Fallen Angels

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Fallen Angels

by Dr. Typo & Marcus Losbjer


Atari Jaguar CD

Review by

The Laird


Tube: Second Edition was without doubt one of the finest things to appear on the Jaguar since its short commercial life ended in the nineties. Not just a great game it was also a amazing technical achievement and a far cry from the simple homebrew games we have become accustomed to. So the question on everybody lips was how they were going to better that? Well the first hint was dropped last year when French coder Dr. Typo released his voxel based Mars Rover demo to the masses. Voxels, or a height map engine as we should really refer to it, are a very efficient way of doing 3D graphics on the Jaguar. It was long speculated just what could be done with them after the release of the highly impressive prototype of Phase Zero for the Jaguar. In laymenís terms voxel and height map engines are basically a way of displaying standard bitmaps to show depth by plotting the co-ordinates of each element separately. Combine this with scaling, textures and lighting effects and you have something very good indeed.

The release of Fallen Angels has been timed brilliantly, because the game is actually an update of the classic Lucasarts game Rescue On Fractalus. This classic game was one of the first to be released by George Lucasí legendary software company that was recently shut down by Disney after the acquisition of the parent company Lucasfilm. This is something that nobody would have expected to happen when this game was first shown and released as a 1 level demo last year. Rescue On Fractalus was first released in March 1984 for the Atari 8-bit computers and the Atari 5200 games console. Following itís huge success it was later ported to other popular platforms of the day such as the Apple II, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Tandy Color Computer 3 and Commodore 64. The game was one of the first two products from the fledgling Lucasfilm Computer Division Games Group, as it was then known, led by Peter Langston (the other being the superb Ballblazer). The game used then ground-breaking fractal graphics to create the scenery and planet scapes around you proving a highly convincing 3D effect. The idea of the game was to fly over the surface of alien worlds to rescue crashed pilots before the enemy gets to them.

Fallen Angels retains all the same gameplay elements of Rescue On Fractalus so anybody who has played the original game will be able to jump straight into this. After watching an impressive take-off sequence where you launch from a mothership in orbit around each planet your craft appears over the surface of the world below with the player viewing everything from the shipís cockpit. Your craft is armed with a laser weapon, scanner, thrusters to land/take off and fly, shields and a warp drive, which must be used to return to the mothership. The scanner is used to locate the lost pilots that have crashed on the planet surface. As you fly over the undulating hills and valleys you will hear a beeping sound. The gaps between the beeps get shorter the closer you get to a crashed ship. You will also be able to see both enemies and these ships on your short-range scanner that makes up part of the cockpit HUD. Once you find a crashed craft you must try to land as close to it as possible and then turn off your shields. Once this is done the pilot will come running towards your ship and bang on the door, you must then activate the airlock to let him in. You also need rescue ďAceĒ pilots, who are usually trapped in hard to reach locations such as valleys or underneath gun placements. Saving these, as well as any pilots over your quota, will award you more points at the end of the level. Once the required number of pilots has been rescued then you can wait for the display to tell you that the mothership is in orbit and then use the warp drive to return to it. This also sees a nice section where you fly into orbit to dock with it.

On the early levels enemies will be few and far between but as the game goes on the hostility will increase. As well as the laser cannons that are located on mountain tops you will also have to deal with enemy UFOs that fly after you and try to shoot you down leading to some intense aerial battles. My one criticism of this part though is that the collision detection is woeful, but not in a frustrating way. You can actually shoot no where near the enemy and still destroy them, which is a bit disappointing and takes some skill out of the game. These are not the only enemy you have to contend with though. On later levels aliens will disguise themselves as lost pilots! The only way you will know if itís a real fallen angel is by waiting for the knock on the door. The alien pilots will run towards you then try to smash the screen of your craft and kill you, a genuinely scary experience that has transitioned well from Rescue On Fractalus.

Fallen Angels is excellent from a technical perspective, the graphics engine is super smooth and really shows what can be achieved with the Jaguar in the right hands. There is also a really nicely presented intro sequence for the game too. I do think the UFOs, pilots and aliens could have been drawn a lot better though. As far as the sound is concerned there is some nice title music and decent in-game effects but not a lot else, it would have been nice to had cries for help and a few other bits of speech thrown in there. What I did find strange though was the way the sound distorted quite often, I assume this is a problem with the sound engine. Gameplay wise I have no complaints other than that the game can become quite repetitive after a while and you can breeze through the early levels with ease. There is no doubting that Fallen Angels is very good game though. One that, like Tube: SE, could be an amazing game if just a few tweaks were made. However when a game of this quality is given away for free I really have no right to complain and neither should you, so what are you waiting for? Go burn a copy right now and give your Jag CD the kind of quality game it deserves!

Rating: 8/10

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