Guile, Archimedes

The best way to describe Guile on the Archimedes is: it’s a lot like David Braben‘s Zarch (aka Virus), but set in tunnels. And if you’ve ever played Zarch before then you’ll know that that means that this game is gonna be difficult…

The box describes Guile as: “a unique three-dimensional flight simulator set in a dungeon adventure“, which is sure to have any rational gamer scratching their head in confusion.

The plot is even worse: you’ve been swept off course by “The Solar Jet Stream” in the “Magellonian Galaxy” [laugh out loud], and your only way to get back home is to use “The Orbit Express” – an interplanetary teleport system – to warp from planet to planet and eventually make it back. Unfortunately the teleporter isn’t free to use, so you have to earn money to pay for it! You can do this by exploring the various environments, shooting things, and by collecting gems and other resources.

You control a spacecraft exactly like you do in David Braben‘s classic 3D shooter, Zarch, using a mouse for movement. With the left mouse button for thrust and the right mouse button for shoot. But in Guile the controls are slightly easier to get to grips with than Zarch because you cannot rotate the craft quite as much, so you don’t find yourself flying out of control so often.

The most frustrating, game-ending issue in Guile are collisions. It’s not easy to avoid bumping into things. Not hitting the ceiling of the tunnels you’re flying down, and not crashing into other obstacles, is the basic aim of the game, but avoiding doing that takes a fair bit of practise. Shooting stuff is another problem entirely, and that comes secondary to your craft not crashing.

As you make your way through a tunnel you’ll eventually come to a base where you can land, trade, gather information, and also teleport to other tunnels to explore. Some levels have neat-looking water effects, like waves, but these make survival even more difficult. Some levels have hostile flying saucers that will harass you, and dealing with those is another thing entirely. The most difficult obstacles, however, are doors where you have to shoot a switch to open them. Doing that is asking too much though, because trying to orient your craft to actually shoot a switch is incredibly difficult and frustrating.

Guile is not an easy game to get your head around. Not an easy game at all. But it is worth investigating, because it is kind of interesting, and it is well presented. It could’ve been great, but the control system is far too frustrating for it to be anything other than a curiosity. Note that it is possible to enter passwords to reach the various different levels. If you search the internet for them you’ll probably find some.

Guile was written by Andrew Martin and first published for the Acorn Archimedes by Dream in 1992.

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