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Iron Helix (Win3.x)

Iron Helix Windows 3.x
Genre: Action, Strategy / tactics
Perspective: 1st-person
Art: Full Motion Video (FMV)
Setting: Sci-fi / futuristic
Published by: Spectrum Holobyte
Developed by: Drew Pictures
Released: 1993
Platforms: Windows 3.x (Win3.x), SEGA CD / Mega-CD

Don't be fooled by the rustic appearance: before you is a very unusual representative of the Logic genre, one might even say - the grandfather of stealth action.

How to describe Iron Helix? Imagine an ordinary Pacman with a first-person view, where you have to run not through a flat maze, but along six interconnected decks of an abandoned spaceship. Instead of "pills" here are DNA samples and scraps of video, but where they are - you can only guess. Instead of four ghosts, there is a lonely monster that, although it does not crawl towards you along the shortest path, somehow still finds out your location (how - remains to be seen); you cannot eat a monster, you can only lure him into a trap, and then not immediately. And finally, unlike Pacman, there is a plot here!

In the distant future, humanity met a race of aliens, the Thanatosians, and, without inventing anything smarter, began a cold war with them. Wanting to flex their muscles in front of a possible enemy, the earth's fleet decides to test the latest destructive weapon called Iron Helix on a lifeless asteroid near Calliope, the peaceful planet of the Thanatosians. For this purpose, the heavy destroyer Jeremiah O'Brien was dispatched there. But just before the start of the exercise, the members of the Jeremiah crew learn to their horror that they are struck by an unknown virus that has changed their DNA. The control systems cease to recognize the crew and close access to all compartments, the automatic security system detects "alien invaders" on board, and on this fertile ground, the on-board computer has an attack of paranoia like "Ahhhhhh enemies!": It decides that the war has begun and chooses the target for the main weapon, that very peaceful planet ... as they say, they played out (in general, a suspicious coincidence of circumstances, don't you think?) The crew tries to stop the ship, but the progressive disease, coupled with an aggressive security robot resembling a cross between a stingray and a Darth Vader helmet, do not leave them chances.

There are only a few hours left before the start of the big diplomatic embarrassment. The Cold War is rapidly developing into a "hot" one. In desperation, the command of the Earth's fleet sends a signal to all ships in the vicinity, and the flimsy research shell "Indiana", which, in fact, is in command of you, responds to the call. Unfortunately, all the armament of your ship is a gravitational beam, with the help of which you sit on the destroyer's tail, and a set of zoological probes, which ... However, the game begins here.

So, a virus is raging on the ship, so a personal visit on board is out of the question (and it is not a joy for an unarmed scientist to meet a security guard). So you have to send a remote controlled probe, the control panel of which you will see the whole game. We have three probes, count three lives. Time - an hour and a half, but believe me, the probes will run out faster. Your probe, of course, is clever, but it is adapted only for passive observation and collection of biological material. Yes, we have a manipulator, but it will not work to knock the ship's guard on the teapot. The most that your brave nerd can do when meeting the guards is a puddle of lubricant, and then - if he has time. We'll have to do what we do best - scan the ship for undamaged DNA samples from the crew. So, the first part of the game is finding the DNA of high-ranking personnel. Each of the crew members has their own level of clearance: for example, a junior engineer can only enter the engineering compartment, a security officer and a doctor can enter any, and the captain has access to the controls of the ship. In the second phase, you will need to find video messages from the crew members, in which they tell you how to stop the guard and destroy the ship (in this sequence - the active guard will block any of your team). All this time, you will have to look at the danger sensor, whether a guard is flying towards you, to whom all the compartments are initially open and who, such an infection, will be visible on the map only at the easy difficulty level.

The controls are quite simple: four cardinal points and up and down buttons. The available directions are highlighted on the main panel. When you press the button, the probe either turns or makes a certain path in the selected direction. In the video cat, you can also scan the environment for DNA, try to access the console with the manipulator, or set up a short-term fireworks display in the guard's brain (just don't get carried away: the energy supply is extremely small).
What pleases the most is the atmosphere of the extinct ship. The adrenaline rush that you experience by typing the password on the console with shaking hands, when the guard, so that it burns, literally breathes into the back of your head, is remembered for a long time. Nice graphics: try to compare Helix with other games in 1993 - and you will understand what I mean. Videos with live actors were very cool for that time. High complexity and high-quality sound are also pleasing. The musical themes, although short to the point of disgrace, are well remembered.

What's not to like? Almost zero replay value: the location of the DNA samples and the options for destroying the guard are strictly assigned to the difficulty level. Not to mention the game is very short. Irritating to a tiny video cat (1/5 of the screen, no more). The developers were afraid that full-screen video would greatly reduce performance, and in vain - after two years, average user machines successfully pulled such loads.

Summary: difficult and controversial game. The flaws are visible to the naked eye, but it has its own charm. Recommended for a thoughtful, diligent and patient gamer.