Ice and Fire for PC CD-ROMs Last year's most-popular list for action/arcade games - the ones that really excited the kids with PCs - included titles like Marathon, Hell and Mortal Kombat. But what about this year's big names? Which games will prove most popular in 1996? Already a host of terrific new titles have been released. Of these, Blood Bath and Marathon 2 have become the talk of the town in recent months. But there are, of course, many more to come - it's only April. Certainly, there will be plenty of hot titles released in the next eight months or so. Let's look at a new release, Will Zombie's Ice & Fire , and try to assess if it is likely to be one of the 'contenders' in the high-popularity stakes. Studying a game's basic 'story' will help analyse the pros and cons as we try to gauge if this new title can climb to the action-game summit. Ice & Fire is based on an invasion by aggressive aliens - called Spherids - of a scientific research station set up on an asteroid. The aliens threaten the survival of the entire station, which has been set up for a scientific team to study a binary system known as 'Ice and Fire'. To save the station and its crew, the base commander puts the entire asteroid into cryogenic suspension. As a gamer, your tasks are to rescue all the IF-1 station personnel from their cryogenic inertia, as well as determining the motivation for the Spherid invasion. The gamer must also locate the station commander. The IF-1 personnel, who perhaps know the underlying purpose of the Spherids' invasion, must be rescued as soon as possible because they cannot remain in the cryogenic state indefinitely. Ice & Fire is actually two games in one. The first requires that you navigate the asteroid surface - this involves attacking the red robot ships, flying over the blue robot ships, picking up useful items along the way, and finding the Station Mazes. The gamer must then explore the Station Mazes and thaw all the crystals to reveal their contents, which may include pieces of puzzles, IF-1 personnel or Spherids. Hence you can release all the base personnel and destroy or re-freeze the Spherids. On completion of those tasks, you automatically move to the next level. Quality of graphics, background music and sound-effects in Ice & Fire are up to standard. But 'playability' is not so good. If you control the game by keyboard you will find it difficult to handle - generally the response is too slow, even if you choose the Standard Installation and play the game with a Pentium 75 PC. You may want to improve the overall performance of the game by choosing the Huge Installation (the full installation), but check that your PC has the 600+ MB free hard-disc space to do so. If you can do this, it takes about two hours to install the whole game on your computer system. To run the game, you need a PC with 486/66 DX2 or MCP2 co-processor, Windows 95 or Windows 3.1, at least a double-speed CD-ROM drive, 15 MB of hard-disc space and 8 MB of RAM, and either a mouse or a joystick. It is highly recommended your PC has been installed with a Pentium co-processor, 20 MB of hard-disc space and 16 MB of RAM. Sound Blaster and 100 per cent compatible sound-cards with FM and 16-bit pem sound are also available. Other than that, a 16-bit Windows compatible SVGA card with minimum 1 MB of video RAM, and Virtual i-O head-mounted displays, also can be used with this game. MEGAHINT: To get higher scores, players should read the instruction manual thoroughly. Otherwise you will not have the knowledge to control the interface of the game, or sufficient information about the tasks which must be performed to get to the next level. MEGAHINT: When enemies approach, don't run - destroy them. Otherwise they will follow you wherever you go, try to attack you, and make you use up energy until you die. The only way is to freeze or destroy them before they get too close.