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Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Jonathan Davies
Chris Bourne

In a flagrant attempt to provoke me into the uncontrollable use of the word 'unoriginal', Gremlin appears to have unleashed yet another Nemesis/Exolon derivative. But it takes more than that to make me snap. Besides, Dark Fusion is actually pretty good.

You're in the usual predicament. Hordes of mutant aliens pour forth, and will have to be eliminated if you're to make it through the various levels. You start on foot, with the traditional left, right and jump movements available. Fusion pods are what you're after, and you'll find three scattered around each level. The first two open up to reveal mega-aliens, the sort of thing you normally see knocking around at the end of each level of scrolling shooters. Once these have been atomised, the final pod gives access to the Flight Zone, a bog-standard scrolling shooter, where things really hot up. There are four levels like this, all very different so variety isn't a problem.

Extra spice is added by the presence of icons. These occasionally appear, and can be picked up to give you extra fire-power, energy, you know the sort of thing. You can only carry one at a time, but you can save it until it's needed.

There's also a gimmick. Yes indeed, something new! The longer you hold down the fire button, the meatier your shot will be when you release it. This means that you can either opt for rapid, puny bullets to dispatch smaller obstructions, or massive dollops which come in very handy against larger adversaries.

That's about it for novel ideas though, so it's all down to programming. Luckily there's no problem here. Although the graphics look even more familiar than the plot, they're colourful and move smoothly, and the horizontal scrolling is particularly slick. The collision detection is the only thing I could really question. Obstacles seem to be surrounded by some kind of invisible but lethal aura, so give them a wide berth.

One point worthy of note is the multi-channel tune at the beginning, complete with extensive percussion effects. There's also a nice, but utterly pointless bit of animation on the title screen with loads of little balls spinning around in formation. Well I liked it anyway.

As you may have gathered by now, I was impressed by this one. While it doesn't quite rank among the elite of Speccy shoot 'em ups, and is scandalously unoriginal (darn it, there I go), Dark Fusion is fast and playable enough to keep most undiscerning players going 'til the bitter end.

A superior shoot 'em up in the traditional mould. If you reckon you can handle yet another one, go for it.