Cygnus 8

Title         	Cygnus 8
Company		Applaud Software / Islona (publisher)
Game Type       Action Strategy
Players         1
HD Installable  Yes (Copy to hd)
Compatibility   All
Submission      Joachim Froholt Profiled Reviewer

Cygnus 8 is an updated version of the C64 game Star Trader (released in
1984 by Bug Byte). It's essentially a space trading game where the goal is
to become rich and famous by buying and selling a variety of commodities,
but it's different from most games in the genre in that your main
character has a life outside his spaceship as well. He needs food and
sleep, and he can do various things while visiting any of the planets in
the game.

The player's character is, of course, a very important part of the game,
and you have to keep him well fed and in good health. This is, in the
beginning at least, easier said than done. In order to keep up a good
health, you'll have to eat and sleep regularly. This wouldn't really be a
problem if you could just buy some food rations and get some sleep aboard
your ship, but this isn't possible. Instead, you have to land on a planet,
go to the local pub or hotel and get some sleep. Food is only served in
the pub. And to make matters more difficult, you can't buy yourself a bit
to eat at any time of the day - the pub's only open in the evening (same
with the hotel).

This means that if you arrive on some planet in the early morning and
you're starving, then you'll have no choice but to wait for hours of
in-game time before your character can get something to eat. Needless to
say, this can be quite annoying, especially as there's no logical reason
why food is only available in one pub at a particular time of the day -
you can fly from one solar system to another with a very small amount of
effort, but you're not able to find a decent morning meal no matter what
you do.

As you see, the time of the day plays an important part in Cygnus 8. Shops
and stuff are only open at certain times of the day, so you'll often find
yourself with nothing to do but wait. Time passes instantly from one part
of the day to the next as soon as you do something - i.e. buy merchandise,
buy a meal, visit the bank and so on. You can also select to do nothing
and skip a turn.

When you're not on a planet, you're in space. Space flight is quite simple
- you're presented with a screen featuring an overhead map of the
universe, with your ship hovering above the planet you were last at. You
then fly the ship to another planet and push the joystick down to land
there. On your way, you'll have to avoid getting hit by dangerous
asteroids that zip around the screen. They're really no big deal unless
you're unlucky, though (and if you get hit, you'll only lose some energy).
Sometimes, there might be pirates in orbit around some planets, and if
you try to land there, you'll be taken to the battle screen.

Battles are very simple turn based affairs that borrows the basic gameplay
idea from classics such as Laser Squad and UFO: Enemy Unknown. You've got
your ship in the bottom of the screen and the opposing ships in the top.
When it's your turn, you aim at a ship, fire your weapon and hope that the
ship takes enough damage to blow up. If it doesn't, you shoot again.
Firing a weapon drains a bit of your energy bar, and when you've spent all
your energy, the remaining enemies fire back at you. When you've gone
through this a couple of times, you're either dead or victorious...
There's very little strategy to think of, as you can't move your ship (and
it wouldn't have mattered if you could), and thus the battles become quite
boring very quickly.

You'll spend most of the game time trying to make money. This is done in
the standard trading game fashion: You buy some goods at one planet, then
travel somewhere else where you sell them, preferably at a profit.
Trading is good fun for a while, though the prices seem to be determined
more by chance than by a complex interplanetary economic system. There are
also a couple of dishonest ways to make money: You can attempt to rob the
banks or shops (while they're closed). This isn't really much fun and you
probably won't do it often (if at all), as it involves quite a risk of
getting caught, and there's nothing much you can do to influence the

The main problem with Cygnus 8 is that once you get over the initial
difficulties (when your character is starving to death outside the pub and
stuff like that) making money eventually becomes too easy. Bucketloads of
money would be okay if there were some expensive pieces of equipment to
buy, but there's very little of that. So instead of trying to make enough
money to buy a fancy new ship or lethal weapon, you just wind up making
money for the sake of making money. When there's no point in having the
money, there's no point in making it either, and the game just becomes
boring after an hour or so, because you realize that you've seen pretty
much everything there is to see.

The actual goal of the game is to complete a series of missions, but the
ones I played didn't really add anything to the gameplay. To make things
worse, you can't save the game properly, you have to complete a set amount
of missions and the game will give you a password so you can start from
that point again. Uhuh? What's wrong with a save game function? It should
have been rather easy to implement in such a game. With the current
system, many players will just quit the game when they're tired of it, and
so they'll have to start over again if they want to play again (which
doesn't really make playing again very tempting).

Cygnus 8 features a very nice and comprehensive ingame manual which
explains most everything the game has to offer. The user interface is easy
to get to grips with, and you won't have problems at all, provided you
spend some minutes with the manual before playing. The game is also, as
far as I can tell, pretty bug-free.

The graphics are fairly decent and colourful. Most of the game's graphics
are still pictures of the locations you're in, and there are very few
animations to look at. The game could have done well with some more
variation in the graphics, though - all planets look the same down to the
smallest detail, and there are no colourful alien characters to interact
with. The music is also quite reasonable, though it gets noisy after a
while. It's standard demoscene stuff which doesn't really sound as if it
was ever intended as background music for a game.

In total, Cygnus 8 is a game which promises much but delivers little. It's
not a really bad game, but it's not particularily good either, and while
the first hour or so is quite entertaining, the game never really progress
anywhere after that and most players will quickly lose interest. It
certainly wasn't worth the original asking price, but rumours has it that
it's available as a free download from a legal Amiga site, and it's
certainly worth a try.

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