EXILE REVIEW - September 1991
|You'd think they'd learn. On capturing Triax, a
psycopathic genetic engineer who used to tamper with the brains and bodies of his victims
and turn them into mindless 'terminators', the Earth authorities put him on
trial. On finding him guilty of a whole series of heinous crimes, though, the bungling
fools completely failed to do the universe a favour and shoot the mad old bugger, choosing
instead to fire him out into space to drift around helplessly for the rest of his life.
(Clearly no-one in authority at the time had ever seen Superman II). Anyway, predictably
enough Triax escaped and set himself up on a small out-of-the-way planet, where he
continued in his unpleasant ways until he was disturbed by a colonisation force. The force
soon discovered that he hadn't lost his touch with genes as they were swiftly wiped
out by a host of grisly mutants, but luckily not before they managed to get off a distress
message. Answering the call, you set off for the planet Pheobus, your mission to rescue
any living colonists and give Triax what he should have had in the first place - a bullet
in the head.
Exile is an arcade adventure in the original sense of the term. Your character is controlled by joystick (or a mix of joystick and keys if you prefer), but progress through the game is much less a matter of alien-zapping and much more reliant on solving tricky and perplexing problems. You can't be killed as such (you carry a personal teleporter which whisks you back to the safety of your ship if you get into dire trouble), but there is a time limit, and you don't want to have to spend too much time retracing your steps through the game's enormous caverns, so extreme care is advised. And basically it's as simple as that. Except, of course, it isn't...
Exile is one of the most taxing games you're ever likely to play. The arcade aspect is challenging enough, but the puzzles are so devious (but always, tantalisingly, just within the reach of logic - when you finally solve one you'll go 'But that was so obvious!') that you'll spend as much time sitting around and wracking your mind as you will flying around and actually doing things. There are a whole slew of keys and icons to remember, but if you do as you're told and follow the manual for the first game or two they'll become second nature, to the extent that you don't have to consciously think about them at all. You'll also then find yourself using a control system so flexible and useful that you'll wonder how you ever put up with anything less. The puzzles are so tough that the sense of triumph you get from completing one is enough to see you through the next three hours of struggling without complaint, and the alien mutants so alive with character that you'll whoop with joy every time you manage to mangle one of the little horrors. I played Exile for hours and only scratched the surface, but always made enough progress to want to carry on and get just a little bit further. Buy this game and you may not want another until next Christmas.
Graphics and sound are only average, but they do their job perfectly.
The best blend of depth and playability all year.
Incredibly tough, but incredibly rewarding when you do get something right.
A masterpiece - there's no other word for it.