Micronaut One, ZX Spectrum

Micronaut One is another interesting game from Tau Ceti creator Pete Cooke. Mr. Cooke was known for making innovative, unusual, and technically-impressive games for the ZX Spectrum that were different to the norm. This one was published by Nexus in 1987 and involves travelling down 3D corridors and shooting weird alien insects that are infesting a biocomputer.

You play a member of ‘The Guild of Equalizers‘ – biotechnicians responsible for maintaining the biocomputer – and must travel through these organic machines inside a skimmer craft, looking to eliminate parasites – called Scrim – that are growing throughout the tunnels and feeding off the energy of the biomachine. You must also correct energy imbalances in the computer by draining off excess energy at Energy Transfer Units (ETUs) that are located around the level.

Your skimmer is equipped with an anti-Scrim weapon that shoots out tendrils of energy, and this needs to be re-charged from time to time by collecting sparkling clouds of energy particles that coalesce in the corridors. The Scrim have a three-stage life cycle: eggs, which are immune to your weapon; larvae, which are disgusting grubs that wiggle through the corridors and can be zapped, but require a fair bit of energy to neutralise; and jellyfly, which are the adult Scrim that lay more eggs and can also weave an energy-gathering web that collects energy and can block your path through the tunnels. If the Scrim build too many webs then you can end up blocked in and be unable to prevent them spreading. Also: if the energy imbalance in the computer becomes too high, then it will explode, so it’s a race against time to deal with it. To complete a level you must clear out all the Scrim in the area.

Your skimmer craft can’t actually turn around in the corridors, because they’re too narrow, but it is bi-directional and can fly backwards as well as forwards. You must stop the craft first, though, before changing direction.

The game has a in-built GUI, with pseudo mouse controls (controlled by the keys or a joystick), a map, a text notepad, high scores, information about game elements, and a demo mode, and you can even change the in-game colours through the menu.

Micronaut One also has a built-in bonus game where you can race against a robot through the tunnels. To activate race mode you must select it through the menu. You can choose a track, a pacer (and its speed), and you must then race against the clock. It’s a nice extra addition to an already very cool game.

Overall, Micronaut One is a decent game with great presentation that is still worth playing today. It might not be that well-known, or dead easy to work out, but as far as Spectrum games go it is highly-regarded by those who’ve played it.

More: Pete Cooke on Wikipedia
More: Micronaut One on World of Spectrum

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