The 'Markon Dawn' slides through deep space - a vast robot ship sent to search for new life forms and knowledge. Cocooned within is the largest and most powerful computer known to the Markon Empire - The Brain of Markon.
As the ship passes through alien territory it is attacked by Martianoids. These maggot their way through The Brain of Markon disrupting its programs, wriggling between sectors like damp hand towels.
It is imperative that The Brain is defended...
You have control of a defending droid which can protect and steer randomly transmitted programs between Transmitter and Receiver in each sector. With its destination successfully reached the program activates defence mechanisms preventing further damage to that Brain section. When all nine sectors are activated The Brain is safe.
The droid itself can come under attack from Martianoids, to avoid them it can move to the left or right, and forwards. Energy is drained from the droid by contact with kamikaze Martianoids, though the alien's resultant death does give extra points. When energy levels become low, batteries about the Brain can be used for recharging. An indicator at the base of the screen shows battery level, should it drop to zero, the droid loses one of its four lives.
For defence, the droid carries lasers and blasters capable of destroying Aliens. Their use requires care if internal walls, active components and replacement cones are not to be taken out. A score is awarded for each Martianoid killed.
The photon weapons of the Martianoids can destroy all that is in their path. Components that have received damage can be substituted using Replacement Cones and the droid's 'pick up and drop' facility. Should all Active Components in a sector be destroyed then that sector is dead. Replacement Cones can be used to block off disposal chutes, if a program slips down one it is lost.
The droid's position, and that of the program within The Brain are displayed on a grid map. The status of each sector is indicated by colour - white indicates sector activation, flashing red and yellow signifies an attack by Martianoids, whilst red means sector death.
A scrolling display supplies updated information on what is happening in parts of the Brain which is currently off screen.
Control keys: C B M right, A S D... ENTER forward, Q E T U O laster, W R Y I P blaster, 1 2 3... 0 Z SYMBOL SHIFT pick up/drop
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Use of colour: monochrome playing area with decorative edges
Graphics: smooth 3D animation
Sound: average tune and effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: continuously scrolling map
Ultimate have gradually gone down in everyone's view, and producing a game as boring as this just emphasises the apparent demise of the 'once mighty' company. It's a pity to see such a reputation fade, but it's their own fault; Martianoids has pretty graphics, but little else, as there isn't much interest to be found in its walls.'
'Shock, excitement, hysteria... An Ultimate game, hooray! Oh, hang on, it's not very good is it? Oh well, perhaps we'll have to idolise someone else now. I've been playing this for ages now and I can't get the hang of it at all - then again most 'Ultimates' did take a while to get into but not this long surely. The graphics are a bit naff when compared to greats such as Pentagram and Gunfright and the sound is simply below average. Martianoids lacks the gameplay and general 'finish' that we've come to expect from Ultimate.'
'Ultimate return with a new distributor, but the same old 3D game. The graphics have taken a dive since the days of Knight Lore. These don't seem to have the appeal or the colour of the original stuff. The control method is much too slow and unresponsive to use successfully. I loved the old stuff but this is something completely different. Don't buy it because of the name.'
Martianoids is a neat notion for a game, despite its name. Your role as Guardian of the Brain of Markon is to care and stimulate it, and ultimately to protect it on its 1000 year trip aboard the robot ship Markon Dawn in its quest for new galactic life forms.
Trouble is, the life forms it's found are aggressive critters called Martianoids who've got into Markon's Brain and are chewing up its vital bits.
The Ultimate solution is to locate the program for each brain sector and guide it from the relevant transmitter to the appropriate receiver. This will activate the brain elements and make it safe from further attack.
To help you, the screen is split in two. One half is a nicely realised 3D image of the brain section you're in, and the other is a flat plan of Markon, divided into nine sectors. Here you can plot your position relative to that of the program you're collecting, while each section will flash according to its status - white for activated, red/yellow if under attack and red if destroyed.
In the 3D image you have to charge around the maze of the brain's circuit board, finding batteries to keep yourself charged, Martianoids to mash and the route to the program.
The nice clear graphics, the length of gameplay and the brain-as-computer idea are the game's strengths.
Its weaknesses are a complete lack of thrills in presentation - it's been designed with about as much imagination as a caravan site!
So many people have released Ultimate 3D graphics clones that, when I saw Martianoids, the company's first release for more than a year, I thought 'oh no not another one of them!'
Not so, though. The graphics are almost the same as Ultimate's other offerings, but the perspective's sharper and the play is more varied. You control a very unconvincing, cylinderical robot which is armed with gas spray and laser zap guns.
Your massive space ship The Markon Dawn has been invaded by aliens, innovatively called Martianoids, intent on destroying the master computer and, like a swarm of wasps create an environment in which they can live. The only way they can destroy the computer is by eliminating its lines of communication and halting the flow of programs from each sector of the ship to the main processor.
Your robot's main tasks are to collect batteries for energy, protect all sectors, and act as guard for each fluttering program as it floats towards its pyramidal sector processor. Once each program reaches its pyramid the sector's activated and the automatic defences start to destroy the aliens.
It's not an easy job because the aliens rip up the program path rods-which look like revolving barbershop poles- out of their holes and dump them. You can scoop four up at a time, then you've got to find empty holes and slot the poles back into them. Once all the holes- and poles-are working, the program can get home and all is sweetness and light for that sector.
You start in the central sector square, shown on the map at the side of the screen. Robbie the robot is shown as a blip on that display, the program is shown as another blip. Go find the processor pyramid then meet up with the program and nudge it towards its destination.
If a sector square starts to flash red and yellow it's under attack drop everything and rush to its defence. When you've killed a few aliens and replaced a few poles the emergency red stops flashing and you can go back to work on your other sector.
Once you've finished the clean up job on one sector its square turns white and the message window at the bottom of the screen informs you which sector you'd better hit next.
MARTIANS IN DISGUISE
Where have I seen them before? I could be one of the early Dr Whos who's developed an attack of amnesia when he next encounters the Daleks. But I'm not, I am a reviewer who has discovered some old Ultimate aliens in a new game.
First you meet the dome-topped monsters who'll blast you with laser guns when you come within range. Very easy to deal with and you're assured of a high score if you forget about your task and blast, blast, blast at anything that moves.
The mechanical mice appear at the second stage of the game. They move faster than the domes-they're mice after all - and will drain your energy if they touch you.
Third level and enter the blobs, each with two bug eyes on stalks, swaying in the spatial vacuum. They move slower than the mice but bump and bash your energy away just the same. They also fire the occasional hazelnut cluster-shaped laser bombs which won't kill you off immediately but will cripple you.
Your arsenal is composed of two types of weapon. The spray gun looks as if it's filled with acid and its range is limited. The robot puffs a huge cloud into the atmosphere and, hopefully, some of it will reach an alien: if it does the monster crumbles.
This spray is something new for Ultimate, which always used to rely on laser bolts. It's something of a technical innovation because, no matter which angle the robot is pointing at, the spray always shoots out as an extension in perfect perspective.
On occasion you'll need to blast away a section of wall and to do that you'll need the mega gun, activated using the keyboard. It destroys anything in it's path. So, if you want to get a battery trapped inside a wall be careful which part of the wall you destroy, or you'll lose the battery as well. Use the mega blaster sparingly, though, as-unlike the spray-it has a critical effect on your battery.
Martianoids will storm the charts for a number of very good reasons, although technically it's got little to recommend it. First, the plot has several strings to it. Just as you start to get bored with one set of aliens another set joins it and the action zips up. Also, the graphics are cleaner and in better perspective than the other Ultimate titles, a larger variety of curves, flats and textures have been used. Finally, the gameplay just... how can I put it... feels good.
Ultimate is back in the game.
Reviewer: John Gilbert
There was a time when the arrival of an Ultimate game in the C+VG offices would have created great excitement. The review team would fight among themselves to be first to get the game, load it up and start playing.
But since the awful Cyberun was issued last year and the company was swallowed up by US Gold, nothing has been forthcoming from the secretive software house. Rest in Peace, we thought.
Ultimate's past glories have been ripped-off, cloned and re-cycled. There have been countless Ultimate-style games and the formula, although not worn out, is a little jaded. Every now and then someone really comes up with an impressive 3D walkabout game. Take Head Over Heels from Ocean. It's in the Ultimate mould but graphically it's brilliant.
Now suddenly there's Martianoids. It's arrival created no mass panic, just a passing interest.
It's the much-loved formula but with nothing truly brilliant about it. It could be from anybody.
As always there's just the brief story which sets the scene of the game.
The Markon Empire has launched a vast robot ship into the depths of space on a mission to find new life-forms and gather knowledge. It's called the Markon Dawn.
Controlling this ship is the Brain of Markon, a vast and powerful computer. Your role in Martianoids is to be the guardian of the brain, to defend, maintain and activate it in the event of attack.
And that's just what happens. Martianoids, unfriendly aliens, have gained entry to the ship and are now interfering with the passages of programs through the brain. Their weapons are capable of destroying all active components in the brain.
You have to guide the programs from the transmitter to the receiver in each sector of the brain. There are nine sectors of the ship, shown on a display to the left of the main window on the game. The robot - that's you - appears as a little blip. The program to is another blip. You've got to get to the program and get it into position.
The robot is equipped with a laser with which he can zap the various aliens, who can drain away his energy in suicidal attacks on him. It's also equipped with a blaster to destroy walls.
Martianoids is a good game, highly playable, graphically okay but without the touch of originality which marks it out from all the other Ultimate clones.
Still it's nice to see the mystery men back in action but time will tell whether the name Ultimate will regain its former glory and recapture its pioneering spirit.
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