The starfighter genre has been around since Star Raiders debuted on the Atari 800, and few significant improvements have been made since. The same basic game design is retread again and again, and even high profile titles like Wing Commander IV offer little more in the way of gameplay than their predecessors. With Absolute Zero, Domark seems intent on taking a completely different approach to the genre. The problem is that while Absolute Zero's design concepts are unique, the game interface is poorly executed.
The story is well-conceived and fresh, following the lives of 24th century humans who have finally mastered cold fusion, and buzz around the solar system like busy bees. Much of the activity centers on Europa, an ice-covered Jovian moon that now provides fuel for human fusion engines. While they're mining, the busy little workers discover, under the Europan ice, a hibernating race of alienswho are now seriously pissed. Military reinforcements are a ways off, so the miners convert their equipment into makeshift military hardware to battle the aliens until help arrives.
It's not easy to jump into this game. The main interface, called a VR Tunnel, leaves you a bit unsure of what to do unless you've carefully read the manual first. Even so, with practice, you'll master the controls, piloting both air- and landcraft from the perspective of several different would-be heroes. As you progress through the game, more is revealed about your newfound foes and their strange crystalline forms.
Absolute Zero has some annoying drawbacks. Although the game installed smoothly under Windows 95, it took some work to get into the game setup to choose sound cards and other customizable options. This said, if you've got the patience to stick with it, Absolute Zero is a nice change of pace from the increasingly ordinary world of starfighting games. But, those looking to jump in and start shooting are headed for a frosty disappointment.