Pioneer Plague

Title		Pioneer Plague
Game Type	Shoot-em-up
Publisher	Madarin Software
Developer 	Bill Williams
Players		1
Compatibility	OCS (Select at bootup for AGA machines)
HD Installable	No
Submission	Christopher Owen

		The Story
        The story behind Pioneer Plague is as follows... In the future,
available habitat on the planet Earth gets slightly overcrowded, you know,
breeding and all that, and the rate at which we can colonise other planets
effectively is not quite able to keep up. A solution must be found. That
solution is the Pioneer Probe Mark IV. It's job is to float around in
space, terraforming planets it finds into paradises complete with beaches,
highrise apartments and cafes. After it finishes on one planet, it
replicates itself and it's many copies buzz off to various corners of
the galaxy to repeat the process. Hmmm. Predictibly, something
malfunctions, and we end up with an army of probes wandering around
converting planets into huge sprawling metropolis's, quite ugly indeed. Uh
oh. Of course, another malfunction causes the probe to terraform planets
even if they are already inhabited, converting the hapless lifeforms into
raw materials for construction. Yikes. Oh, and naturally the probes can
construct fleets of robotic ships to defend itself with. Damn. One last
thing, the probes are coming to YOUR home system and that spells one
thing: Big Trouble. This is where you step in.

		The Game
	Basically, the object of the game is to fly your fighter across
the terraformed planets, trying to stop the spread of the Pioneer Probes
by destroying hatches on the surface which launch more Probes off the
planet, while all the time defending yourself from waves of attacking
fighters. If one of the probes manages to get away, you will have a harder
time trying to contain them and stopping them from spoiling all the
planets in the system, which is the ultimate objective of this game.
	One of the unique features of this game is the ability to program
two drones with up to five attack patterns. These drones are absolutely
vital to your mission, as they can defend you from attack, suck energy
from the city to top up your shields, and destroy flak emplacements on the
ground. At the start of the game, you have the opportunity to go to the
drone programming simulator and to program the five patterns by moving the
drone around with the joystick. When the game starts, you can launch a
drone with your pattern of desire by pressing the corresponding hot key
for that pattern. You can also save your patterns to disk so that you can
just load them in next time you play. A nifty idea that really adds to the
game and makes it stand out from the others.
	The only other part of the game to mention is the flying from
planet to planet sequence. The game presents you with a 3D wormhole style
grid and you must try and "spear" a gravity well to escape. The longer you
spend in the wormhole, the more time the Pioneer Probes have to set up
more hatches on the planets, and the more work you will have once you get
there, so your mouse skills are important.

	This game was released in 1988, and I must say that the graphics
are quite good for a game made in the OCS era.  This of course may have
something to do with the fact that many of the game's screens are rendered
in 4,096 colour HAM mode, which makes for some very nice static screens.
	The actual graphics in the action sequences of the game are
adequate with the game's storyline allowing for repetitive, drab
cityscapes in the background, with occasional large bodies of water.
Sprites for the fighters are nicely done, with the player's fighter being
a particularly large sprite.
	The player's instrument panel is well layed out and lets you see
at a glance just how deep in it you are, with such things as number of
hatches remaining, fuel and shield levels, and the status of your drones.
	In general, the graphics in this game have been well implemented,
and fit in with the game's style neatly.

	The music in this game has been put to good use in adding to the
frantic nature of trying to hunt down and destroy hatches while fending
off hordes of bad ships. Explosions are suitably loud and forceful,
reminiscent of those found in Silkworm. A nice touch is having the music
tempo while you are in a wormhole get faster and faster while you try and
escape from it, constantly building the pressure on the player to try and
spear a gravity well. All in all, good use of the Amiga's four channel
stereo has been made, a fine achievement for a single disk game.

	I have to say, Pioneer Plague is one of the more played games in
my collection, and while it is not brilliant, it is a decent shoot em up
with some nice elements. The games difficulty is particularly hard, and in
the six or so years that I have owned it, I have yet to beat it. You are
doing particularly well if you survive the third wave.
	There are only a few minor quibbles with the game, one of these is
that the pace of the game later on makes it very hard to take your hand
away from the joystick to deploy your drones. It is hard enough trying to
dodge laser fire and mines without having to do it with only one hand,
although playing totally from the keyboard alleviates this problem
	To finish, Pioneer Plague is an interesting shooter with some
original ideas and a nice resource management element thrown in. A decent
addition to any games library.

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