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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Heatseeker (Commodore 64)

Heatseeker, of all the Thalamus games, is probably the least well-remembered and the least well-reviewed. I never played it, although I did play the author's previous game, Arac. That was an odd and very distinctive effort, from what I remember, and although I can't say I particularly loved it, it was interesting enough to have me playing it for a fair while. So while I didn't exactly come into Heatseeker filled with excitement, there was at least an air of curiosity on my part.


Yep. That sounds like a good idea.

The instructions paint a bleak tale, one of an ancient and doomed world protected by three giant magical plants. Industry has ravaged the planet, and the resultant choking smog and acid rain is polluting the old world to within an inch of its life. The three giant flowers have closed their petals... the poisonous acid rain is now seeping in... the end is nigh...

Such a tale of woe. And yet, there is hope. It may be impossible for humans to venture out into the world for fear of a gruesome, acidic death, but a wise and almost-forgotten race have constructed a robot that can survive these harsh conditions, capture heat from fires that burn on the planet's surface and transfer this heat to the three flowers, the Triphyllos, in order that they can be revitalised enough to reopen their giant petals and once again bring balance to the world.


Are we sure this isn't a Monty Python game?

Wow. Such an environmentally-conscious game for its time! And of course, it falls to you to control this robot on the planet's surface, gathering up the precious heat wherever it can be found. What cool device did they build? An invincible humanoid? Some kind of cool flying craft? No... you get to control a giant bouncing leg, with a ball on the top. What?

In truth, this is where Heatseeker makes its first and biggest mistake. Who the hell wants to control a big bouncing leg? It's hardly the stuff dreams are made of, unless perhaps you're Terry Gilliam. It is different, though, and with that in mind I set out on my quest.


Aaargh! Fire! No, wait... that's a good thing.

That didn't last long. Frankly, I didn't have the slightest idea what I was doing, to begin with. It looked nice, though. Turns out that sometimes you really do have to read the instructions.

Armed with this new information, I set forth into the world again, and did actually manage to make a bit of progress, unlike in my first attempt. You have to bounce your robot leg around the planet's foliage, hunting down and collecting the heat from flames that are, for some reason, burning merrily away.


Oh bugger, it's raining. Wish I'd brought me brolly.

It's pretty tricky... the leg is hardly a precise instrument to control, and when you find a fire you have to release the ball from the leg and move it into the fire, soaking up the heat before returning to the leg. It's all very cumbersome, and as weird as it sounds.

I did manage to hop around for a bit and collect some heat, which is a big part of the game. Then I got stuck, with no idea where to go or what to do. There's not much that's apparent in this game. It's a real oddity in all ways... looks, subject matter, gameplay... and it's hard to get to grips with and not particularly enjoyable trying. Heatseeker is an interesting game, with a commendable subject matter and a real sense of individuality. It's just a pity that there's not enough fun there to encourage you to dig any deeper with it.

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