Unlike many of the cttescineeproperly works great. However, it's more than apparent that Compro Games created their own horrible video player. The video is fuzzy and difficult to look at for any length of time. Just when you thought you could get away from the interlaced images you're thrown into an interlaced world. The game runs in 640x480 resolution in 256 color mode and Hi-Color mode (65K colors) but you may only remove the interlaced lines in the Hi-Color mode. Why this limitation exists is beyond me.
Surface Tension is more than pixelicious, it's pixel perfect. It's beyond me why the decision was made to design a 320x200 game in a higher resolution without improving the graphics. Sure, the cockpit graphics that take up over half the viewing area are in good looking 640x480 graphics but what about the environment? The world you see is blocky and interlaced. If you're running in Hi-Color mode and you have the horsepower you can turn off the interlacing. Instead of improving the graphics quality of the environment, the programmers simply drew each line twice; making everything you see exceedingly blocky. This is especially apparent when you get close to anything--the ground, enemies, water, towers, and other aircraft are all giant blocks of giant pixels, ripe for the picking.
Speaking of ripe, much of the voice acting in the game is well past the expiration date. I've heard better voice acting from a 3rd rate Japanese Godzilla knock-off. The dialogue is decent, but the way it's presented makes you want to turn off videos and voices. The only person who voice acted with any success was the female contact that you get to see through the aircraft's communications. The voice acting wouldn't be so much of a problem if there wasn't so much of it.
Executed with some measure of success were the sound effects and music for Surface Tension. The sound effects such as explosions, warnings and gunfire were all of standard quality, but not exceptional. The music to Surface Tension is one of it's strongest features. The music ranges from a variation of techno with repeating themes and sounds on one level to peaceful, moody themes with dark overtones in another. It's the kind of music that you would want to listen to outside of the game--and because it's Red Book audio (CD music) thankfully you can.
I may be no fighter pilot and I may not like many flight sims, but I know when the designers put unnecessary restrictions in their games. In Surface Tension you fly an experimental fighter plane that can hover. (Why must it always be experimental?) However, there are areas of the game where you cannot fly over land--it's too high. What kind of plane has an altitude limit of 200 feet? This restriction becomes quite a nuisance when trying to fight because as soon as you hit land, you're stopped; turning while stopped is like trudging through molasses on a winter day. Why can't the plane fly over the tallest mountains when it can hover in place? This limitation is quite annoying.
It's quite a shame that the graphics and interface limitations get in the way because this could have been a very fun game. With the limitations of the flight simulator engine being interlaced and blocky, much of the entertainment value is lost. The premise, though greatly flawed, was interesting enough to make you want to shoot bad guys. The action can get exciting at times if you can make out which blob is your enemy and which blob is the ground.
Surface tension tries to be too many things at once and does none of them exceptionally well. Though the music is good, it can never make up for the many other shortcomings of Surface Tension. Burdening the game are the poorly executed and splotchy, interlaced videos that can be found throughout the game. Additionally, the graphics defining the world you travel through are nothing short of pathetic. Three or four years ago, you could have passed off these graphics to the masses and gotten away with it; today, it's an embarrassment. Combined with the horrible voice actors and you have yourself a very expensive coaster for your soda. The best feature of Surface Tension is the Exit button; easily reached by any power-switch. If you really want a flight-sim shooter, go buy Wing Commander IV otherwise keep shopping.
-- Louis Stice