Requiring 64K of RAM to run, and coded by Paul Woakes himself, Mercenary on the Plus4 is an almost perfect conversion of his classic 3D, C64 exploration game.
The Atari 8-bit version of the classic Mercenary is the original, published by Novagen in 1985.
From the opening sequence onwards you know that you are in for a special ride with Mercenary, and exploring the wireframe world of Targ (the name of the planet you’re trapped on) is a video-gaming joy – especially with the easy-to-use controls.
The Second City starts off pretty much the same as Mercenary – crashing on a planet (this time the other side of the one you explored in Mercenary, and also a different colour) and having to explore to get on and eventually escape.
A 16-bit conversion of Paul Woakes‘ classic 8-bit exploration sequel to Mercenary. Well, not really a sequel – more a continuation… The real sequel came later.
The Atari ST‘s power (relative to the Commodore 64) means smoother, faster 3D graphics; more colours (useful, when colours are used to identify rooms and places underground); and more sensitive controls.
A fine 16-bit conversion of the classic Mercenary by Paul Woakes, written by Woakes himself it seems. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a great game and deserves doing right, so who better to code it than the original creator?
Paul Woakes‘ third game in the Mercenary series (after Damocles) retains all the flying, exploration and puzzling of the first two games, but also allows you to fly off planet, and visit other places in the Gamma System.
There’s also the introduction of public transport into the world (buses and taxis), which may sound boring, but it’s actually so quick as to be quite useful.
The storyline in this one pits you against a fierce rival (called PC BIL – aka Palyars Commander’s Brother In-Law) in the midst of a political crisis on the planet Dion. The goal being: to prevent your rival from gaining office by any means possible.
Mercenary III: The Dion Crisis features some nice, colourful celestial graphics, and a variety of buildings to explore and ships to fly. There are transporters, making travel between certain locations instantaneous. You can even pick up your spaceship and take it with you through a transporter.
The Mercenary games have always had a sense of humour!
Developer Paul Woakes takes the Mercenary series much further in Damocles (1990) – the second game in the series.
Whereas in the first game the 3D graphics were all wireframe – and you were stuck on one planet – in Damocles the world is made of filled polygons, and you’ve now got an entire solar system to explore. The Gamma System.
In Damocles you have two tasks. The first is to escape the planet you’re trapped on (called Eris), and the second is to avert the collision of a comet with Eris. A tall order, but it is possible to complete. There are multiple ways of completing the game (five, so I read), and many ways of getting there.
The scope of Damocles is so much wider than Mercenary, and the graphical world you’re exploring is so much richer. There’s even a rudimentary implementation of Relativity, and Newtonian celestial mechanics. Space explorers, and those who like solving puzzles, will love Damocles, and its sequel, The Dion Crisis.
More: Damocles on Wikipedia
Novagen‘s classic 3D exploration game Mercenary was first released in 1985.
As a free-form kind of flying/walking game, Mercenary is fun to play and grab, because you can fly/walk/stand and orient yourself from pretty much any angle you desire. Like a photographer. And take grabs.
The puzzles were always a little too obscure for my tastes, but flying around is still great fun. The control system – using the keys 1 through to 9 for different speeds, and space for stop – help make it easy to zip around and check things out.
Mercenary might be a little bit basic by today’s standards, but it’s still great fun to load up and fly around, find objects, steal vehicles and ships, drive cars, and shoot the landscape.
Heck, if you want to play it seriously too, it’s great for just that.