Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Retro Videogames: Captive (1990)

a personal selection of retro favourites

CAPTIVE is my all-time number one videogame. I put more hours into this than anything else I've ever played and only Nintendo's Animal Crossing has come anywhere close to being as compulsive to play. CAPTIVE is a game that requires immense concentration, absolute recollection and infinite patience - even when the shit hits the fan as it always does on every level.

The premise is simple. In the beginning you have a team of four basic droids on a starship. On the Galactic map something begins to flicker on and off. A beacon. Your first destination. Programming the ships computer, you head for the planet where the beacon is transmitting. When you reach orbit, your droids get in the lander module and head for the surface. Once there you have to find the entrance to the base. The entrance to the base is a large circular door with four click points that have to be pressed in the correct sequence to open it. Once decoded, you enter the unknown and the adventure begins..

Your droids task is to first find the control room, take the space probe that will indicate the next planet with the next base to solve, and then find the base generators and blow them up using high explosives. Initial bases are one level only and are protected by various alien/cyborg enemies with basic weapons. Later bases span multiple levels and the alien/cyborg enemies get smarter and harder to kill.

At various locations, stores can be found where you can upgrade your droids and level up on experience gained in combat. These hardware upgrades require space credits. These space credits are found scattered throughout each base. They can also be found on the bodies of the alien/cyborgs you kill as you progress through the levels. The more alien/cyborgs you kill the more credits you get. Simple.

So far, so good. But as you clear a base and complete the tasks required the true brilliance of the game emerges. You got in. Found the probe. Got the explosives. Found the generators. Rigged them ready to blow. Now you have to get out before the base is destroyed with your droids in it. Not so hard with the one level bases at the start of the game. Further in there are 2 level bases, then 3, then 4. Each level is accessed via elevators or gravity holes. Explosives are primed. Ten second fuse. Your droids are battled hardened armoured bad asses with the latest tech weaponary. You've killed everything you've come across. Now you have to run. As fast as you can. Which way to the level 3 elevator? Right? Left? No, wait. That way. Hear that? That's the sound of the base exploding behind you. Run faster. Where is that fucking elevator?

The sense of urgency is incredible. Intense concentration and furious recollection. You finally reach the base entrance to find the exit automatically closed. What was the sequence again to open it? The base explodes with your droids a step away from safety. Shit. Load up that oft saved game to try again - only this time remember the dammed sequence. And run faster.

This thing has a rumoured 10,000 planets to visit. Each planet has a more complex and harder base to destroy with some really hardcore alien/cyborgs protecting it. CAPTIVE is a superlative experience and it's amazing to think it came out over 20 years ago on the Amiga and was created by a guy called Tony Crowther as his tribute to Dungeon Master. It is without question a truly fantastic and classic videogame.

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