Windows - 1999
Description of Lander
Much in the style of Activision's Battlezone, Lander is effectively a 3d remake and 'expansion' of ancient vector-based arcade game of the same name (familiar, no?).
You take the role of a daredevil pilot out to make a fortune through a series of challenging missions in your trusty planetside lander craft, a small, lightweight, maneuverable machine designed for tight ground-level (or below-ground) maneuvering, controlled through a set of automatically handled maneuvering thrusters on the corners, and a single main engine on the belly of the ship. The rough plot of the game is fairly simple - you're a mercenary lander pilot for hire, on a trip around the solar system. As you stop at each planet, various companies offer you jobs - sometimes legal, most often not, to do while you're on your various stops.
With the money accrued from each successful sortie, you can upgrade (or even replace) your lander craft, buy better weapons, engines, armor and such. However, later in the story, you'll get a whole range of shady figures after you, strange conspiracies and alien technologies - all of which mean very little to the gameplay, but it keeps things interesting. The gameplay, for the most part, involves tunnel flying and subterranean navigation. This is both aided and made more difficult by your crafts unique control system - the mouse provides tilt, roll and vertical thrust, while the keyboard provides yaw, weapon, item and camera controls.
Combat is fairly simple - you just move the enemy into your target sights and press fire a few times until it blows up. Most of the action comes from navigating the treacherous and sometimes unpredictable terrain you'll be seeing in your adventure, rather than blasting at targets.
Psygnosis have done a great job with level design, with effects like rain, lightning and fog very effectively portrayed, and the various structures you're flying around feel very authentic - a mine complex feels like it should, filled with chunky automated machinery, rough rock surfaces, dangerous overhangs and such, whereas a heavily defended prison complex is a clean-cut, sleekly built piece of architecture. Enemy design is fairly basic and weak though, but as combat isn't really a core gameplay element, that doesn't matter too much. The physics engine is convincing, and things bounce, roll, spin and explode as you'd expect and wish, although sometimes your craft can become 'stuck' - this is usually solved by just bouncing and rolling randomly at the expense of some shield energy.
The graphics are also exemplary, allowing much detail tweaking, meaning that it will look okay on an old system, but amazing on a modern top of the range rig. As such, a 3d accelerator is required. However, this does make it one of the best looking games on all of HOTU. While the average review of Lander (at the time) was fairly negative, giving average marks at best, the scant few positive reviews were overwhelmingly so.
Why so much difference? Well, it all depends on how much effort you're willing to put in. Fire up Lander for a quick, arcade-y blast and you will be sorely disappointed, and probably find your twitchy little lander craft smeared across a nearby stony outcropping. The game is long and difficult, with a sometimes steep learning curve, but all obstacles can be overcome with some degree of persistence, and a lot of piloting skill.
In summary, this game is beautiful, highly playable, rewarding, challenging, not for the faint of heart, and almost totally unheard of. This, in my opinion doesn't just make it an underdog, but a definite Top Dog, and entrant in the Hall of Belated Fame. A highly recommended (if hefty) download. There are some minor technical issues - I don't believe it is compatible with windows XP systems, as well as some other things mentioned below, but if your system matches the specs, then get it!
Review By HOTUD
Comments and reviews
chromax 2020-12-14 0 point
After 20 years I found the solution for this game. It is a 360 controller!
The game was released in a time period when people had mostly no Joystick anymore and gamepads were shitty on PC. So you had to play with Keyboard/Mouse without a seamless Thrust control method. Like in racing games, you had to push the keys sequentially to control only a little bit and this works not very good. With an 360 controller and his trigger you can control the thrust perfectly and voila, the game is not that hard anymore!
The configuration is a little bit fiddly, because you have to go out the game, change controls, go back into a level and so on, but it is worth it. Great game, dark atmosphere and nice light effects. Has a nice ambient soundtrack.
It is also very unique. There are not very much games like this. (only Frontier Pilot Simulator and Dropship United Peace Force)
blahblah 2019-05-10 0 point
Played this 10 years or so ago. It falls into the "Nintendo Hard" category of gaming. It requires a lot of skill and finesse to pilot the landers. Plus, some of the mid-range landers fly worse then the beginer lander.
There's a good faq for it on gamefaqs in case you get stuck in any areas.
Biggest issue is that your lander has a tractor beam that is used for both latching onto cargo to haul it around as well as siphoning gas from fuel pods. (Managing your fuel is a big part of the game, just like old DOS lander games).
The problem is, if you're latched onto cargo, you can't siphon gas. So, there's a button to hit that will turn off the tractor beam, dropping your cargo, letting you siphon gas. This is important, because some missions require you to haul things long distances, and you need to drop the cargo midway in order to siphon gas before heading onwards. Otherwise you end up near the end of the mission flying on fumes. Can't remember what that key is (or key combo), but experiment around when you get to a cargo mission to figure it out sooner rather then later.
The guy that wrote the faq on gamefaqs would use the 1st lander for damn-near the whole game (skipping the 2 early lander upgrades saying they flew like pregnant cows) until he could get to the last 2 landers, and he didn't know how to detach cargo. So, he ended up making some missions harder then they needed to be.. but still succeeded. If you've ever played the game, essentially the guy was playing "impossible mode" difficulty with a self-imposed handicap he didn't realize he was giving himself. Completely nuts that he pulled it off.
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