for the Atari Lynx
1-4 players, horizontal game
Ah, life in the space lane. You are one of the most hated and most revered people in the galaxy -- a mercenary. If someone's got the bucks, you've got the guns, for whatever the cause.
Your current case is for the Zarlors, who are at war with the Mendicants over some financial dealings or other. The Zarlors have decided to cripple, but not kill, the Mendicants with a set of six tactical strikes. They jingled their Zarbits, so you signed up for the deal. The Zarlors don't think you can survive all six attacks. You'll show them...
That's the game in a nutshell. ZARLOR MERCENARY is a horizontally-based, vertical-scrolling space shoot-em-up, an original title from Epyx for Atari, by the creator of CHIP'S CHALLENGE (talk about diverse). The screen scrolls from top to bottom at a fixed rate, and you (and up to three other friends) move around the screen, shooting everything that dots the landscape. The screen moves horizontally with you, giving you even more targets to blast.
Everything you destroy is worth Zarbits, that funny plastic money from the Zarlors. The more you shoot, the bigger your profits, and the more money you have means the more hardware you can buy from the Mercenary Merchant. You start off with three ships, and can get more through the game -- either that, or buy them.
Shooter fans will rejoice, because ZARLOR MERCENARY has all the staples of these games -- power-ups, bosses, targets, targets, and more targets. Everything that can be shot is worth something, and there is a *LOT* to shoot at. There are only six levels, but each level is fairly large (about five minutes to get through), and the enemies are numerous enough and fire enough to punch through any defenses you have. There are a lot of enemies/targets too, in a wide variety, such as patternized fighter squadrons, unconcerned walkers, mercenary-seeking drones, and unarmored civilians (grin). If anything, the game may be too difficult for fewer players, though your mileage may vary.
You start off as one of several "characters", each of whom has a different power-up weapon to start with. What you don't have you can get, either by shopping between rounds or picking up floating globes on the level. If things get tight, you can also sell your weapons back (at a loss, natch), or trade Zarbits with your co-mercenaries between levels. There are a lot of power-ups in a wide range of uses, enough to satisfy most video warriors. The gameplay and controls are straightforward enough for any gamer; true video warriors will pick up the game in 10 seconds, if not sooner.
The graphics on this game are _INCREDIBLE_! The game itself is shown in a three-quarters psuedo-3D view, with accompanying shadows everywhere to reenforce the effect. Targets and background graphics are crammed with nice features and detailed touches, from blinking lights and transparent windows to ditches dug by mechano-bots that stop when you destroy them (the bots, I mean). Someone went through a lot of loving care to make the graphics stand out, and it shows.
Sounds are slightly above average, though not up to the standards set by the graphics. A slightly-repetitive tune plays throughout the game, but you can turn it off with the Option 2 button if it bothers you. Most of the other game sounds are from weapons fire, explosions, and the occassional off-screen special effect. All are done well, though not outstandingly so.
A great no-nonsense action game, perfect for people who love the "shoot it if it exists" philosophy. The game itselt is not easy, and the addition of four-player teamups and cash payments/transfers/power-ups ensure quite a bit of variety to the game. Though there are only six levels, they are quite varied, and should offer many challenging hours to the average player.
GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 10 SOUND: 7.5 OVERALL: 9