Sigma 7


by Mike A. Richardson, Julian Breeze, Jane Richardson
Durell Software Ltd
1987
Crash Issue 39, April 1987   (1987-03-26)   page(s) 110

What happens when one of those robotised factories floating around in space is no longer needed? After all, a man in Earth Head Office can hardly reach out to an instrument panel and press an 'off' button... for one thing the factories are over 100,000 light years away. Worse still, they were constructed with an in-built protection system, designed specifically to stop rival companies shutting them down. No. the only way companies can silence these obsolete hulks is by employing men like you (a freelance Robot Factory Deactivator) to roam the Universe in your compact space fighter, shutting them down as it becomes necessary.

Deactivating a factory involves the completion of three different tasks. First, the factory's automatic defence system has to be negotiated. The screen scrolls diagonally as the fighter approaches the factory and defensive mines home in kamikaze-style, attempting to destroy what they consider to be a hostile intruder. There are three back-up craft, one of which is lost if these mines strike home. The fighter moves left and right to avoid the onslaught, and shoot bursts of laser fire which destroy the mines. Travelling far enough into the defence system brings you to the factory where the fighter automatically lands.

Next the factory floor must be cleared of 'power dots', using a remote control drone. The screen displays a 3D forced perspective view of the factory's interior which scrolls as the drone moves along the power dot filled tracks. You can't fall off the path, but crashing into one of the drones trundling around the maze-like system loses another reserve craft. The dots are cleared by travelling over them, and when enough are eradicated, the score display flashes. The drone can then be moved to either end of the factory to complete the screen.

During the clearing period some of the dots are impossible to pick up - these form a pattern which must be remembered if the third and final stage is to be completed. A panel appears containing a series of buttons. Using these, the pattern revealed in the previous stage must be recreated. This is achieved by bouncing a suspended ball on the correct buttons. This task is made more difficult by a defence force field which slowly follows your movements across the slab - if the ball is dropped onto a button guarded by the force field, another craft is lost. A button can only be activated if it's flashing yellow - any other colour and the ball has no effect.

When this puzzle is negotiated and the correct pattern inserted, the factory is considered shut down. Bonus points are awarded and you are automatically moved on to the next, more hazardous factory. The action continues in this fashion until your supply of ships runs out.

COMMENTS
Control keys: definable, preset: A/Z up/down, N/M left/right,
Space to fire
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor
Use of colour: colour clashes abound, but they're forgiveable given the amount of on-screen colour
Graphics: Badly animated characters, and annoying flicking on second screen
Sound: Good title tune, and plenty of boring effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: three stages, scrolling


'DURELL seem to be slipping - Deep Strike was less than pleasing, and this is a bit iffy too. At first Sigma 7 is compelling, but once you've got the hang of all three levels it proves to be far too easy - so monotony sets in quickly. The gameplay may appeal to high score bandits but I doubt it will keep most gamesplayers happy for long. The graphics are fairly impressive, there's always a lot of colour on screen and the characters themselves have been nicety drawn. The front end is excellent, the game logo flicks up beautifully at every given opportunity, and there's a brilliant 48K tune.'
BEN

'I suppose that when you've released as many superb games as DURELL have you're bound to get a few duff cookies. Sigma 7 is a GREAT disappointment. The graphics are very solid but not very well drawn, and there's appalling colour clash on the first stage. The animation is simple and not very effective - the first stage suffers terribly from flickers and jerks. One good thing is the tune on the title screen. But that's about it. There's nothing in any of the stages that's fun to play. Sigma 7 is not worth the asking price on its own.'
PAUL

'I really enjoyed this at first. It took me a while to understand the objective of the third screen, but once I had it sussed it became very, very easy. Within half an hour I was regularly amassing 20 or 25 lives every game... and losing them all a few levels later. Needless to say, I found this extremely frustrating, and therefore the addictive qualities I originally foresaw vanished in a puff of smoke. On its own, Sigma 7 isn't much of a game, but DURELL's drop in price is a sensible move -and as it now seems that they're offering a ' buy one get one free' policy (and we're talking games like Thanatos and Fat Worm here, not yer usual freebie rubbish!!), Sigma 7 represents good value.'
MIKE

'Hmmmm. I really think that Durell could have made this a little more interesting on the 128/plus 2. Surely adding another level or some other extra bit of gameplay wouldn't have caused the programmers too much trouble - and it would have made the enhanced version a lot more playable. The music is simply a slightly more tuneful version of the already impressive 48K soundtrack. The sound effects during the game are the only vastly noticeable improvement on the 128-it sounds like a good shoot 'em up should. I wouldn't strongly recommend it over its 48K version as the changes are minimal.'

Presentation: 79%
Graphics: 71%
Playability: 58%
Addictiveness: 55%
Value for Money: 66%
Overall: 62%

Summary: General Rating: A disappointment from Durell, maybe this should have been the freebie!

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 16, April 1987   page(s) 47

A long time ago, in a galaxy just around the corner, a great adventure took place... (cue music, dah-daannnn!)... The Evil Sigma Empire despatched its seven great warfactories (Sigma Seven), on a journey towards Sol III, called Earth by its inhabitants. En route towards the blue planet, the warfactories were creating the strike force that would lay Earth to waste and press its people into slavery... (gasp) But little did they know that Earth's advance warning system on Pluto had alerted deep space defence ships, which were sending tiny interceptor vessels to meet the Sigma Seven, just outside the Solar System...

First they had to tussle with the robot fighters which buzzed around the warfactories like insects. The Earth fighters examined the trajectories of the robot fighters, and picked them off, swerving to avoid ones they missed ('cos they exploded on contact!) Having landed in the factories, they released a small manned tank into the innards of the great war machine. Winding its way around the corridors the little vehicle destroyed the robot mines, protecting the computer codes to the self-destruct mechanism. Sure enough, embossed on the floor of an intersection, they found the configuration code. Memorising it, using their specially hand-carved brains, they pressed on to the very nerve centre of the mighty ship. Skillfully avoiding the sensor mine positioned over the buttons, they punched in the code to the ship's master computer... and waited...

BLAMMO!

Cor, what an epic space game this is! I tell you, you'd have to go many a long parsec before you'd stumble across a shoot 'em up as good as this one. There are seven warfactories, (or levels) and each has three stages. The first stage is the flight towards the factory from your base ship. You fly, Zaxxon style, towards it, firing the brilliant white laser blasts (which seem to burst through the attribute problem as if it wasn't there) at the onrushing robot ships. The distance between your base and the factories gets longer as you advance through the levels, so you'd better get a lot of practise in if you want to get into the meat of the game and don't want to end up as a splash of pixels drifting through space!

This is a fabulous game, to be perfectly honest. It's a real arcade challenge, firstly and formostly, but as well as this, it's a tough test of strategy and a fiendish way of stretching the muscle between your ears. The graphics are colourful and very nicely rendered, with a sharp eye for minimising attribute clashes and maximising the special effects - the slide which covers the screen between scenes, scratching up and screeching down, is brilliant to watch and an effective break in the action.

The sound hasn't been forgotten either, with a foot tapping signature tune, and rasping sound effects.

This is one game I recommend you play immediately. If not sooner!


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

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 47, November 1989   page(s) 46

Originally released by Durell a couple of years ago, Sigma 7's name derives from the very popular Greek letter 'sigma' and the number seven, which alliterates quite nicely with it. The game announces itself as a 'space fantasy shoot-em-up', in fact 'a prime example of this genre', a boast I'd be foolish to argue with.

Like all Durell's other stuff, the graphics have a slightly unpolished look about them, but the substructure is sound enough. A cunning blend of scrolling shooter, Pacman and puzzle game, Sigma 7 certainly pushes this genre to its limits. Phil says, "I prefer the Commodore 64 version, but you probably can't say that in a Spectrum review," highlighting the scritchy scratchy sound as one of his principle disappointments. Personally I thought the sound was fine.

Two quid is a small price to pay for this former blockbuster which is only just starting to go rusty.


Overall: 75%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 61, April 1987   page(s) 24,25

Sigma 7 is really rather good. It looks a little like Zaxxon (brilliant semi-3D arcade game) but then goes on to reveal original and entertaining sections.

There isn't much sign of a strong plot-line, but the pleasing gameplay and attractive graphics make up for this.

Sigma 7 is split into three sub-plots, each with a different aim.

At the start (Stage 1) your little space craft can be seen launching off from an impressive mothership and making a flightpath diagonally up the screen.

As soon as the mothership has moved off the screen and you are happily motoring away, on come screaming waves of green aliens that swirl and twirl all over the shop, making flying very hazardous indeed. The obvious solution is to bank left and right, wiping out the aliens as they appear. This is pretty easy to begin with, but soon gets tricky as more appear at a faster rate.

Once these are dispensed with (a fairly easy task on the first levels) another large construction will appear in the top right-hand corner of the screen and work it's way down. Once you get to it, you'll find yourself on Stage 2 which is a little like Pacman in an odd sort of way.

You're in control of a tank-like vehicle which sits on a sort of griddy affair which - initially - has pathways littered with little coloured blobs. By guiding your tank over the pathways you pick up some of the blobs. Others will stay in place (and more of those in a minute). Hampering your progress by running into you are small square aliens that revolve and gang up on you if you're not careful.

Now, after you've collected all the blobs you'll be able to memorise the pattern of the immovable ones. And these will be used in Section 3. Once all the blobs have been eaten, you'll have to battle your way up to the top right of the screen, through all the aliens and on to the next section.

At this point a couple of comments about the graphics wouldn't be too out of place.

Although the 3D is all very nice thank you, there's rather too much attribute clash for my liking and. although it may look quite 'effective' when an alien is being blown to smithereens, we've now been shown that there are ways around the problem. (Dandy, Shadow Skimmer et al). Having said that, the aliens are all very well drawn and they explode in a cloud of smoke, which is a nice touch.

Anyway, back to the game. Section 3 is even stranger than the previous stage. What we have here is a sort of matrix of square buttons drifting in space with some peculiar plant objects floating around the outside. At this point you turn into an object closely resembling another planet of some sort. Here you must push down the buttons on the matrix in the pattern of the fixed dots on Sector 2. Complex eh? No, I didn't understand it either.

All the time you are heckled by something or other that looks a bit like a pyramid which goes around un-pressing all the buttons. It'll also kill you on contact and so is generally to be avoided.

Then once you've completed this bit you go all the way back to the beginning and start again, although the aliens are more unpleasant and things are a bit tougher around.

Label: Durell
Author: In-house
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

****


Overall: 4/5

Summary: Really quite nice. Good graphics and varied gameplay make it well worth the cash. Could lack addictiveness.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 92, November 1989   page(s) 48

Nineteen hundred and eighty-seven! What a year! I remember it well - flared trousers, riots in the streets and ration books! (Pull yourself together, lad - JD). Oh yes, 1987, the year Sigma Seven was first released, was famous for the discovery of metallic bas-relief graphics, originally on the Commodore 64. Within seconds, every programmer in the world was trying to get the same effect, with extremely mixed success. Sigma Seven was one of the very mixed ones, and now it's out on budget so you can judge for yourself whether there's more to it than pretty graphics.

I suppose it's a fair conversion of Ron Jeffs' CBM 64 original (or "origonal" as it says on the intro screen), but you can't help thinking that it's more of a Zaxxon rip-off than anything else, especially since the first stage consists of nothing more than taking off from a throbbing big pink space platform and flying through the cosmos blasting pointy alien ships.

With the Spectrum's basically monochrome graphics it's a bit hard to get any impression of perspective, so it's mainly a matter of moving left and right, zapping away and hoping you wipe them out before they dive straight at you.

This isn't too difficult and you should reach stage two without breaking into a sweat, coming in to land automatically on another big pink space platform. It might have been a bit more fun if there was the danger of coming in too low and slamming into the superstructure, but no such luck.

Stage two comes as a bit of a shock, because it's nothing other than a sci-fi version of PacMan - manoeuvre around a walled maze, collecting dots and avoiding the ghosts - sorry, spacetanks.

The big bonus is that you can blast them to smithereens with your energy-spurting death cannon, which is an element I always thought was missing from PacMan.

The maze section is pretty good fun, if unoriginal, and gets progressively more difficult as you clear the dots and more tanks appear from the tank generators at the end of cul-de-sacs. Clear the whole maze of dots and return to the entrance of the maze, and you get to phase three. Back into space for another shooter? No, not at all.

Stage three is a peculiar kind of puzzle in which rows of coloured lights flash in sequence as a pyramid-shaped alien chases you around a sort of cosmic chess board. I never quite got the hang of what I was supposed to be doing on this stage, which is probably why I can't tell you anything much about the subsequent sections...

Decent scrolling, slidey between-section logos, reasonable bleep-bleep sound effects and dreadful 2001-style music all add up to a bit less than the sum of the parts.

Sigma Seven might have been the last world in multi-faceted spacey arcade adventures when it appeared, but now it looks more like a few second-hand game concepts cobbled together into one title. That isn't to say it's not worth a budget price, but don't expect anything extra super special.

Label: Encore
Author: Mike Richardson
Price: £2.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins


Graphics: 75%
Sound: 60%
Playability: 70%
Lastability: 57%
Overall: 61%

Summary: Fairly tired-looking collection of game concepts strung together in space.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 96, November 1989   page(s) 75

Encore
C64/Spectrum/Amstrad £1.99

Drifting towards us through the murky mists of time is this odd sort of spacey shoot 'em up/PacMan game. Briefly fight your way through squadrons of space meanies in an unmanoeuvrable spaceship, then guide a Hovvertank around a factory maze, sucking up blobs and dodging robots. After that there's a strange puzzle game to keep you occupied.

The action throughout is displayed in a sort of Zaxxonesque 3D which looks quite nice, but means things jerk around slo-o-owly on the Spectrum and Amstrad versions. The Commodore version is a lot smoother and faster, though, and if it wasn't for the unexciting and frustrating gameplay, it would be alright. Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be.


Overall: 51%

Summary: Slower and quieter than it Commodore counterpart, and no more playable for it.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue June 1987   page(s) 34

Durell
£7.95

Described as on "all action arcade game featuring imaginative state-of-the-art 3D graphics and exciting synthesised sound", this is actually three reworked examples of some old games.

The first phase of Sigma 7 is to fly through space to the factory while fighting off the space mines that swarm around you in a series of attack waves. These mines look remarkably similar to alien spacecraft and even fire missiles at you. After surviving a below standard shoot em up you arrive at a factory that introduces the latest version of Pacman!

In the factory you must clear the pathways by collecting dots while being chased by robomines that home in on you from all parts of the scrolling maze. These can be shot with your laser but your main objective is to find the pattern of dots that can I be moved as this forms a combination for stage three.

The third and final stage is a futuristic puzzle in which you must enter the pattern onto a control box while avoiding a killer sphere that tries to touch your cursor and kill one of your lives.

You begin the game with the standard three lives but gain another three lives when you complete a stage. You could have nine lives by the time you've finished the first level and you'll need them to survive later levels when you have to face more space mines, clear a harder and bigger factory maze and enter a more complicated code.

The graphics are good and do add a new lease of life to these tried and tested game formats but for £7.95 you expect something different.


Overall: Groan

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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