Players Software
1989
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Unspecified custom loader

45
Jim Douglas
Chris Bourne

I know you're supposed to have reasonable eyesight to fly one of those American superfighters, but Players' Tomcat seems to require nothing short of E.S.P. of its pilots. I'll tell you why, shall I? Yes I shall. It's because you can't see what's shooting at you, you can't see what you're shooting at, you can't see where the hell you are and you can't see where you're going. It's like Beirut with fog.

First appearances imply that Tomcat is a rather special vertical shoot-out. While very much in the Flying Shark/Xenon mould, Tomcat has more complicated graphics and more going on. Well, that's what it seems like. Unfortunately, it turns out to be cluttered, confused and confusing.

The biggest problem is that you simply can't see what is going on. "Game Over" pops up for no evident reason. Especially observant spectators were sometimes able to point out the direction from whence the incoming bullet originated, but I was continually dumbfounded as to what was shooting me down.

The reason for this feeling of myopic paranoia is that the amount of things on the screen which are FILLED IN is virtually equal to the number of things which AREN'T, so it's like looking at one of those Embassy fag adverts which you couldn't possibly make out unless you were 100m away. While they were very clever adverts (This remark in no way implies that Sinclair User endorses smoking. It doesn't. Thankyou, Ken). I couldn't look at them for more than two minutes without feeling all giddy. (This remark in no way implies that Sinclair User endorses spinning ground until you feel giddy or using other hallucinatory aids like roundabouts - it doesn't. Thanks again. Ken)

So, what of the playability? Well, it certainly isn't the fastest game I've seen.

The screen scrolls four ways and your task is the standard one of blowing up gun emplacements and shooting down enemy fighters. You can collect extra weapons in the now rather tired fashion of flying over the tokens.

The bad guys fly in quite uninspiring patterns, but the bullets - THE BULLETS! God knows where they come from. I can't see them! Even when I've got backward firing missiles and tri-directional machine guns - which don't always fire - I was getting shot all over the place by mystery aliens with mystery invisible bullets.

On and on this thing goes, killing you with infuriatingly little explanation, and no hint of further excitement.

It's a pity that what could easily have been a very polished and entertaining budget game is horribly let down by poor presentation and slow action. Tsk Tsk.

Label: Players
Author: In-house
Price: £1.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

Poor Xenon clone. Slower, cheaper, poorer.

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