Citadel

by Paul Morrison


Most of the games that were the subject of a ZZAP! Diary turned out to be absolute belters. Martin Walker's Citadel was no exception, and was one of his two finest hours in terms of games programming (some of you may not know, though, that he was much more prolific writing game music... something that has shaped his career to date). Hunter's Moon was his other best game, but Citadel tops that splendid effort, for me.

It's another sci-fi effort, not too dissimilar to Paradroid in some ways. Set in a far-flung future, the people of Earth have colonised huge areas of space. But space is so big that some secrets remain. One very distant world has been discovered to contain a massive underground complex, devoid of human life but, as the probe droid that was sent in to investigate found out, not unoccupied...

That portal with the two lights is what you're looking for... it takes you to another city.

That portal with the two lights is what you're looking for... it takes you to another city.

The humans decide to send an armed robot underground to investigate, and it is this robot that you control. The city does indeed appear deserted when you enter, but an eerie and ominous hum leads you to suspect that all is not as it seems. As soon as you approach a trapdoor in the floor, those suspicions are confirmed...

Moving within a few squares of a trapdoor springs its release mechanism and it will open to reveal its contents. If you're lucky, it will be a power cell, a door switch or weapons upgrade. If you're not... you'll find one of the alien defences is all too happy to greet you.

Nothing, in any universe or galaxy anywhere, is any match for a good blaster.

Nothing, in any universe or galaxy anywhere, is any match for a good blaster.

This sounds bad, and indeed, it is, but you're well-equipped to deal with whatever is thrown at you. In fact, if you're smart, you'll work out how the defences behave and can plan accordingly. Do the right thing and you'll minimise the risk of damage. Do it wrong and panic sets in, and if you try and run away you're likely to trigger all manner of traps at once, at which point death is inevitable.

Citadel is a very clever game, which requires a lot of tactical thought and planning rather than just wading in with all guns blazing. The odds can be overwhelming at times, but when it goes wrong it's always your own fault, and the chances are that as soon as you've died you'll have thought about how you could have approached the situation better, and you'll be back to give it another go. It's very rewarding indeed, and still stands up well today.