Thursday, 26 May 2016

Aquapolis SOS (MSX)

When you first start playing Aquapolis SOS, it seems like nothing more than a much easier knock-off of Taito's 1979 arcade game Lunar Rescue, but it's actually more than that: it's a much easier knock-off of Lunar Resuce with some added elements of Missile Command! Anyway, the premise is that the underwater city of Aquapolis is under seige, from missiles and floating mines, and you're charged with the task of helping evacuate the place, as well as operating the city's forcefield to protect the buildings. You can probably work out most of how this works from the screenshots, but basically, you pilot your submarine down to the city, land on top of one of the buildings to pick up an evacuee, and then go back up to the surface ship. On your way back up, you can shoot the mines for extra points, though your score actually goes down if one of your missiles hits the surface ship. I can't think of many other arcade-style games where you can actually lose points like that, the only one that immediately comes to mind is Dynamite Deka 2, in which you lose points when you lose health (and gain points when you get it back). As well as mines, there's also a seahorse, that will try to drag you around if you get too close, though it can't hurt you itself, and you can't hurt it.

As for the missiles and the force field, that's just something you have to manage as you play. At the push of a button, you can open or close a forcefield above the city which destroys anything it touches (except for that indestructible seahorse), the opening and closing is pretty slow, so once you get a few stages in, and there's more mines for you to avoid, you've really got to be skillful in balancing the tasks of avoiding mines, protecting the city and not smashing into the field yourself. Missiles that get through will destroy one of the buildings, permanenly taking away one landing spot in the city, and if all of them get destroyed, it's an instant game over (though, I had to deliberately not use the forcefield and play through several stages to confirm that this happens).

There's some other little quirks in the game too, like the end-of-stage bonus, based on how many successful rescues you get during a stage. This is interesting because a stage ends once five evacuees have left the city, and the only way to lose one is by losing a life on your way back up the screen after picking them up. I would have preferred a time bonus, but I guess the random appearence of the missiles would have added to large an element of luck to scoring.

Aquapolis SOS is a game that I can't really say is particularly good or bad. It's not very exciting or interesting, but it passes the time in a fairly unpleasant manner. The most significant thing to say about it is that it's a very early game from the team that would go on to become MSX stalwarts and Puyo Puyo creators Compile.

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