into one gigantic desert. Most of the population have been forced to seek shelter deep underground, although there are known to be several vicious gangs still roaming the planet's surface. You take the part of an Overlander, one of a breed of people who live for the customised cars they have painstakingly restored and rebuilt for speed and firepower.

Every erg of power is vital; the Overlanders are the only people who dare to run the gauntlet of the surface dwellers to deliver various items to other underground cities - for a price, of course.

At the start of each mission you're offered two choices of cargo: one from the Federation, and the other from the Crimelords. One will usually offer a larger reward than the other, but the higher the price the more likely the cargo is to be valuable, dangerous or highly illegal. Now that sort of thing worries a mercenary like you, does it?

Well it should, because the higher the price offered, the more determined the opposition will be to grab the goods from you. Half of the money is paid before delivery, helping equip your car with fuel and an arsenal of lethal weapons, including missiles, flamethrowers, battering rams and wheel blades.

Having bought your personal selection, it's out into the hellish wastelands to face the surface dwellers. These roam around in several groups. The Crawlers don't own vehicles, but they do pile junk in the road hoping you'll go a-over-t when you crash into it. And they arrange themselves at various points en route to take pot shots at you. Roadhogs do possess vehicles; large armour-plated limousines easily able to ram you off the road. Kamikazees ride around on booby-trapped motorbikes suicidally living up to their name.

It gets worse. The Offroaders drive around in large pick-up trucks with an armed thug in the back. These guys tote a range of weapons from petrol bombs to the occasional bazooka. But the goods must be delivered, so let's hope that you survive long enough to collect the other half of your fee at the journey's end.

There's tons of challenge as the bad guys try to deal out some terminal road-rash to the brave Overlander: only split-second timing can prevent you from visiting that great car salesroom in the sky. Choose your special weapons with care, because the surface dwellers are bound to cause you some heavy hassle. Overlander is just the sort of mindlessly violent game that deserves to do really well!

MARK [85%]

THE ESSENTIALS
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston.
Sinclair
Graphics: large, well-defined vehicles drive purposefully along monochromatic roads
Sound: growling engine and screeching tyre effects, not a bad 128K tune
Options: definable keys


Overlander lets you tear up the highways, mangle maniac motorbikes and get down to burning some serious rubber, The scrolling and sound effects (including ear-piercing tyre-screeching) create an exhilarating sense of uncontrollable speed. It's sometimes a bit hard to see what's ahead, especially going downhill, but steering the car isn't too tricky, so that doesn't matter too much. What makes it a very good - rather than a really excellent - game is its repetitiveness. Flamethrowers, bullets and missiles all seem to have been cloned from the same set of prototype pixels and the surface dwellers look like a race of identical twins. The only thing that distinguishes one mission from the next is the shading of the backdrop. Good fun, but the action won't singe your eyebrows off.
KATI [83%]


Roadblasters, The Fury and the soon-to-be-released Fire And Forget from Titus, not to mention Hewson's Eliminator - this type of game is definitely 'in'. Anyway, Overlander is marginally the best 'road-blasting' game I've seen so far. The added interest of buying your weapons before your journey down the highway to hell involves a certain amount of strategy. Soundwise, there's unfortunately nothing special although there are atmospheric engine noises on the 128K to add to the realism, but Overlander's undulating road and varied enemies make it so exhilarating and challenging. Highly recommended to fans of the genre.
PHIL [86%]

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Presentation: 81%
Graphics: 79%
Playability: 86%
Addictive Qualities: 85%
Overall: 85%

Summary: General Rating: Fast, smooth, playable - hot stuff!

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 76, May 1990   page(s) 48

Encore (rerelease)
£2.99

It is 2025, and the whole planet resembles Death Valley: the ground is scorched, and everywhere is bone dry. What's the cause? The Ozone Layer of course. You were all warned not to keep spraying C.F.C.s all over yourself but took no notice. Now the people of Earth are forced to live in vast underground cities: the only communication between them is via the Overlanders - brave people who drive their customised cars down the roasting freeways.

I remember reviewing this when it first came out around the same time as lots of other car games in a similar style, like Road Blasters for example. The simulation of the car's movement in Ovelander is pretty good. The ground goes up and down smoothly, and well placed corners keep you on your toes. The actual car sprite also tilts up and down depending on the gradient of the hill coming up.

The presentation is really slick. Detailed graphics make up the wastelands, with such delights as overturned, burnt out cars and dead trees littering the roads. Sound isn't bad either with good special FX and an average tune on the tide screen.

Overlander is a fun car game to keep all speed freaks busy for some time. If you missed it first time around, take a peek now.


Overall: 68%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 34, Oct 1988   page(s) 93

Elite
£7.99 cassette/£12.99 disk
Reviewer: David McCandless

Car games! Aren't you just tyred of them? Feel like braking the cassette instead of loading it? Exhausted with the monotony of endless roads? Will I sure was until Overlander crashed through the letterbox. It's so brill it drove me up the wall! (That's it, no more motor jokes – Ed).

The year is 2025. The world is not as it was - well not as it could've been if it had become what it was going to be (Eh? Ed). Anyway, our once green and luscious planet is now a scorched wasteland, devoid of all vegetable life (yes, including Keith Chegwin). And the reason?

Aerosols.

Yes, those chilly things you jam up your armpit every morning caused the end of the world. Why? The ozone layer. Deodorants destroyed the ozone layer and the sun happily baked the planet. Naturally, the peoples of the world (apart from washing more frequently) decided against being oxidised and retreated underground instead, to live in vast subterranean cities while the Earth roasted at Gas mark 92.

Meanwhile, roving bands of beefy blokes claimed the deserted freeways and roads for themselves. The only people who dared travel them were the beefier car freaks who devoted their lives to adding extras to cars. And we're not just talking their fluffy dice and intermittent windscreen wipers here - I mean the hard stuff: battering rams (cor!), missile launchers (wow!) and turbo chargers (gosh!). The hardened collectors of these pieces became known as... Overlanders.

And that remarkably enough is what you plat in this game, an Overlander. You must smuggle either counterfeit for the Crimelords or secret papers for the Federation. Whichever you choose, it's off in Allegro 3 (as I affectionately names my car) and down Devil's Straight where death is but a skid mark away (honk!).

But wait! First you must buy some petrol and extra add-ons before you embark, shadowy flank and all that. Most things are too expensive for you to purchase at the start but you can afford stuff like turbo chargers (extra acceleration), flame-throwers (throws flames) and battering rams (rams better). These cheapo items however have a limited warranty and are likely to conk out after a use of three.

Of course, this smuggling racket of yours isn't as cushy as it sounds. Out to get you are the gangs of surface dwellers, intent on exacting the exact toll for travelling their roads... death (crash of distant ominous thunder).

The road is quite nice actually. A green gliding affair as smooth as a conveyor belt, rising and falling with the programmed undulations of the terrain. Trees and the odd overturned car pass down the side of the road, and the mountains on the horizon bounce up and down in realistic fashion. Allegro 3 steers left and right with gentle smoothness, responsive beyond belief.

Cars and bikes shoot past you. The cars hang around and either have to be rammed into the scenery or blasted by your forward cannon. Motorbikes go faster than you and try to collide with Allegro 3 in true Japanese style. These too, must be shot. As you progress, gun turrets begin to zoom past and occasionally a big mega-truck will appear, depositing grenades in your path.

Your car is very easy to steer since you can't actually drive off the road, so curling round those light bends and abrupt corners is a cinch. However you do need to be skillful at steering to avoid the bikes and shoot the trucks.

So what is the challenge here? I mean steering is easy, you can shoot and ram other cars, and there's extra weaponry to boot - so what will keep me at it? Well, the attraction is that there's an end and a purpose to the driving. In other similar games (Out Run, Road Blasters) you just go on and on and on (i.e. very boring). In this game there's an actual final point to reach, an incentive in the form of extra add-ons to buy, and therefore more playability and variation.

This is a game that developed the more you played it. A simple idea when coupled with good programming works amazingly well.


Graphics: 8/10
Playability: 9/10
Value For Money: 8/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Summary: For Sale: 1988 Road Race Game 'Overlander'. Play tested. Good runner. Excellent performance. A good buy.

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 54, Jun 1990   page(s) 50

BARGAIN BASEMENT

It's time to tiptoe down those creaky old stairs again. JONATHAN DAVIES leads the way...

Encore
£2.99
Reviewer: Jonathan Davies

This month's budget driving game is, would you believe a re-release. It's promoted as the first game to enable you to climb hills and drive down into valleys. And indeed it does. You can also shoot things and buy add-ons. It's even 'environmentally aware' - the plot's all to do with the ozone layer and our 'once green and beautiful planet'. What more could you want?

Otherwise, it's pretty much a standard driving game. It's all monochrome, of course, but the graphics are all very nice. Those hills and valleys undulate pretty effectively, motorbikes weave from side to side frantically before disappearing under your tyres and there are some quite fetching backgrounds. It's a bit like Enduro Racer with twice the number of wheels (and things to shoot). But it's not quite as playable as the old biking classic - the controls don't seem to respond quite as realistically, and the skidding-round corners is a bit questionable. Oh, and the shooting can be a little haphazzard. But it's nothing to worry about.

If you're wanting to add a driving game to your collection, and can't quite stretch to a copy of Chase HQ, Overlander is a lot better than most purpose-built budget efforts.


Overall: 69%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 78, Sep 1988   page(s) 26,27

I feel a bit like Basil Fawlty trying not to mention the war to the German guests. In reviewing Elite's Overlander, it's impossible not to mention US Gold's coin-op conversion Roadblasters. Yet at the same time, one hesitates to do so.

Any old how, Overlander is a jolly good racing-and-blasting game which makes up in excitement what it might lack in graphic sophistication. The desert road scrolls nicely, and unlike the scenery in Roadblasters (oops, there I go again), it moves up and down rather than just wobbling from side to side.

You can choose to play either a hero Federation agent trying to get secret documents from point A to point B, or a nasty baddie smuggling counterfeit money, although it doesn't make much diff to the game.

Next step is to equip your car with fuel, weapons and accessories. You have a limited amount of money to spend; the aim of the game is simply to finish stages as quickly and violently as possible to earn cash bonuses. Weapons you can choose include bulletproofing, armourplating, missiles, flamethrowers, spiked wheels, turbochargers and smart bombs (pretty costly). You can define the key used to activate each special weapon.

Zoom! Off you go into the desert. Soon you'll be battered by enemy cars trying to force you off the road, fast-moving motorbikes, roadside gun emplacements, and mine-laying trucks. You can force your opponents off the road, blow them to bits, or dodge around them, and to warn you of their presence there's a twodirection indicator to the left of the control display.

Also shown on your control panel are indicators of the currently selected weapon, speed, RPM (which doesn't signify much), and fuel remaining.

Once you've hit top speed things get pretty interesting. Tyres squeal as you fling yourself around corners, explosions blossom as motorbikes smash themselves against your armoured bonnet mangled wreckage is strewn across the road and bullets and missiles fly as you race for the end of the stage. Altogether more fast-moving and enjoyable than R**d*****ers, but not as well-designed; the backgrounds are pretty monotonous, and the vehicles look rather boring.

Far be it from me to recommend one game rather than the other. just give them both a try and see which one revs your engine.

Label: Elite
Author: Mark Haigh-Hutchinson
Price: £8.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins


Graphics: 75%
Sound: 89%
Playability: 88%
Lastability: 82%
Overall: 81%

Summary: Exciting and enjoyable racey-shooty opic not unlike a certain coin-op.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 99, May 1990   page(s) 74

Another budget re-release, and this time one which is actually worth the dosh. When Overlander first appeared its great boast was that the background actually goes up and down as well as left-to-right; this isn't so amazing now, but it does add an extra element of interest to what is basically another cross-county race game, but with GUNS, oh yuss!

Extra oomph is added by the fact that Overlander takes place in a post-holocaust America where ruthless, excitement-loving adventurers (a bit like me - JD) carry cargoes, legal or illegal, across the radioactive wastelands between underground cities. You can earn more dosh for taking illegal cargoes, but all you money goes on buying bigger and more lethal add-ons for your car (a bit like me again - JD). You get to tool up before each journey, using a multiple-choice menu, and naturally you have to choose carefully between weapons, fuel and more powerful motors - it doesn't do to run out of juice in the radlands, but you wouldn't want to be without a flamethrower at the appropriate moment either.

The actual race sections are great, though each stage goes on a bit too long for my liking. The road dips and waves realistically, scrolling is smooth and your car twists and turns in response to your joystick movements. At the bottom of the screen, various displays show your fuel count, speed, weapons status, and proximity of enemies.

Your opponents include maniac motorcyclists, bomb-slinging trucks, armoured cars and roadside gun-emplacements; most of these you can take out with your standard gun, or missiles, but some demand smart bombs, wheelblades or the battering ram. Either way, you get a satisfying explosion and a big points bonus for doing the business.

If you're a fan of dangerous driving and anti-social behaviour (a bit like me - JD) you shouldn't miss out on Overlander - at a budget price, even if you already have something similar like Turbo Outrun or Buggy Boy. It's worth the petrol money.

Label: Encore
Price: £2.99
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins


Graphics: 78%
Playability: 60%
Sound: 85%
Lastability: 89%
Overall: 86%

Summary: Big fun race shoot explode crash bang whizz skid pop blast jobbie.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 103, Jun 1990   page(s) 67

Encore
Spectrum £2.99

In this Road Blasters clone, you have to drive your armoured auto along hostile highways on lucrative secret missions. With the money you earn from this business, you can buy various bolt-on weapons for your car, which come in handy when rabid motorcyclists are trying to run you off the road or when bombs are falling off the back of lorries. Although it won't have you hooked indefinitely, Overlander isn't a bad game at all, and in fact it's a pleasing alternative to the official Road Blasters. Worth the money.


Overall: 75%

Summary: A decent burn-up-the-road game with a fair few hours of blasting built in.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 11, Oct 1988   page(s) 51

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.99, Diskette: £12.99
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99

Break-neck speeds, smooth scrolling, death and destruction - what more could any gamesplayer ask? Haigh Hutchinson programmed this most satisfying game, Gary Tonge did the visuals.

Overlander needs speed to work, something it achieves quite well on the Spectrum. The road-scrolling is smooth with hills and dips creating an effective impression of movement amid the constant action. Oncoming vehicles are detailed and look good despite being monochrome - a feature which tends to make trucks merge with the background, rendering their fire difficult to see.

On both 48K and 128K machines sonic presentation is impressive with highly effective in-game sound effects and an enjoyable 128 title-screen tune.

Unfortunately, the Amstrad Overlander looks to be a straight conversion of the Spectrum game, complete with monochrome graphics and restricted use of colours. Minimal effort has been put into the game's translation, making it most unsatisfying to look at and play.

What the Z80 conversions do have is the playability of the original ST game (82% in TGWU)). The challenge is tough to begin with but the extra weapons you can buy as you progress make the going easier. Gameplay is helped by the rapid response of the car, and the high degree of control you have over the vehicle. The extra equipment and weapons on offer provide a moderate amount of depth and variety. Overlander is well worth a look if you want aggressive automobile action.


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Overall: 74%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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