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Activision Inc
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes

Other Links

Andy Smith
Chris Bourne

Activision Lock On.

Take a game, almost any game, put it in a large, colourful and very animated cabinet then plonk it in an amusement arcade and what have you got? Large queues waiting for their turn on the latest sure-fire arcade hit.

After Burner was THE machine to play in the arcades earlier this year. It came in three versions: The upright cabinet, which is the standard arcade machine, the sit-in version, which shook and rattled as you played, and the Deluxe version, which shook and rattled enough to knock your false teeth into your lap. Now Activision bring us the home micro versions of the game - which come without a cabinet, so you'll have to do your own gyrating console impressions.

The object of the game is very simple - fly your F-14 Thunder Cat through stage after stage of enemy territory and survive for as long as possible. Chances of survival are increased by shooting down as many of the enemy aircraft as you can before they shoot you. Your plane is armed with a continually front-firing machine gun and heat-seeking missiles. A small square sight just in front of your plane indicates where the machine gun is firing, and if an enemy plane wanders into the sight, it locks on to the enemy plane. You then let loose with a missile which will rocket towards the target - meanwhile, your small sight's still out in front so you can end up with half a dozen or more targeted enemy planes at once.

Dealing with the enemy like that is not such a problem at the start of the game as long as your reactions are swift enough to bank left-right to avoid the incoming missiles. The problems start when enemy planes and enemy heat-seeking missiles start coming from in front and behind. The best way out of this kind of situation is to start using the throttle control to speed away from (or slow down and sneak in behind) the enemy. In later stages the skies are empty of enemy craft and it's a simple case of blasting away at ground targets such as oil tankers and look-out towers - occasionally you have to do this whilst flying through a narrow canyon.

Although your machine gun has an inexhaustible magazine and keeps firing away happily, the number of missiles is limited and should you be so foolish to use up all your missiles early on, you'll have to survive without them until the refuelling stage, when either a large tanker plane comes flying over and drops a cable which your plane attaches itself to automatically, or a landing strip comes into view and the plane lands and gets refuelled.

After Burner is pure sky-high mayhem, the ol' brain cells won't get a work-out but your joystick arm certainly will. It's playable stuff, but once the novelty has worn off you'll soon realise it is just a standard scrolling shoot-em-up with little in it to keep you interested and playing for any great length of time.

Reviewer: Andy Smith

Atari ST, £24.99dk, Out Now
Amiga, £24.99dk, January
Spec, £9.99cs, £12.99dk, Out Now
Amstrad, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Imminent
C64/128, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Imminent
IBM PC, No plans.

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 80/100
1 hour: 85/100
1 day: 60/100
1 week: 30/100
1 month: 20/100
1 year: 5/100

A standard arcade shoot-em-up.


Banner Text


Great graphics, great gameplay and OK sound effects and music. Unfortunately the game soon gets repetitive and you'll see your interest waning fast.


The sound effects are good as are the graphics and gameplay. It's still not a stunning game though and you're liable to bored sooner rather than later.

Graphics: 8/10

Audio: 7/10

IQ Factor: 1/10

Fun Factor: 6/10

Ace Rating: 687/1000


The graphics are the worst of the bunch, They're colourful but very blocky - to the extent that it's often difficult to see what is going on and where the missiles are coming from. The sound too is poor - the effects especially.

Graphics: 4/10

Audio: 5/10

IQ Factor: 1/10

Fun Factor: 4/10

Ace Rating: 519/1000

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 80/100

1 hour: 85/100

1 day: 75/100

1 week: 55/100

1 month: 25/100

1 year: 10/100


The programming team who converted After Burner have done a first rate job - very little, if anything, has been left out and the game plays very well. The only problem is, was After Burner really suitable for the home micro? Unlike R-Type, which is a challenging and enjoyable shoot-em-up, A.B. outside of the sit-in cabinet is dull. The cabinet made the game popular in the arcades and, without the frills, the home computer versions are poor cousins. Operation Wolf is another great arcade game, and although the coin-op featured a huge rattling machine gun mounted on the front of the cabinet that couldn't be emulated on the home micro versions, the game itself was good, and a competent conversion that compensates for the lack of machine gun should be (and is) a good computer game. Can the same be said for After Burner?


It's fast, colourful and has all the features of the arcade game that you could reasonably expect.

Coin-op Score: 8

Screenshot Text

ST - stage one and some enemy planes come screaming past you. Get 'em in your sights and fire off a missile.

Spectrum - powering through the canyon in stage eight. There are no enemy planes to worry about as you blast everything on the ground. Mind the walls though! Far right - you're hit! You're going down! You've only got eight lives left! Oh no!

Below - C64 version, notice how blocky the graphics are.

ST - Blam! A missile hits home. Watch out for that incoming missile at the top of the screen though or you'll go crashing to the ground.

Blasting off at the start of the game on the Spectrum. Tilt your chair back as you power skywards (not too far!).

Spectrum - in the thick of the action. You're locked onto four planes so let them missiles fly!

Re-fuelling and re-arming on the Spectrum. The player takes no part in this so it comes as a welcome break.

At the start of a new stage on the arcade machine.