|This article does not cite any references or sources. (September 2009)|
Solar Winds: The Escape and it's sequel Solar Winds: Galaxy also known as Solar Winds II: Universe are top-down, space-based action games developed by James Schmalz and published by Epic MegaGames in 1993.
The main character of both games, bounty hunter Jake Stone, takes on a series of missions that has him fighting robots, aliens, and rebels in ship-to-ship combat. The story is told through simple conversations and brief cutscenes. In some ways, the series is reminiscent of the much larger and more complex Star Control II, without the ship customization and fleet building aspects.
In "The Escape", humans live in a solar system millions of light years from our own. Space travel is common within the solar system, but hyperdrive research is restricted; any research pertaining to hyperdrive travel is destroyed by the oppressive solar government's army of robots. However, one group has spent a decade in secret developing a hyperdrive ship and plans to use it to escape the force field encasing their solar system. The government hires Stone to stop them.
It is eventually revealed that the solar government is conspiring with a race of "overlord" aliens to stop the development of hyperdrive technology. These overlords keep various species for study, and actively push these species toward war for reasons unknown. Travel to other solar systems is barred by enormous, invisible force fields erected around the systems. The overlord aliens and their agents travel by means of fixed, self-made portals, or wormholes, opened with special keys. Ultimately, Stone is able to travel through one of the portals where he is greeted by a group of agitators from the overlords. They want him to help them stop the cruel treatment of these species.
In "Universe", Jake Stone must continue his work with these agitators to disrupt the portals. Meanwhile, a human colony fleet from Earth is heading for the force field surrounding Earth's solar system. Ultimately Stone is able to work for the enemy in order to get close enough to destroy the Controller that maintains the portals leading to the various worlds, thus freeing these worlds--including Earth.
The game is essentially linear, with very little room for innovation or exploration. The focus is always on Stone's ship.
There are a number of weapons: a photon cannon that can fire rapid shots of 1, 2, or 3 bursts (the more bursts, the slower), and several types of missiles that can track enemy ships (or Stone's own ship if it's in the way). Combat is simple: spin and evade enemy fire while firing in return.
The "frequency" of the shields and photons can be changed. If one frequency is chosen and fired, a shielding system that matches said frequency will take a greater level of damage. As the game progresses, different frequencies for weapons and shields become available.
After equipping the E-Band converter device, power can be acquired by destroying enemy ships. Energy crystals or a green fluid held in a beaker can also increase power. The more power put into a shield, weapon, or drive system, the more powerful or faster it will be. Power is consumed by the hyperdrive when in use, or the shields when hit by enemy fire.
Hull integrity is shown through a square superimposed on top of the ship. At full health, the square will be bright green. When the ship is damaged, this square will fade to black. As time goes on, the ship will repair itself, the speed of which depending on how much power has been dedicated to the life support systems.
There are four different zoom modes in the game. The first, 1X, shows a detailed look at the area immediately surrounding the ship. The second mode, 10X, can show an entire solar system. Increasing the scan power level enables planets, moons, asteroid belts, and even enemies to be shown on the screen. The third mode, 100X, shows the star cluster. The final mode is the "war mode", wider than 1X and used for combat.
There are limited dialogue options with characters in the game, but with few exceptions, all conversations must proceed in the same direction, regardless of what is said.
There are a number of bugs in the game, including graphical errors that prevent the player from damaging certain enemy ships when in the right spot on the screen, and a bug that allows enemy vessels to damage the hull without damaging the shields. Another bug allowed the player's ship to move impossibly fast by rapidly increasing power while in hyperdrive. As power runs out, the speed does not slow.