C64 Review of Pastfinder from Issue 1

ZzapTest Logo by Biggest Jim


It's the year 8878 and exploration has become a thing of the past, apart from the select few known as the pastfinders. Exploring and mapping hostile territory is the aim of the game. Armed with scant supplies and five 'Leepers' you have to scuttle and bound your way across a vertically scrolling 3D landscape.

The playing area itself is very large and the scenery crisp and varied with clouds, walls, towers and abstract designs to be negotiated. Basically this is a very addictive shoot-'em-up/strategy game in the Xevious/River Raid style. When you begin the game you are presented with a small portion of a map with coloured areas: green which are low in radiation and red areas which are high. The idea is to explore as much of the map as possible. You can choose the direction you want to go in by moving an arrow.

Then you are presented with a list of four supplies for you to choose from: heavy metal, which acts as a radiation barrier, a deradiator which removes all the radiation absorbed, a beam shield which gives the Leeper protection from enemy fire and a scrambler which stops the enemy from tracking you. All the supplies should be used only in extreme emergencies - although there are other supplies littered over the landscape, these are all few and far between. There is also an opportunity to pick up extra lives, but these too are extremely scarce.

Throughout the land you will see plate-like objects, artefacts, lying discarded - pick these up and deposit them at either a base or station, marked on the map. You will be rewarded with bonus points plus a period of invulnerability or immunity from radiation. You should also keep an eye out for small boxes which each contain five artifacts. The aliens themselves present little challenge to the player - the real skill is negotiating the landscape safely and quickly. Occasionally a drone ship will come towards you and track you mercilessly. The baddies are all extremely detailed and well animated.

The landscape, too, is detailed, crisp and colourful with clear shadows to make it easier to gauge the height of an obstacle. On later screens the going get tough with moving spikes, expanding walls and rising towers to thwart your exploration attempts.

Sound is very disappointing for a game of this quality - reduced to a Space Invaders type heartbeat and few zaps and beeps.

As well as a score, the program also awards a playing status. This starts as 'raw recruit' and rises according to how many artefacts you can deliver. JR.

Controlling the amazing Leeper

One of the most unusual aspects of the game is the movement of your Leeper spacecraft. Looking more like a footless frog it's a joy to watch as it heaps and spins its way through the landscape.

The control takes a little getting used to. Joystick up causes the craft to accelerate by leaping forward off the ground. Since the height of the craft can be critical at some points, the leaping has to be carefully timed. However, should you need to, a quick pull back on the joystick stops the craft dead, while movement left and right causes to spin towards the appropriate side of the screen.

Overall the control has a great feel to it.

The first Zzap! playing tips

Keeping your radiation down is vital, either with a deradiator or by shooting the small crystals which oscillate above the landscape. Use the crystals as the main way of keeping radiation levels down as supply of deradiators is very limited and are only to be used in emergencies.

Heavy metal is best used when your radiation levels are high and you are entering a red zone - this will help slow radiation absorption and will give you a chance to seek and destroy some crystals. Only jump walls when you have good momentum. Never try to jump any wall when you are moving slowly. Try to head towards a base or station. These are clearly marked on the map, but keep your eyes peeled because they are easy to miss.

Although extra lives are earned every 5,000 points there are Leepers located somewhere on the landscape to collect. The two arrows on the map screen show the general direction to follow. If you are heading towards a Leeper they will both point up

The text of this review was taken with Dimitris Kiminas' permission from the Gamebase64 site, where a fully htmlized version of it exists.

This review was typed in/OCRed by Dimitris

ZzapBack Logo by Biggest Jim
In the spirit of ZzapBack, you can have your say about how the game reviewed above, stands up in the cold light of today. Has it aged badly or is it still worth a few plays? Read other peoples thoughts and post your own.

The current ZzapBack rating is : 99%

Check out the most recent ZzapBack comments.
Rate It!
Login or Register at the forums if you want to be able to edit your comments

Your name :

Your comments :

Your rating 1% to 100% :

Chris - 29 Apr 2005
I paid 2 euros from the cassette yesterday. I just had to have the original (well, actually it's the Zzap Greatest Hits version of course ;)

I only had the cracked version back in the old days, but it's nice to own the game itself.

Rating : 99%
Gary Penn
It took only a couple of plays to convince me that there was nothing ancient about this game. It's more than just a good shoot-'em-up - there are some great strategy ideas. Some of the background colours were a bit rough on the eyes, but overall the graphics and animation are excellent. The sound, although simple, was effective, apart from the unwelcome return of the Space Invaders' heartbeat. In my view, a very worthy addition to the growing Activision range.
Bob Wade
This seems like just another shoot-'em-up at first but as the different obstacles, game size and other complexities reveal themselves it turns into a tough game of skill and tactics. The control method adds a new dimension to the gameplay, although it takes a while to get the hang of it. You'll find yourself coming back to this one time and again trying to avoid being a 'raw recruit' or a 'clod hopper'. I liked the animation of the spaceship and once you've mastered its movement it is highly manoeuvrable. I can't see what it's got to do with the past but I'd like more games like this in the future.
Julian Rignall
There is plenty in this game to keep the hardened player going for hours, and provides enough frustration to keep you coming back for more. Don't be put off by the game's appearance, it has plenty in store and it takes quite a while to appreciate its' more subtle touches.
Presentation 83%
Copious instructions (in six languages!), high score feature.

Originality 66%
Xevious-related but with much more to do.

Graphics 84%
Simple, but strikingly original, especially the spaceship.

Hookability 75%
Not stunning at first play, but great thereafter.

Sound 48%
Repetitive pulse plus a few zaps.

Lastability 91%
A large landscape and plenty of strategy to keep you intrigued.

Value for money 85%
Despite Activision's price, an excellent buy.