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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: April 26, 1999
Modern clones of Asteroids have been more prolific than virtually any other video classic, but their quality has varied widely. Logicware’s Astrorock 2000 and Reflexive’s Swarm are excellent and are the very best of the pack, with Shepherd’s Worlds’ Juggernaut Corps not very far behind. Activision’s Asteroids is more mixed in its quality and rates around average in the context of these space rock wannabes. Then there are countless others, far too numerous to mention, that are just downright duds, with crude graphics, awkward interfaces, slow and boring gameplay, and awful audio effects. As I have played virtually all of these clones, I have gotten used to being disappointed more times than I can remember.
So when I received Elpin Systems’ Way Point Zeta in the mail, I did not really know what to expect. Describing itself as a classic action game involving 3D space combat, it looked quite promising to an arcade junkie like myself. You have two basic clusters of goals: (1) to destroy asteroids and pick up ore and crystals as a means of improving your fighter through the purchase of weapons and helper robots (spy bots, blaster bots, and mine bots) and of increased shields and speed; and (2) to protect your flagship from enemy attack and to demolish the enemy’s flagship. With that simple set of tasks and the presence of numerous audiovisual bells-and-whistles, it sure appeared as if I was in for a true feast of arcade shooter antics. Boy, was I ever wrong.
Before going further, it is interesting to note that Elpin Systems is a small software company based in Milpitas, California that has been around since 1992. Founded as a partnership among three people, it developed Conquer, one of the first multiplayer games for Windows, and later Space Rocks 3D for Windows, a shareware asteroids clone of its own. In addition to games, the firm has designed a wide range of VGA compatibility tools and even has a patent on a monitor power saving device; its founder, Lawrence Coffey, has extensive experience with graphics processors. So I felt before playing the game that I should at least be in for a product that displayed an extraordinary graphics sophistication. Boy, was I wrong again.
Way Point Zeta has a rather peculiar approach to configuration options. First, these options are not configurable through an in-game menu, but rather can only be accessed though an independent configuration utility run outside of the game (I always hate it when designers make this decision). Second, the options themselves are rather odd: outside of specific 3D hardware-accelerated video choices, you get to set such items as the explosion level and the use of rings in explosions, 3D detail and video level, number of flagships and number of aliens per flagship, and the presence of captions for voice, objects under targets, and background star fields. Several of these items are either not clear as stated or clear but trivial.
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