|TITLE: Psi-5 TRADING Company
MUSIC: Ed Bogas
COPYRIGHT: Accolade, 1986
In many ways this game reminds me of the great Law of the West. Both were developed by Accolade, they both use very colorful graphics, high resolution, really bright and the music is performed by Ed Bogas, okay, not that he was the Tchaikovsky of the SID, but he gave his compositions a lot of personality.
But I do not just mean the technical side: the two games have absolutely
brilliant details, and as they are, they deserve applause. If they had only
continued to develop the ideas on which they are based, they would have become
Psi-5 Trading Company is a curious space trading game in which we have no direct control over our ship, but through five characters who are, without doubt, the best bit of the program.
|At first, we'll see a page with the cards of five candidates for each position ( which gives a total of 25 characters, of amazing quality and, above all, very, very expressive).|
The positions are: weapons, scanner (I have no idea what could be a more or less real equivalent of the section of "Scanning" ... Radar?
Detection? ... Well, you understand), navigation, engineering (in the true sense of the term, that is, the one when the British began to use it during the Industrial Revolution:
According to this, an engineer is just a driver, or operator of a motor -- no, my dear Industrials, no ... I do not call you "engineers" for your "genius"
as some of you say, while unfolding a peacock's tail, but because the term comes from the English "engineer", which in turn, is derived from "engine", or motor.
Come on, get off of Mount Olympus, little, little ones ;-D) and repair.
Each candidate for a job has a fairly complete form, with their photo and data, among which are age (btw: do not be surprised to see some little guy with several centuries on his back, as is usual in these pseudofuturist games. It's rarer to find a human being, and most of the crawly creatures and various sticky slimy abominations you see, usually live quite longer than earthlings, I don't know why), their training, experience, strengths and weaknesses. Not only are there no two similar characters ... the 25 comprise a hodgepodge of the most original and varied kind. It's your choice, go.
Their "resumes" are also not purely ornamental. Each one has its odd habits and peculiarities and, believe me, they influence the development of the game. Boris, for example, is a rather solemn type, bald as a pistacho shell, and hardened in zillions of the bloodiest battles. This psychopath flourishes in combat. He will be hard and wild, but he moves between proton torpedos, death rays and other similar threats, like fish in the water. (Below you have a photo of the kid in question).
When we formed a crew, the journey starts. We have three missions
to choose from as soon as the game loads. The
simplest of them gives us a reward of $12 million (I guess in the year
4000, that will buy a pack of fruit flavored gum), if we take who knows what alien
goo called "Nucliarc" to a system that responds to the name of Kozzar-7, located
120 parsecs from our base. Child's play, right? ;-)
Do not worry about these details. In fact, only two of them should interest you: how far we have to deliver our burden and the reward we get for it. (By the way, for the curious: one parsec equals about 3'26 light years, ie around 30 billion - with B - miles ... the next door neighborhood in astronomical terms, really). The larger these two parameters, the more difficult the mission. And I can assure you that even the first one is quite something. Well, you do not remember having done it more than once or twice in the commander diploma training...
|When everything is arranged, the mission starts. And this is where you'll have to face some of the most original gameplay of C64 games (one might almost say, "video games of all time"). To make our ship work, we have to give orders to the five crew members. And this is achieved by selecting from a menu present at each of the positions.|
Examples? Sure, look at the screen shot just above this line. The display is organized as follows:
In the upper half, there are two windows. The left one shows a view of the immediate surroundings. Under normal conditions, this is facing in the travel direction of the ship, but when some space gadget flies near us, it will change automatically trying to follow it.
The right one is, without doubt, the most striking aspect of Psi-5: the view of the crew member. It displays one of the selected characters chosen, occupying his position. The background scenario is usually quite lively, with spinning gears, flashing lights, and other ultratechnological geegaw that, supposedly, one would find in an interstellar ship.
The character in question is very expressive and it is fun to see how their expression changes with the situation that we face, and their own personality. Boris, for example, almost always seems to remain calm, but other characters (as Anthony, a young engineer) can not hide a certain comic talent when things go wrong (you should see him saying, with an expression mixing confusion and fear: "Captain, according to the computer, the Cravenlator is broken ... what is the Cravenlator?").
Towards the middle of the screen, you will observe a blue bar, in which are listed
the actions you can take at any time. In the case of the screenshot
above, you can see "Status Display ? Cancel Rank Fire" (well, and an arrow
pointing left, and that allows to select the screen of another crew).
We only have to move the joystick to highlight the option you want and press the fire button to activate it. For example, if we want Boris to vaporize some aggressive cosmic pirates, we have only to select "Fire". Another menu will show from which we choose how many rounds we want to shoot, 1 to 9 (or just warning shots) and, third and last, a menu which will allow us to select which weapon we will use (taking into account some characters have a better mastery of some than of others, and that a detailed examination of the Scanning screen can tell us the most appropriate weapon for each enemy).
The options "Status" and "Display" are present in all positions and allow us to see a summary of the status of that position (first) and then a list of objectives, possible routes, damaged ship parts and their estimated time of repair, etc ... depending on which section you are in.
The question mark ("?") displays messages of the crew in order of urgency. The tune
that plays when any of the characters wants to say something, will eventually
drive you crazy, I tell you. And, even in the simplest mission, we will soon be
besieged by hordes of space baddies, wanting to break into our ship, steal the entire
load, and leave us holding the bag.
At first, it will take some time to get used to the game. Cruising through space and examining it for targets can be more or less straightforward, but as soon as we have to face a fight, we'll need our fingers, eyes, hands and and any other appendices we can muster to control everything. Amid the explosions that shake the screen (literally) and alarms sounding urgent messages on top of your hysteria is quite possible that you are overwhelmed immediately.
But when, after many attempts and frustration, you're getting hang of the game, the truth is that it is very entertaining and interesting.
GRAPHICS: While the lower half of the screen is composed solely of text, the top is full of details. Especially notable is the window that shows the crew members. A total of 25, in full color, very expressive, with personality and well animated. It is true that, in some cases, the colors seem to have been applied in blocks (look at the eyes of Boris. Curiously, I don't remember the same from the "real" or not emulated version) and the left window, showing the space ships flying around us is much better, but the overall impression is magnificent.
SOUND: The intro music is somewhat unpleasant (a tad loud, I would say), but during the game there are several themes who hold their own. Some of them, I think, are pretty good as compositions. Furthermore, in a way it reminds me of the iMUSE system used in some of the LucasArts adventure games, where the music changes depending on the situation. There is one when all is quiet, another when we are being attacked ... Also each position of the ship has its own theme and, in general, they are quite appropriate (special mention for the music of the repair screen, with its metallic tapping beat). The effects are limited to engine noise when accelerating or decelerating, and the sounds of guns firing and explosions when they hit the target.
Very original, with almost cartoon-like graphics, brilliant gameplay... but
Too bad they only have 3 missions and they differ only in the distance traveled and the mumber of baddies that will assault us. A game with this engine and a little more variety (more worlds to trade with, in the style of Elite), and less combat (which is sometimes frustratingly difficult), would have been, without doubt, one of the legends of the C64. Anyway, Psi-5 Trading Company is an intelligent title that deserves the required effort.
|* The characters. Not only for the graphics, but for the variety, and expresiveness...
* The gameplay (once you get used to it).
|* Even the easiest mission can be frustrating. The battles are nearly unmanageable.
* Only three missions, and too similar to each other.