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Neutron Star Box
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Overall Score:
4.3
(Out of 5)
Gameplay: 5.0
Graphics: 4.0
Sound: 4.0

A rather interesting release from GST in Brazil and Europe, this game is probably Odyssey²'s most difficult (next to Loony Balloon, where it seems quite impossible to get past level one). There are four starting difficulty levels to add insult to injury. Even in level one, it's tough just to score 200!!

The object of the game is to save two rows of "satellites" or "space stations" from meteorites by either blasting them (which yields no points) or grabbing them and dropping them into a very nearby neutron star, which is actually a singularity (better known as a "black hole") -- which is horrific.

The instructions explain the scenario: A planet explodes during a pre-game intro, which is something rather rare and cool for an O2 game. The planet doesn't look too stable to begin with as it seems to be made up of multicolored gumballs. Right before detonation, klaxon sirens (or trumpets?) go off. The instructions lessen the seriousness of this, stating that the planet is "abandoned." Perhaps the sirens are from some nearby perspective, most likely the space stations' long-range scanners. The gumball meteorites go every which way, accompanied by a decent explosion sound.

Suddenly the game begins. Several space stations marked with yellow plus-signs occupy rows at the top and bottom of the screen. To the left is a spinning vortex of fiery doom, presumably the black hole. Somehow the space-station dwellers have managed to make some rather nice and useful force fields that surround the black hole, except for a decent sized opening right in front of it. To the right are some more, less useful force fields, and the meteorites come through two openings there.

(I wonder… if they had made better force fields on the right, would you have to work so hard? Your ship looks like the one from the movie Battle Beyond the Stars -- sort of like a hammerhead shark.)

You move around in tank-controller fashion -- like Armored Encounter! but with a slight drifting. The meteorites bounce around and tend to gravitate toward your space stations. If a meteorite hits one, KABOOM! That space station turns into a red X, which is never a good thing.

Your job is to fly around and grab one of the meteorites by touching it with the front of your space ship, then to thrust over to the black hole. Then, by using the ACTION button, you release the meteorite into the black hole to earn points. It's vaguely like Yars' Revenge for the Atari 2600 in reverse. If you hit the force fields, or manage to navigate past the space stations trying to escape your futile job, you'll bounce(!) back, just like the playful meteorites of doom.

Strangely, the meteorites seem to be unaffected by the gravitational pull of the black hole. You, however, honor the laws of physics and get sucked in right away! If you get too close, KABOOM! Game over! Once there are only two space stations left, it's also game over! I guess you get fired at that point as the remaining inhabitants get fed up with your efforts, and blow you up.

A few interesting notes:

  • You can fire at the meteorites in Showdown in 2100 A.D. style (for no points!), but if you miss, your stray missile can blow up one of the space stations. Shooting at the black hole does nothing. Darn.

  • You can spin around and smash a meteorite with the one you have attached to the front of your ship. Unfortunately, you still get no points, and worse still, sometimes the meteorite you were holding will be destroyed while the other one just floats away. Doing this will only cause more meteorites to show up anyway.

  • Your space stations never seem to get repaired!

  • If you hit these physics-defying meteorites with your ship -- say sideways -- nothing happens. If you ram into one of your space stations, however, KABOOM! You're fine, but the space station is gone. Again, undesirable.

  • The black hole's event horizon tends to grow over time as you drop more and more into it. Eventually, its range will drag you in no matter what. I suspect around 300 points is the maximum you can achieve in the game before you will get dragged in without any hope. However, you can hide behind the force fields on either side of the black hole to avoid its gravity, which seems to originate from the same algorithm as Power Lords.

  • The meteorites tend to wander around with half interest in your space stations, pretty much ignoring gravity altogether. Once you capture one and release it into the black hole, it tends to only shoot forward a tiny bit, then goes off and wanders elsewhere.

  • Scoring is hellish. You only get points for the number of surviving space stations. If there's only two space stations left and you've been playing for 20 minutes, you only get 2 points, whereas at the beginning, you're getting a rather generous 16 apiece!

  • Your ship drifts for only a short while after you cease thrusting, then it stops. Apparently there's some serious coefficient of friction goin' on here that could move the mass of a space ship and then make it stop! Maybe there's a magical atmosphere the space station inhabitants have made in this little corridor of doom so they can visit each other without the need for space suits?

  • Selecting 1 or 2 on the keyboard lets you choose between a slow or fast version of the game. Selecting 3 or 4 is more tragic: when a meteorite hits a space station, FOUR will be destroyed (either the left or right half of the eight) instead of ONE, which means you only get 4 chances instead of 16. Points are not higher on these levels.

  • I find it unusual that the space station dwellers have chosen to live on the rim of an event horizon. Perhaps they use its gravitational power like medieval water wheels? Maybe it's for safety against marauders? Certainly, time must have slowed down for them quite a bit, this close to such a gravitational force.

  • You can feel the futility of your endeavor. The meteorites never cease, but only increase in number and speed to a crescendo. Eventually, you will not be able to defeat the black hole's gravity and will be drawn in. Strangely, the space stations remain unaffected by the gravity. Too bad they couldn't offer that sort of technology to YOU! Sure would be helpful.

  • Sometimes I feel angry that I was put up to the task of saving these passive-aggressives. They'll destroy me if I fail, making their last bitter vengeance an act of evil as their last breath is used to detonate my ship, no doubt with tons of plastique explosives on board. I often want to ram my ship through hordes of space stations in defiance.

GST came out with some superior games and mastered O2 programming. One wonders what happened to some of these original programmers. Such games as Air Battle with its very amusing intro (a mid-air collision!) and the very cool Super Bee would have done well in the U.S. market, as would have the most morbid O2 game of all -- Mousing Cat, where the cat slowly devours the mouse during a full-screen sequence.

Even if Odyssey² games are unchallenging to you, this one will no doubt get your blood flowing. I would rate this game to be as difficult as Amok! or Loony Balloon, and almost as addictive.

All Reviewer Ratings:

ReviewerGameplayGraphicsSoundVoiceOverall
Mike Cronis5.04.04.0-4.3
Averages5.04.04.0-4.3

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