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%% Review: Perihelion by Psygnosis               By:  Jason Compton     %%
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Perihelion rounds out the pack of games I while back from Psygnosis for
review.  It took me a while to get to it...mainly because the intro had me
worried that the RPG would disappoint me.

Why?  Well, simply put, because the intro to Perihelion is the best game
intro I've ever seen, save Microcosm.  It's not so much the graphics
(which are good for ECS: excellent use of shading) that make it so great.
The sound is superb, and the text is incredibly atmospheric.  Even the
"Switch disk" request has a chilling pounding and banging to it.  The
start of the intro suggests the monitor and room condition you should
have, and I strongly recommend you listen to them.  You won't be sorry.

Perihelion, the game, is a very complex idea.  To sum up, a powerful,
extremely "negative" (evil!) godlike creature is pouring entropy onto
a planet.  Literally, everything is breaking down in disorder...including
genes.  But, luckily for civilization, 6 entropy-resistant beings were
created for such an eventuality.  You control these six, and off to
battle you go.  (Don't bother wondering how one resists entropy: you just
do.)

The control of this RPG is very modular.  The "base" screen is where you
grab character information from...race, physical statistics and abilities,
and the like.  From there, you may go to specific inventory screens,
combat screens, computer terminals, area maps or localized, 3-d maps.

The system is reasonable enough...although the fact that the use of many
computer functions (like reading mail and getting directories in many
places) cost money is a bit irritating.  Smacks of true life, though.

Generally, the layout is great.  Not immediately intuitive, but great.
All of the screens are drawn beautifully...even if they are always
rather orange, they look highly detailed.

You use the area map to get where you want to be: this involves a
scrolling relief map of a large section of your surroundings.  Your
party is represented by a ball that rolls to specific points based
on which direction you tell them to go...at points of interest, you
stop and are given a description.  The concept is neat, and simplifies
long travel for the impatient.  Once you reach a point of interest like
a town, you may choose to enter, in which case you go to a 3-d view,
much like in the Bard's Tale series or comparable.

Big mistake.  This is where the game gets ugly, which is really too bad
because things were going so well...the window in which your view is
displayed is rather large, and as such the resolution of what you see is
rather poor.  And orange.  Very, very orange.  The variance of terrain
is pitiful...I was literally becoming dizzy watching the sameness fly
by me.  Occasionally, you encounter a person.  Then, you must use your
computer terminal interface to talk with them, using a rather lousy parser
and long waits for the effects to go off.

On top of this, the manual is horrible.  The layout is bad, with words
trailing off and starting on different margins, and there are a number
of details in the game simply not explained.  Like, for instance, the vast
majority of physical characteristics.  The functional and game-related
difference between a Knight and a Mercenary.  The functional and game-
related advantage and disadvantage to using a human-feline cross-breed.
Things like this that are so vital to understanding your purpose.

Considering the richness of the intro and the obvious effort put into
crafting an alien world, Perihelion could have had real marketing
potential.  Perihelion books, a movie...it really would have worked.
Unfortunately, the game doesn't play well enough when it counts to make
pursuing it intensely worthwhile.  If you're a patient mapper, you may
very well enjoy Perihelion.  But if you're easily bored by a street
full of prefabricated houses or apartment buildings, you'd better steer
clear.