Surface Tension from GameTek

A deadly disease has been infecting Earth at an incredible rate. The only known cure, Glomavine, is six weeks away, and for some strange reason cannot survive the trip. Conveniently, LYNX, a megacorp has the only known Glomavine mine and owns all the freighters in the system. (But I thought the stuff couldn't survive the trip?) At the same time, Dr. Ralwin has successfully completed the technique for Teleportation. Since LYNX sees this new technology as the death of their own freighters, they've stepped up their military strength. (As most corporations often do_) Your job is to pilot the small, but power-packed BEX 1 and take out the LYNX installations and free the Glomavine mines. Okay, so this seems to be just a bit of a stretch for the storyline, but that's the setting of Surface Tension_Gametek's latest flight-sim arcade/strategy style game.

Surface tension is a flight-sim with a few unusual limitations_at least in this preview. First off, the worldview is rasterized (only every-other graphic line is drawn). This is great for slower systems that can't handle the screen updates. If your system is fast enough, you can turn off the rasterization and have the game draw every line_if you're in Hi-color mode. For some strange reason, you cannot turn off the rasterization when you're playing the game in 256 color mode. The graphics around the play-area are fabulous, but the actual game area can get rather pixellated, and there's no way to improve the resolution.

The other unusual limitation is how high the BEX 1 can fly. You cannot fly over the highest "mountains" in the game; instead you fly into them. Why this limitation exists is beyond me_I mean, you're in a jet plane that can hover! If you accidentally hit one of these peaks, it takes forever for you to turn around or backup to try to move around it all. This feature is more annoying than anything.

Other than those two unusual limitations, Surface Tension plays like pretty good fighter arcade/sim. Many times you can get your butt kicked while SAMs, turrets and enemy planes all fire at you while you try to figure out where the enemy is. Cool. While you would expect the joystick to be the better input device, the keyboard is actually the input device of choice. (However, it would be nice to be able to re-assign different options to different keys.)

Surface Tension is an ambitious project that has quite a bit of potential. Some of the limitations are questionable, but hopefully will be removed by the time it's released. It's a challenging game that arcade flight-sim players should enjoy. Surface tension should be hitting the store shelves sometime this month.

--- Louis Stice