Starglider was a 3D vector graphics arcade game released by Rainbird Software back in May of 1987.
This is a classic game that had already been a big hit on the likes of the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64 - and the Commodore Amiga version was more than just a quick port over - they really did it justice and made use of those full 16-bits of processing power!
All in all Starglider really was another excellent addition to the ranks of 3D vector space games.
Like all of these epic space style games, Starglider had a backstory to set the scene:
For many years the planet of Novenia was at peace. An automated defence system (known as 'The Sentinels') had kept any unwelcome callers from outer space at bay.
These huge sentinels had one policy - shoot first, ask questions later. This gung ho policy worked well for a long time (you wouldn't want to stop there in any emergency!), until The Sentinels destroyed a harmless flock of protected interplanetary migratory space faring birds known as 'Stargliders'. Under orders from Inter-Galactic green police, The Sentinels were immediately reprogrammed not to shoot down these harmless and graceful creatures.
Spotting a window of opportunity, the ruthless Egrons hatched a plan to finally conquer Novenia. They disguised some ships as 'Stargliders' and used them to bypass the Sentinel defences. With no other armed forces at all Novenia soon fell under the rule of the evil Egrons.
Two Sentinel repair workers (Jason and Katra) witnessed the attack on Novenia from the safety of one of Novenia's moons. Our two heroes embark on a mission - to destroy the invading aliens using an obsolete museum fighter equipped with lasers and the capability of carrying only two missiles. This is where you come in...
In this (another of our classic Amiga games) there were more than sixteen different types of enemy craft to destroy - with each one requiring to be dealt with in a slightly different way.
The in game action took place over the now barren landscape of Novenia. You had to guide your ancient fighter around the dust laden atmosphere using a co-ordinate system which divided the surface of the planet into a 100X100 grid.
The game had plenty of options for you to get your teeth into before beginning. Two types of gun sight were available to you which were fixed or floating. Floating sights affected the control of the ship - it 'followed' the sights as you moved them around. Fixed sights (like a classic fighter aircraft) remained in the centre of the screen, and the ship had to be manoeuvred until the enemy craft appeared inside the target square. I preferred the second option.
An optional centering system could also be enabled or disabled at the start of the game. Automatic centering could be set on either the vertical or the horizontal axis, in all directions, or not at all. Fully automatic centering was handy for the player as it returned your ship to straight and level flight when you left the controls alone. Nice.
Starglider also included digitised speech (which would inform you of events as you were mid-mission), a nice title tune and plenty of 'extra missions' that either involved destroying an invader or picking up some extra equipment for your craft. Some of these add-ons included super missiles which had a longer range, power packs which temporarily negated the need for you to refuel, and a rear view mirror (being able to 'see' the action behind you was very impressive at the time - even on the Commodore Amiga).
Once you made it to the latter levels you really needed these extra power-ups as the enemies became more cunning and deadly. Repair depots were spread around the Novenian landscape and you could enter them with careful flying to repair your craft and pick up a missile (as long as you didn't already have two fitted).
Your ships instrument panel displayed horizontal bars showing shield strength, power reserves and a fuel guage. Two vertical indicators showed how high you were and how fast you were travelling. The height bar would warn you and flash red if the craft went too close to the ground - hitting the ground was a quick way to drain your shields of power.
In another clever piece of coding the game would switch to 'missile view' whenever you fired one off. You had to 'home' the missile in on target before it ran out of fuel - which could be a little tricky. The 'super missile' powerup gave you a longer flight time to find your target.
Three missile hits were required to destroy a main enemy fighter, and when you achieved this an instant replay of the destruction was showed to you - yet another great touch by the programmers. 10,000 points later and you were onto the next level where the game became more difficult...
Starglider had been heralded on it's 8-bit release due to it's polished presentation (the game was even accompanied by a 64 page novel - Elite style), superb speech along with smooth and well animated vector graphics and excellent gameplay.
The Amiga version was better than it's 8-bit counterparts (as it should have been!) with smoother flowing graphics, grander explosions and a better looking cockpit. The Amiga was also better at creating that 'arcade game' feel due to it's superior graphics, colours and sound.
Some 8-bit games (which had been good!) were quickly rushed onto the Amiga in a quick port over and were actually worse than the originals (look at Exolon - superb on the Spectrum, crap on the Amiga.)
Anyway - Starglider had the right mix of arcade action and tactics - you had to plan your routes across the planet and know where to pick up your repairs and extra missiles. A good game in the genre.
Your humble reviewer here remembers Starglider on various formats, and this version was excellent. In amongst the 3D vector genre, Starglider remains one of the best vector shoot em up's you can get. The animation on the enemy ships is still pretty good and the game moves along at a fair old pace. Still playable, Rainbird's classic is worth flying again.
We recommend getting hold of the real Amiga hardware but if not then download an Amiga emulator and download Starglider. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
Please see our other Amiga retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys
GENRE: 3D Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: Summer of 1987
RELEASED BY: Rainbird
DEVELOPER(S): Jeremy San, Richard Clucas
PRICE: £19.95 - UK
And now I'm ready, to glide again.... Starglider - Amiga Longplay:
Classic Games, Arcade Games and Amiga Games