Windows - 1997
Also available on: 3DO
Description of Captain Quazar Windows
Captain Quazar clearly isn't a game to be taken too seriously, and its cheapish price tag reflects that. The game features a lot of rapid-fire action as you lead wannabe hero Quazar on a quest to rid the galaxy of a gang of crimelords. There's up to 10 missions lined up for you, care of your tough-talking stereotype police chief. Each mission takes place on a very large smoothly-scrolling map, where you view the action from an overhead isometric angle.
Captain Quazar has a certain "Sonic"ness to it - it has loud and colourful in-your-face action, with little let up from the all-too-relentless bad guys. While it makes use of 16-bit colour and sound, the game is let down a little by the fact that it will only run in a 320x240 mini-window under Windows 95. Had I had a faster video card with more RAM or better DirectX support, maybe I could have run it full-screen. As it was I had to make do with a smallish play area.
The other snag I had was that the otherwise admirably customisable control system wouldn't have anything to do with my 3-button gamepad - I could calibrate it, but not use it in the game. My Gravis joystick worked, but was too clumsy, so I ended up using the keyboard controls. However, these are OK - arrow keys move you around and Insert, Home and PgUp fire your three weapon types of gun, missile or grenade. The Escape key lets you pause the action and select weapon types.
Once you get into the action, and 30 seconds of load time per level on a double-speed CD doesn't help here, everything happens fast and furious. The graphics are very clear, and the animation quality good. The bad guys burn up, frazzle, explode and otherwise die in a variety of graphically gratuitous ways. The problem is that your movement is based on 8 directions, and lining up the bad guy along a horizontal or diagonal path is very tricky, even with practise. The "super-spin" firing technique helps, but this awkwardness combined with the rather restrictive view area (you can't see much of the game map at once) makes the game rather more frustrating than it should be. And when bad guys you've nailed once often spring back to life again, it can all get rather to much to bear (the manual says blowing up guardhouses stops the flow of new enemies, but I've found this to not always be true).
However, if you stick with it, the game is fun. Were it a piece of shareware then it would pass as a classy example - as a "full price" release (albeit as cheap as $20) then there's a feeling that it could have been better on a number of fronts, in particular the control system. Only being able to save game between missions is also a little frustrating, as each level takes a long time to complete and losing all because tea's on the table is again a bit of a pain.
It's also not clear how to achieve some of the mission objectives. In mission 2, it's all to easy to kill the slaves who need rescuing by destroying the huts in which they're imprisoned, when in fact you have to find the keys to release them. The mission log is handy to refer to to see just what you have left to do to win the level.
There are a number of nifty features in Captain Quazar ; you can get information from prisoners, use a variety of power-ups (weapons, invisibility, shields, antidotes, running boots, etc), play in 2-player mode with a friend controlling Lieutenant Pulzar, hunt around for keycodes to elevators and teleporters, check your progress on the mission log and "strategic" map, and (naturally) get constant radio updates from your over-anxious boss. The 2-player mode is good, but a little restricted as both players have to stay onscreen; there's no split-screen mode.
Most things on the screen can be blown up, and that includes walls, buildings, vehicles and anything else you take a dislike to. As you go up through the levels you run into more terrain types - including desert, jungle and a lava world. There's a copious supply of power-ups scattered around in containers and other fairly obvious places, the extra life power-up being one of the most precious. You can use cash, gems and objects you find in armoury "shops" which are available between levels or sometimes at places within levels.
Hero or Dunce?
If you're into shoot-em-ups, then at $20 or less Captain Quazar could be worth a try. My main reservation is the physically small window I had to play in, combined with the clumsy control system and restrictive view window. The unplayably sluggish 640x480 scaled window did't help. And if my gamepad worked, perhaps I would be more enthusiastic. If the authors could rewrite the game to run at a higher resolution than 320x240 and to work smoothly in full-screen mode, Captain Quazar would likely be more of a hit.
The quality graphics, cartoon cut-scenes, speech and animations make Captain Quazar a game of potential, but the little irritations proved too much for me in the end. That said, there is a certain "something" which gives the game an appeal, and for $20 I've seen a lot worse!
Review By GamesDomain
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