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Starlight Software
1987
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£8.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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24
Gwyn Hughes
Chris Bourne

Why is it we're so paranoid about broken peace treaties? Here's another one blasted to smithereens, this time by the beastly Vargs.

The plot matters little with Deathscape. It could have been written at three in the morning on the back of a beermat for all its significance. Forget the funny names and future history... the only important info you need is that this is one ace shoot 'em up.

No - to be accurate, you do need to know a little more. As the press release so delicately puts it, "Owing to a slight cock-up at the printers, the keys are not as described in the manual." It continues to offer a tube of Smarties as a bribe to any reviewer who corrects this "cock up". Well that won't work with Old 'Incorruptible' Hughes.

(Hang on, did they say Smarties? I'd sort out any cock-up for that. Sound FX toggles on Q; A aborts from VARG mothership; W's the map. S fires missiles; E is auto-score update and D auto-fire; R teleports to the control ship and F to the Varg mothership. - Old 'Corruptible' Smith.) (And F to you too! Varg Mothership.)

Exc-use me! If I may continue... Thank you. Now where was I? That's right - not giving away the plot. Well, quite simply, it's this. You steer a Zarquon CAM III Multi-Role Fighter, which, as all Zarquon Spotters will know, is a pretty mean doody, down the tunnels of the Deathscape gladiatorial pit.

See. I said the plot was the pits. But the gameplay is all fast moving wire frame walls and a variety of aliens advancing at speed out of nowhere. Providing you've got the power left you can make a quick trip back to your control ship for extra missiles. But even they don't come free in this rigorous test of reactions, and you'll be expected to put in a spell defending your base against the space drones.

You'll need to learn your control panel and know where the info is, from the scrolling messages up top to the fuel and shield indicators down below. Keeping in touch with your status may just help you live that little bit longer... and rake up an even higher score. Yeah, verily, this game is a Hall of Fame Freak's daydream.

As the resume of cocked-up keys indicated, there's also a lot of control to learn, though this isn't as off-putting as in some games. As you can define your direction and fire keys, you may find it easier to junk the joystick just this once and keep your hands on the alphabetical bits.

In fact, the main commands that you'll need are the ones that summon up the map of the grid, with its invaluable view of where you are in relation to Vargan installations, and the teleport to control. The mothership only appears at the end of the game, by which stage your fingers will be flashing around like a concert pianist's, so a couple more keys shouldn't cause chaos.

The secret of success seems to be trying to get the aliens before they get too close. They all emerge from a very small point, so if you target this you can wipe out a while wave before it splits. Identify their attack patterns too. Particularly nasty are the spinning wheels which strobe backwards and forwards before crashing in for the kill.

Also, use the time-honoured techniques of trashing fuel dumps and generators to refuel or replenish shields. You can score extra missiles, with the same lack of logic, bu destroying the fortresses within the grid, but they serve a more important purpose. Each time you wipe one out you'll obtain part of the code that lets you take on the mothership.

Deathscape's plot may be doomed but Starlight has a sure-fire winner in the arcade action stakes. Go vanquish a Varg - you know it makes sense!

Ultra-fast, multi-level shoot 'em up which will have you begging for more. Should come with additional adrenalin for addicts.

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Now these are nasty. The bicycle wheels flash backwards and forwards until you feel quite sea-sick, then close on for the kill. Try to get them as they retreat, but beware - they're fast.

On board the mothership you're not going anywhere - which means you've got twice as many shields to worry about. Lose two on either side and you might as well kiss your mission goodbye.

Fancy a game of noughts and crosses in the quieter moments? Well, there aren't any... but then again, this isn't a noughts and crosses board. It's an indicator of how well you're doing.

Position your plasma beams properly and you can wipe out a whole wave of aliens as it screams out of space. Actually, the noise is more like a badly-tuned radio, but it doesn't half help the atmosphere.

Have you got the scrolls? No I'm a goblin. As well as your score, this window provides information on what you can and can't do, such as spending too long reading its messages.

You've got to hand it to Starlight. Details such as the synchonised hand jive of the pilot and the constantly yapping commander are the chrome that makes Deathscape shine.

Cars may have indicators on the outside, but spacemen need them inside. On either side of the screen there are flashing lights to tell you when there's a turn coming. Luckily Vargan architecture is all right-angles.

There's no fuel like one who's run out of fuel - keep an eye on these three gauges, for right, left and thrust, because unless there's energy left you can't get to the Control Ship to refuel.