Following our retrospective intro, we continue our Laser Squad week by looking at the 8-bit versions of the game and the videogaming magazine’s views at the time…
ZX Spectrum (1988)
The original, as mentioned, is a fine game with minimalist aesthetics. While the graphics may well be monochrome, they are functional and suffer no colour clash. Sound is very sparse but effective. The gameplay is where it matters with Laser Squad and the original version is as good as any others that followed.
‘C+VG Hit!’ “Graphics are large colourful, full of character and instantly recognizable. The attention to detail is amazing. Sound is fab. It’s actually quite amazing the sounds Mr Gollop has managed to get out of the little rubber keyed thing. Laser Squad is one of the hottest games I’ve ever played. If that isn’t enough, Target is releasing expansion packs for the game, with more scenarios and more ideas.” 97%, Tony Dillon, Computer & Video Games issue 86, page 89, December 1988.
“Target Games have not only managed to produce a great game in Laser Squad, but the whole game system and the ability to play further scenarios when they’re released makes this almost indispensable for 8-bit tactical wargame fans.” 873, Andy Smith, ACE issue 14, November 1988.
“The game reminds me of nothing so much more than Gauntlet. Right down to the way the main characters move. All the graphics are incredibly well defined, right down to little background details, like the toilets, for example. Sound ain’t bad either. There are some really nice laser type effects when you shoot and some terrific selection sounds on the menus. It plays well too. If you’re after a good alternative to wiping out another line of kamikaze aliens in a bout of mindless joystick thrashing, you could do a lot worse than buy this. You couldn’t do much better, in fact.” 89, Sinclair User issue 80, November 1988.
“Through the combination of tactical play and arcade graphics, Laser Squad certainly stands out from the rest. Graphics bring a new sense of realism to the game without sacrificing the strategy/tactical elements. Play is satisfyingly complex across all levels and despite the limited scope of the three missions, future scenarios are catered for through an expansion facility.” 84%, The Games Machine issue 14, January 1989.
“The first thing that strikes you about these games is how arcade-like they are rather than the normal ‘for-strategy-read-boring-blue-blocks’. Each landscape has been carefully drawn in detail, and the fast scrolling takes you back to the heady days of TLL and other arcade classics. If you’re wondering whether I would recommend this game then I suggest you never waste your money on a Mensa Test. I think Laser Squad is mega fab, and I’m looking forward already to the expansions… And that’s the opinion of someone who has never been interested in strategy wargaming before.” 9/10, Pete, Your Sinclair issue 35, November 1988.
“There is a one- or two-player option, though no choice of sides in the one-player option, and the three scenarios offer several levels of play and a sufficient variety of setting and tactics to be genuinely worthwile. The original concept of Rebelstar was elegant and addictive, and Laser Squad takes it much further without losing any of its playability. Definitely recommended.” 89%, Philipa Irving, Crash issue 59, Christmas Special 1988.
Laser Squad in action on the ZX Spectrum:
Commodore 64 (1989)
With such an excellent conversion to the C64, you’d be forgiven if you thought it was coded by Julian Gollop, but it was in fact ported by his brother, Nick. The essential gameplay has been ported over successfully with nothing left out. As you would expect from the increased colour palette of the C64, the graphics look more colourful. Good use is also made of the C64’s sound capabilities, with some fine spot effects throughout.
‘CU Screen Star’ “Graphically, Laser Squad is nothing to write home about, but there’s plenty of detail. All moveable objects are animated, though curiously enough the main characters aren’t. Colour has been well used, but the use of single colour sprites [is] a little disappointing. The sound is great. The droning effect when a scanner is switched on is really nice, as are most of the laser effects. Laser Squad is on of the best games ever to appear.” 92%, Tony Dillon, Commodore User Amiga-64 issue 54, March 1989.
“One of Laser Squad’s strengths is its expansion on the ideas of hidden movements. As marines can only see enemies within a 90º field of view it’s all too easy for an enemy robot to sneak up behind someone and take them out unless another marine guards their flank. With hidden movement the player doesn’t know for sure what lies around the next corner and moving into a long corridor can be a kill zone if a sniper is waiting with opportunity fire selected. The tension that builds up is very strong indeed, forming a major part of the game’s atmosphere with the impressive combat graphics adding to the game’s surprisingly fast pace. The great thing about Laser Squad is that you really do feel part of the team and want to use each marine’s unique advantages and weapons to the full.” Zzap!64 issue 53, September 1989.
Laser Squad in action on the C64:
Amstrad CPC (1989)
Julian ported the CPC version over from the Spectrum and it matches the other 8-bits with ease. Essentially, this is the original Spectrum game with added colour. However, this isn’t just a splash of added colour here and there, the scenery and squad units are subtly shaded, giving the game a more realistic feel to it, which also makes the C64 version look rather washed out. Sound, while not up to the C64 standard, is non the less just as impressive.
‘AA Mastergame’ “The fun in Laser Squad stems from its flexibility and its playability. With two players and four levels of difficulty (seven on the expansion modules) the games playing life is a long one indeed. It’s the armaments on offer that really make the whole show worthwhile, because even when you’ve beaten a scenario you can give fresh life by tackling it with over the top or completely inappropriate weapons. Laser Squad will have any ‘intelligent agro freak’ coming back time and time again. You’ll love the smell of Auto Cannon in the morning. It smells of Victory.” 91%, Trenton Webb, Amstrad Action issue 49, October 1989, page 50 and 51.
“This one or two player strategy combat with five scenarios ensures some serious thought and some serious blasting.” Verdict: sparkling smile, Adrian Pumphrey, Amstrad Computer User issue 65, April 1990.
Laser Squad in action on the Amstrad CPC:
The MSX version is hardly known within the retrogaming community and was even disputed that it existed in the first place. Hydra Soft was the company that produced the MSX Italian language port and a fine version it is, indeed. There is also a Spanish version available. Visually, the game looks similar to the C64 version, while the sound is indistinguishable from the others. No reviews of the MSX version were found, which is a shame.
Laser Squad in action on the MSX:
Plus/4, C16 (1991)
Laser Squad +4 is an unofficial Plus/4 conversion of the Commodore 64 game and a very successful attempt it is too. Retaining every bit of the all-important gameplay, Laser Squad +4 is a solid version of our favourite turn-based strategy wargame. The visuals are virtually identical to the C64, however, the sound seems to have been stretched out, producing some rather clunky sounding effects throughout. Converted by T., Attila (TGMS), the game can be freely downloaded in disk format.