D/Generation

 

Factfile
Developed by: Mindscape
Released: 1993
Format played: Amiga CD32

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Ruminations

D/Generation is an isometric view puzzle / adventure game. Originally published on the Amiga in 1991 before being ported to the CD32, you play the rather underwhelming sounding part of a courier, tasked with delivering a package to a research company called Genoq. The rest is a mystery, which will unravel itself as the game unfolds.

I remember picking this up from some grotty little shop in Bexhill, just about the only place I could find that actually stocked CD32 games. It was a straight port of the Amiga game, which had received good reviews at the time and was released at a reasonable price, but it failed to capture the imagination of the buying public.

I enjoyed it but, like so many other games I bought, I completed a few levels before abandoning it. So strap on your jetpack, it’s time to make another delivery.

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Second Impressions

The good thing about revisiting a title like this is that the graphics looked crap in 1993 so there is less expectation.

At first glance, the game appears rather crude. After the initial promise of the intro sequence, an atmospheric, movie-style opening, albeit presented in stills, the game opens to what on the surface appears to be Head Over Heels from the Spectrum that someone has painted with the colour of the vile purple alien worlds from Cannon Fodder 2.

But on deeper inspection, there is some nice detail. The isometric view works perefectly for the puzzle solving required (more on that below), the enemies are suitably menacing and varied and who can fail to raise a titter when one of the red balloon beasties bounces on one of the imprisoned staff and swallows him up?

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Gameplay

Split across 10 levels of the Genoq building, your task is to reach the 89th floor to deliver a package to the head honcho. But there is a problem; the building has been overrun by a series of nasty critters and the internal security system seems to be targeting anything that moves. If only there was someone brave enough to fight their way through the building, rescue the trapped civilians¬†and discover the secrets of the mystery package.¬†Yup, I’m looking at you.

The game is effectively a series of single room challenges. The set up varies but the basic combinations revolve around locked doors, respawning enemies, gun turrets and civilians to rescue.

A typical room plays out like so; after picking up the laser gun in the first couple of screens you enter the room and survey the scene befrore you. An employee sits anxiously in one corner whilst a couple of biogenic beasities bounce around menacingly. A key card lies invitingly on the floor but is sealed behind a locked door, the switch that operates it guarded by a deadly gun turret. Another switch opens the door but closes another. What to do?

The solutions require some forward planning, often involving standing on one door whilst bouncing your laser bolt off a couple of walls. Every single puzzle can be solved with a combination of brain power and sharp reflexes. The puzzles start off fairly simple but towards the end, as the mystery starts to unravel and you realise that things are not always as they seem, you may come to rely on the brawn of the grenades, bombs and shield that you pick up to get you through.

There are a limited number of levels but it is certainly a challenge. You start with 5 lives and lose one every time you fail a room, however you can gain a life for each employee rescued. Losing a life means starting the room over. Losing all your lives means starting that floor over.

It is a good mix of gaming styles. The puzzles are taxing without being esoteric. The key is to take your time and survey the scene rather than rushing in blindly. Of course that is often easier said than done as you find yourself quickly assailed by the biogenic nasties, the sudden bursts of action and laser fire acting as a nice counter-point to the more cerebral aspects of the game.

A couple of niggles. On occasion I would get excited and rashly dive straight in and start blasting enemies, only to find that I had accidentally killed the employee cowering in the corner or destroyed a computer which is required to enter a passcode to unlock a specific door. You can potentially blast your way through with a grenade but if you are out of stock, you have no choice other than to lose a life and restart the room.

The isometric view can also lead to the occasional difficulty in lining up a tricky shot or standing in the right place, or indeed to escape a charging enemy. It doesn’t happen often but in the heat of the moment, when split second timing is required to successfully execute a solution, it can be frustrating when you find yourself scraping or bumping against a wall with a flaming enemy in hot pursuit or your laser blast bouncing harmlessly into a pot plant rather than the door switch you were aiming for.

But these instances are very much the exception. On the whole, this is well crafted with a finely judged difficulty curve, the game easing you in to the action so that you never feel overwhelmed, enemies becoming more deadly and room layouts more dangerous the further you go.

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Sound

A foreboding thrum plays along in the background as you progress, otherwise sound is limited to spot sound effects when something happens, such as a jaunty jingle when an employee is successfully rescued or a comedy bang when you are wiped out by a turret.

Nothing special but certainly functional and the sparse effects help to create an ambience that you are fighting a lonely battle with just your wits (and your laser) for company.

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Bottom Line

This is the type of title that you are tempted to describe as being ‘a great little game,’ but that is patronising nonsense.

It is excellent, treading a fine line between puzzle and action. Get past the ropey visuals and you are rewarded with a satisfying adventure that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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