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Space Commando
(TopGun Software)

"A Snot-ridden Suface of Action and Survival!"

As Space Commando, it's your mission to travel from planet to planet in search of new lifeforms and civilizations. But if these new civilizations turn hostile during the peace process, it's also the job of the Space Commando to bring down all the man-eating alien blobs he sees while fighting for his life!

Guide Space Commando over moonpits while shooting down the strange, snot-shaped blobs trying to shoot you down. Pick up power-ups to restore your life along the way, while trying to survive ten tumultuous levels of alien-ripping action! It's the long road or high road for you, Space Commando... so get ready to lock and load!

Graphics (n.)
The use of animation and visual effects to stimulate the senses
I like the tiny details that TopGun Software worked into Space Commando. You have to keep a watchful eye to see all of the special effects: the more obvious effects are the various particle blasts that occur whenever you shoot down an enemy blob. But there are some subtler details too. One of my favorites involve the bullet holes that appear when Space Commando starts shooting at a wall.

However, all these extra bells and whistles and fine sprite animation don't come without a price. Where Space Commando excels in the special effects department, Space Commando falls short in the tileset department. With a limited number of gray tiles, all ten of Space Commando's levels look the same. The black, starlit background and the EGA palette doesn't help either. Still, all it would take to get another graphics point here would be a few more tilesets or at least a few extra things or enemy types for the eye to see.

Sound/Music (n.)
The smooth blend of atmospheric sounds and original harmonies
One of the fun parts of reviewing a QB game is trying to find out if the music used is original or not. While listening to Space Commando's Sound Blaster soundtrack, I was like "Wow! TopGun Software has pretty good, original music!" Then I started to hear a tune that sounded like it came from Sega's Golden Axe. Then I heard a tune from Apogee's Rise of the Triad. The real kicker was the very last level of the game, that uses the tune from Mortal Kombat. All in all, the music did give a positive feel to Space Commando (I felt like I was ripping through all the classics from the PC shareware days). However, the lack of sound effects give Space Commando a one-point deficit.
Gameplay (n.)The precision of control and involvement of character within its universe vvv
PC platform fans will find a lot to love about Space Commando, especially if they're into games like Commander Keen, Bio-Hazard, and Duke Nukem. That's because TopGun Software did a great job of capturing the feel of the Apogee classics and translating it into QBasic code. All the Apogee physics are tapped in; you'll notice that Space Commando's jump pattern and bullet firing are remarkably similar to Duke Nukem.

But TopGun Software didn't stop there. Some familiar Duke Nukem power-ups are resident in Space Commando, including soda cans and 1-UPs. Then they engineered the perfect Apogee-style henchman: the machine-gun firing blob. It's strange; all the machine-gun firing blob does is walk back and forth while occasionally shooting. But there's just enough variation in the way the blobs move that the game gets interesting.

Now let's talk game length. Space Commando is long, almost to the point where the last few levels are a little boring. The controls, which use the Ctrl and Alt key for shooting and jumping, is easy enough to manage. The only thing that gets in the way of the gameplay is that Space Commando is a little over-consistent. All ten levels look and to an extent play the same way.

Story (n.)
The creativity and presentation of the game's critical plot
(Very Poor) The game's low point. This is what separated Space Commando from the upper tier in the Top Platform list, since Space Commando has no storyline! I even played the game through and ended up seeing a game ending that was less detailed than the Game Over screen. It would have been neat to see TopGun Software maintain the level of in-game quality by adding a few demos, or at least an introduction to introduce more of Space Commando's life story.
Replay Value (n.)
The timelessness of the gamer's delight, such that the experience can be repeated again and again
Good. The game formula is just enough in Space Commando to keep you coming back. There may be only one type of enemy (the green alien), but the aliens are somewhat unpredictable. They could be walking away, but at any time they could turn around and shoot. Then it's a matter of ducking, sharpshooting, or jumping over enemy fire.

Once you play through the game's ten levels, you'll also have a pretty good idea as to where all the 1-UP hearts and life bonuses are located. With this in mind you'll find it a lot easier to pace yourself as you play the game the second or third time around. 

Challenge (v.)
To strike the mental nerve in such a way as to stimulate human thought and reflexes
Challenge is usually in the moderate range. The key strategy here is to never underestimate how quickly Space Commando can lose all of his lives. For example, if you try to run through the level, you'll end up in point blank range. Aliens will probably stop you dead on your tracks, often shooting you two or three times if you're a little too aggressive.

Another way to make Space Commando overwhelmingly hard for you is landing into a pit. After you lose a life there, Space Commando will have a brief moment to reach a platform. If he doesn't make it, he'll lose another life. Couple this with an enemy defending the next available platform and you'll probably lose all your lives right then and there. So with this in mind, make sure you have an ample stock of lives before you beat each level. You might be better off replaying the level if you've burned up all your supplies.

Fun Factor (n.)
The overall entertainment value as maintained throughout the adventure
Space Commando's one of those games that gradually gets more fun for a while, then starts to get a little repetitive. To me, the first half of the game was more fun than the latter half. The first level was probably the most innovative; TopGun Software played around with the tiles, put all the pits and aliens in just the right places, and the level had just the right length. I didn't get that same feeling later on in the game. Instead, I felt I was in dejavu, seeing aliens I had already defeated in levels that look remarkedly similar to the ones before.

Fortunately, there is a fine enough balance in enemy AI and level layout to build on some pretty solid fun factor. The Apogee-like powerups, cola cans and all, really add to the game because it gives Space Commando something else to do than storming to the end of the level. And while some of the pitfalls in the game can be frustrating to leap across, it adds a sense of strategy in the game where you have to worry about Space Commando's placement. All of these elements combine can keep any gamer's hand tapping on the keyboard.

I guess Apogee's PC Duke Nukem games (which played a huge role in inspiring Space Commando) would be proud of TopGun Software's effort. TopGun still has quite a bit to learn from Apogee's game-building skills, as a storyline and a few variations in level layout and graphics would make Space Commando excellent. What surprised me though is that there a few instances in Space Commando's level layout that would make Apogee just as jealous.

Space Commando Reviewed by QBShire

Players 1 player Genre: Platform Game
Rating To solve: 30-45 min Final Rating: 16/35

To download this game, click here.
Installation Tips
wTo play Space Commando, run "COMMANDO.BAT".

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