Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
There Are Countless Mysteries associated with the ancient Egyptians. How did they manage to build the pyramids - a series of structures we'd be hard-pressed to make today, even with our high-falutin' modern construction techniques? How come they appear to have known so much about the solar system, the positioning and motion of the stars? Why worship cats? Why so much eyeliner? Why? How? When?
Few bygone civilisations pose so many unanswerable questions, so perhaps it's not surprising that an increasing number of people actually believe that the ancient Egyptians themselves were quite literally 'off the planet' - and either were, or merely best mates with, extra-terrestrials from another world. It's an idea that has provided the springboard to many a sci-fi extravaganza (Battlestar Galactica, Stargate), and doubtless an old episode of The Goodies, too. Now its influence has spread to the world of PC gaming. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the olde-worlde hi-tech blastfest that is Sandwarriors. Yes, Sandwarriors. And no, it isn't a beat 'em up where you get to toss sand in each other's eyes. More's the pity.
Sandwarriors is set in the year 6225 BC (a long time ago by anyone's standards), on a distant 'desert planet', populated by two warring factions who are having one heck of a barney. Forget 'The Jocks and the Geordies' - we're talking genocide here. Oddly enough, they're fighting each other for control of a mysterious, hidden 'timegate': a space/time vortex thing that leads to Earth (it's a bit like a gigantic Windows 95 shortcut, really, except faintly more esoteric and other-worldly).
Naturally, this is where you come in. As the game begins, you're a soldier for the House of Osiris. You've got a nifty little spaceship thing (which can swoop around like a bird) and a smattering of weapons. Your task? To ensure that when the two tribes go to war, the solitary point that shall be scored belongs to your side.
Unless you've recently had your eyes torn out by wolves, and someone's reading this text aloud at your hospital bedside in an attempt to keep your spirits up (in which case I recommend Puffin Books' 1001 Riddles For Kids instead), you'll have already looked at the screenshots and deduced that Sandwarriors is a 3D cockpit-based blast 'em up. And you've probably also noted that 1) it's quite pretty, 2) it's also rather detailed, and 3) it has nice lighting and . transparency effects in it. You'd be utterly correct in your assumptions; I've repeated them here simply to confirm your towering genius.
Sadly, Sandwarriors is more impressive in static screenshots than it is in the 'virtual flesh'. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Privateer2: The Darkening and Darklight Conflict, but I think a healthy frame rate wins over visual detail any day of the week. Obviously, you can reduce the on-screen detail, but r the frame rate isn't wonderful. At a low resolution, it's a bit ugly as well. Please don't get me wrong: it's playable and far from unimpressive - but I tend to use LucasArt's TIE Fighter as a yardstick by which to judge these things (it may look sparse by today's standards, but by God it flows), and if Sandwarriors impresses me less than that, something's awry.
Given time, the gameplay itself is quite involving, albeit fairly uninspiring. Arcade-style simplicity is the order of the day (praise the Lord), with mission objectives clearly spoken aloud over your comms system at the start of each stage. Even if you haven't played a cockpit combateer since the old Elite days, you could dive in here and pick up the thread within a few minutes. For this, Gremlin should be heartily applauded. Furthermore, there are several very neat touches, such as the ultra-handy preset flight manoeuvres (you can fly in circles around your selected target at the touch of a button) - yet overall there's a pervasive sense of little on offer here which hasn't been done before: an unusual premise can't disguise the fact.
Tut tut tut
Sorry Gremlin, but with the jaw-dropping majesty of Darklight Conflict already in direct competition, and the essential-purchase multi-player sexfest of X-Wing\TIE Fighter drawing ever closer, Sandwarriors needs something very special indeed to make any impact. It doesn't. It won't.
It's not a bad game by any means; it simply just doesn't distinguish itself from the pack. As Ron Pickering used to say to the losing team on the programme We Are The Champions, that's just "hard lines".
You don't have to be the world's most astute trashculture junkie to notice a startling 'similarity' between Sandwarriors (the computer game) and Stargate (the movie): both make heavy use of Egyptian imagery, feature mucho spaceship-related hi-jinks, and have plots which revolve around intergalactic slipgates to Earth. It's fairly obvious that someone at Gremlin has been heavily 'influenced' by the film.
This is where I start scratching my head, because I thought the movie sucked. We're not talking about a light bit of sucking, either - it sucked so hard I thought I was going to be pulled out of my seat and right through the screen. You see, I was unfortunate enough to see it in the cinema; I fell asleep three times. One of my companions kept nudging me awake - and each time I was dismayed to find that the poxy thing was still going, like some kind of relentless, rolling boredom ball, a 600ft-high granite sphere of tedium, intent on mercilessly crushing anything of interest with its fearsome mass. Towards the end (a great big tapered end, like a turd's end) I even tried applying my mental powers to the task of bringing about some kind of telekinetic projector-destruction - sadly to no avail.
Why rip off such a dull film? What next? A Merchant Ivory-inspired platform game? Eh? EH?