Computer Gamer's Review Of Psi-5 Trading Company (US Gold/Accolade) for the Spectrum 48K/128K - Everygamegoing


Psi-5 Trading Company is a strategy game that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Eric Doyle boldly goes where no man's gone before.


Psi-5 Trading Company

At last I've gained my first commission as a space freighter captain for the PSI-5 Trading Company. With the assistance of my Commodore 64 I should cope admirably but first I must choose a crew.

Thirty applicants for the five key support sections is not a bad start for a greenhorn captain. Who shall I choose? They are all so keen even though I've chosen the softest operation of the three I was offered. After all, who in their right mind would want to break their neck hauling Preblis to Splyteeux or Grananas to Zipo Aga when they can sit in front of a cargo of Nucliarc on a short haul to Kozzar 7?

Crew, I must select the crew. Let's see who we've got for the weapons department. I see that hot-head Bullseye Zott's still doing the rounds. He was a real pain on Uranus, bragging about his gunnery skills. OK, so he may be an ace on blasters, thermos and cannon but he couldn't hit a Boron door with a missile if he was sitting on its handrail!

Boris Tarkov is just as bad; he's a spot on gunner but he's liable to shoot himself if you put a blaster in his hands. Skullard goes to pieces when the going gets touch and Grolo would eat all the food supplies before we'd gone three parsecs.

The problems of command! Do I really need all this hassle? If I'm honest, the answer is no but $12 million is not to be sniffed at. Neither is Yeela for that matter, smells like a yak he does. What can you expect with all that hair after 270 years? His home planet, Glork, must be revolting. To think he spent 110 years helping to defend the god-forsaken place from attack. Should have let the invasion fleet land, the smell would have finished them off for sure!

Who have we got left? Oh no, not a droid. I remember the last Vaccudroid. I'm sure the name's derived from the vacuum between their ears. When the captain said fire back comes the reply, "In what sense of the word do you mean that? Are we *on* fire, or would you like me to blast away anything that moves? Really, you must be more precise." Old Captain Kirk ended up taking a sonic wrench to that blighter in the end.

Looks like we're stuck with Yeela. At least he's telepathic so I won't have to get too close. It does mean I'll be spending my time on the videocom politely suggesting he pulls his finger out. Any stress and he distintegrates into a quivering heap of fuzz. Far too emotional but the best of a bad lot.

Only four more posts to go. What's next? Ah, the Scanners. Dreamers, the lot of them. I've never met a Scanner who can keep his mind on the job for more than five minutes. It's all those flashing lights as they try to lock on to targets. At least Uhura was good to look at.

Jaru Lagon, arch femlib of the galaxy. She's nothing but trouble. Doesn't like men and can't even stand droids. She's out. Blustan the babbler. Sticks his scaly nose into everybody's business. Known locally as the Blustan Broadcasting Corporation. He'd be on the videocom more times than Telly the Vgan.

Nargo Kloya would probably clam up at the wrong moment. Churglick would slow down to a standstill and Mike of Morgon would get out the photos of his wife and kids. That leaves Phyzo Thynx, Dragoolan by birth and drag by nature. Good man under pressure though if only he can lock onto targets quicker this time.

That choice makes the navigator easier to choose. It's got to be Kloya or Yenz. I need a navvy who can duck and weave while Phyzo thinks! It's all to do with the chain of command. The navvy manoeuvres while the scanner locks onto the target and advises the gunner which weapon to use, while I turn purple bawling everyone out for being so slow. Yenx gets the job because I can't take Kloya's practical jokes. He can disk it out but he can't take it himself.

Now I need a good engineer who won't let me down in deep space. A droid would be a good choice but I've only got one of those new fangled VX-4s. They've yet to be proved and I've heard that they have a tendency to be slow.

Flogronk Plgzur of Cirio has a violent temper and Wilfo is too frail to stand up to the rigours of the journey. Craven Michaels would give up and pod home if placed under stress with Sampu close behind. Only Anthony Frisina seems to have the qualities I'm looking for, he's a good all-rounder but gets a bit panicky when the action hots up. You're my man, Tone.

All these decisions... Thank goodness this is the last. I've always believed in the policy of setting a thief to catch a thie and it would take a Phooton Earthshaker to make me change my mind. A droid is the only choice for the Repair Department. I must say Anxy sound like a good contender though. Oh but he's an instructor. I believe in the old saying that those who can, do and those who can't teach.

No real competition now. Here's T3-XR9, a model 4 droid. Seven years experience. Fast, hard working, loyal, friendly and precise. His only fault is that he can overdo things. What a hero! Dedicated to work an unflinching stalwart is just what the team needs.

So there we are, a motley crew of the best available: Yeela, Phyzo, Yenx, Anthony, and good old T3. Now am I sure these are the best I can get. Yes, let's go.

OK men, you've been telepazzed here in response to your workad reports. Space is a dangerous place but people need supplies and we need money. Let's go to it and, hey, let's be careful out there.

Navigator, set your heading and speed. Scanner, see what's out there... what already? Are they friendly? Get me a fix on them just in case.

Anthony, T3, stand by we could have trouble here. Pull yourself together, Tony. Phyzo, how's that fix coming on? OK, keep working on it. Yeela, stand by on the guns and keep that trigger finger under control.

What the heck was that?!!

Damage report T3. More power to the shields, Tony. Don't all pass messages at once. Phyzo where the (crackle, crackle, phut) is that fix, you son of a shedrogue. Yeela, do your best with the GX75... No use. Try missiles and stop snivelling, wimp. Think Thynx, you can do it. T3, send four droids to repair the shields, any of them, you metallic moron! Tony, stop sobbing. No it isn't, the end of the world is not nigh. You're lifeforce is in serious danger.

Phyzo, stop playing dead. Oh, he isn't playing. OK Yeela, use your initiative. Of course you have, dolt. Come on now, this isn't the time to go into a huff. T3, Droids to the shields, the weapons, the engines... what do you mean your batteries need recharging?! The only batteries you'll get is the kind that comes with assault, you walking scrapheap.

Quick, the cargo's going. Yeela, get your act together. R3, send those droids. Oh sorry, T3. Thynx, how could you let me down by dying? I'll have you court-marshalled for desertion. Yenx, let's get out of here. No engines. OK, if you know any prayers say them now.

Aaaahhh! Everything's gone black! Why's it gone quiet? Failure. Stark failure. All the cargo gone. The pirates are gone. T3, get those engines working and let's limp home. Tony, we've gotta get out of this business!

PSI 5 from US Gold is one of the most frenetic thinking games currently available. Fast manipulation of the menus is the key and a few trial runs will be necessary to familiarise yourself with the controls and to fine-tune your manning requirements. My first foray followed the rough routine mentioned above.

When the instruction advise that you get involved with the game, you find it difficult not after a while. Everything becomes real. Staff failures annoy and this game can seriously damage your health with ulcers and self-inflicted wounds. Face-to-face with the most potent foe unknown to man, the enemy within.

Mimi Doggett's graphics are really very good indeed, and the attack screen is especially realistic, a mini-masterpiece. Programmer Mike Lorenzen has created a program of busy screens that never have a dull moment. It's a pity that you can't just sit back and enjoy it (unless you can get the disk version which has a demo mode). Ed Bogas' music I could live without but only covers the loading and crew selection screens.

Each crew vacancy is dealt with in turn. The screen display shows a picture of each of the six applicants and you can call up the personnel file to see how they perform, their experience and their failings. Nobody is perfect and compromise is the order of the day. The files are detailed and give more detail than you need, plus a few bits of trivia to cloud the issue.

On cassette, once the team has been selected the tape springs back into action while the crew members are lifted out of the data files and then the scenario loads. There are three missions, each successive one increasing in danger. The distance to travel increases each time but so does the financial reward at the end.

The action screen is split into three main sections: the exterior view, the communications screen and the bottom half is reserved for message reports and commands. The communications screen shows an animated view of the crew member with whom you are currently interacting while the exterior view shows various space vessels zooming back and forth in 3D relief.

All of my attention was focussed on the lower section of the screen. There is a master menu which allows you to read the flood of messages which come through from the various departments. These are usually bad news, pleading for the repair department's urgent attention. I found that selecting automatic display of these winging missives was not a good idea during battle but useful in the lull after a successful engagement when repairs must be undertaken.

Battle stations calls for frantic flipping through the menus and sub-menus for survival. The key here is not the gunner but the person in charge of the scanner. Until he gets a fix on the enemy the gunner has no chance of hitting his mark. Bear this in mind when selecting your crew, Thynx stinks because he's so slow.

The scanner will also suggest which weapon will be the most effective. Always take his advice. Priorities are your concern. He will only tell you the status of the alien crafts out there. Who faces the brunt of the attack is your decision alone and can mean success or failure to the mission.

The course which you set is also up to you and sometimes zooming along at a high rate of knots by circuitous route can be preferable to a more leisurely pace on a beeline for the destination planet. It confuses the enemy, you see.

Keeping track of all departments at all times is impossible so a degree of self-motivation is a desirable attribute in a crew member. If you end up spending all of your time chasing each member up you've travelled a few parsecs from base.

If the ship flounders, you will soon find your control diminishes as your communication call is met with an RIP message for that particular crew member. This is usually preceded by a message saying the cargo is being plundered and when it's all gone you've lost.

To play again you have to rewind the tape. Reload to select a new crew or go back about fifty counter numbers to try again with the same team of misfits but new tactics.

From its excellent beginnings, the US Gold catalogue has been tarnished by the inclusion of one or two squibs but the overall impression is one of excellence. This game is a very welcome addition. Long may the PSI 5 Trading Company rule the heavens. The thinking man's Elite.

PSI-5 Trading Company is available to C64 owners and costs £9.95.