Created 1998-2002 by Kim Lemon
Psi-5 Trading Company - 1986 Accolade
Accolade was arguably the publisher of the most consistently brilliant of
C64 titles, until the talent pool started drying up and we got uninspired
flops like Blue Angels. Psi-5 is definitely one of the high water marks
of their tenure as Commodore publishers.
The premise is simple enough: you are the commander of an interstellar
cargo ship, and you've got to get supplies from Point A in Point B as fast
as possible. The only trouble is that the space lanes are a dangerous
place for a lone cargo ship far from home. So to get there, you're going
to need a crack crew: a top gunner, a wily navigator, a dependable
engineer, a competent repair coordinator, and a fast scanner operator.
But the crew can't do it alone: they need you to call the shots and make
all the right split-second decisions.
As the ship's commander, you communicate with the crew on a viewscreens
with a data readout below. Although crew members will sometimes take the
initiative, you have to issue the vast bulk of the orders, to lock on to a
particular ship, open fire, change course and speed, reroute power from
non-essential systems, and initiate repairs on key areas of the ship. A
second viewscreen constantly shows the exterior action, which more often
than not will be a hellfire of attacking enemy ships. The crew constantly
relays their confirmation of your orders, or new information, through a
communications panel you can access from anywhere in the ship.
And before you even leave the space station, you have to prove yourself a
good judge of character. There are six qualified candidates for each
shipboard position-but some more qualified than others, and each with
their own particular quirks and flaws.
Once you get off and running, this game is intense. Once you find
yourself surrounded by more ships than you can order your gunnery officer
to fire at, the repair list is running out of letters in the alphabet, and
your ship is barely generating enough power to keep the ship moving,
you'll know what I mean. Odds are that you will lose the first several
games of Psi-5 you play. This is normal.
Here are some tips for success:
- Don't touch the joystick. Use the keyboard as your sole interface.
(Notice how every command has a unique first letter?) It's MUCH faster.
The backspace (inst/del) key backs you out one menu level, the slash key
- Don't use auto-acknowledge. You SHOULD make a point to read messages,
but it can be very annoying to have the data readout blanked by a fairly
unimportant communique. You can always hit the acknowledge key rapidly if
you need to clear through the routine messages to get to the important
- Don't leave the spacedock until you've got the shield batteries charged
to full and the emergency batteries well-juiced (at least 60 seconds
worth.) Use the Engineering Priority function early and often. Make it
your friend. It will save your life.
- Speed is king. The faster you're moving, the faster you'll get to your
destination, and the less time the bad guys will have to shoot at you.
Of course, the most direct routes are sometimes the most dangerous, so be
- You can't have your cake and eat it too, so you'll have to disable some
ship systems in order to achieve maximum speed on a regular basis.
Obvious choices are the weapon(s) that your gunnery officer is weak in,
and the info scanner (see below), but you'll often have to run with at
least one shield down. If you're really good, and your engineer is fast,
you can shift your shield "hole" to avoid the point the bad guys seem to
be attacking the most.
- I find the info scanner to be a luxury you can rarely afford. Disable
it for most of the flight, but get juice to it every so often so your
navigation officer can update the risk assessments, and adjust your course
- If you've turned off the info scanner, there's no good reason to have
your scanning officer keep scanning a ship once you've established a
target lock, so cancel scans as soon as you get a "y" under target lock.
- The scanning status chart is the most useful chart to have on screen,
unless you're working on something else (in other words, when things are
relatively quiet), because it lets you know what's going on outside, and
helps you make your gunnery decisions.
- Don't be afraid to adjust your course every so often when things get too
hot (see above), but course corrections slow down your overall journey, so
try not to do it TOO often, or you guarantee a late arrival, and have to
spend a lot more time in space being shot at.
- The ship cannot be completely blown up. The game ends when you're out
of cargo. This happens if the pirates board and steal it all, or if the
cargo environment systems stay damaged and the cargo spoils. Keep that in
mind when looking at a huge repair manifest.
- Losing a crew member means a stiff monetary penalty at the end, plus
feelings of guilt, but more importantly, the ship's computer does a really
lousy job of replacing your humanoid crew. Don't let them die.
- Bru may be annoying, but that's her only real flaw. She starts an awful
lot of repairs on her own initiative, which is a very good quality to have
in a repair chief.
Even with these tips, Psi-5 isn't going to be a thrill-a-minute for
everyone. Some folks just won't dig the commander's-eye view, and would
probably be happier with a game that let them take over the gunnery post,
for example. And it's certainly true that at some stages, the game
becomes rather repetitive: tell scanning to establish a target lock, tell
weapons to fire, cancel scanning, rinse and repeat. Even the shortest
mission is a fairly long trip, and despite Accolade's often cinematic
themes, this is actually one of the "longer" games-you could probably play
three or four rounds of Law of the West in the time it takes to complete a
But if you allow the game to become your reality, so to speak, and you
really care about protecting your crew and reaching your destination with
your cargo intact (and with the biggest possible payday at the end), Psi-5
will richly reward you with engaging gameplay.
Reviewed by Jason Compton, 2001-12-11
|GRAPHICS - 9/10
|Proving that hi-res bitmap image don't have to look like
they do in lousy Spectrum ports, the game is really something to see.
It's not perfect, and perhaps the alien ships could have looked a bit
better, but the graphics are immersive and that's what counts.
|MUSIC - 9/10
|The themes that tie in with the action are great, if a bit limited by the
need to keep the third voice open for sound effects. My favorites are the
percussive battle music and the "condition green" organ voyage music.
|GAMEPLAY - 10/10
|Until you get your own space trading cruiser to command, this is as close
as you're going to get.
|OVERALL - 9/10
|Everyone involved with this game should be proud of themselves. One of
the best "starship command" simulations ever, deceptively simple but
extremely challenging even with the first mission. There's always a new
strategy to test, a new crewmember to bring along for the journey. This
is a Classic with a capital C.
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