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ZX Spectrum 48K

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Matt Bielby
Chris Bourne

This is a real shoot 'em up fans' compilation. So what if the gameplay for most of these is more or less the same - flip from screen to screen blasting alien nasties - if there is enough addictive fun to keep you coming back again for 'just one more try'. Yep, there are no real duff games here at all, and at £12.99 it's a bargain squire. The only problem will be that all you keen little games players will probably have most of these already.

Anyway, lei us take a gander at what you get for your money.

This really is archetypal stuff - one lone spaceship scrolling through a host of aliens - in the mould of R-Type and so many other arcade games. There are extra weapons to pick up - like you do - and attack patterns to memorise and everything is exceptionally clean and smooth. Sprite design isn't particularly stunning though. The collision detection seemed slightly out to me as well - you find yourself screaming "What hit me?!" every few minutes - but that said it plays rather well. Back in August '87 when we first reviewed it we gave it an 8.

This one got a megagame and I see no reason to dispute that score. This really is a corker, with the most gorgeous explosive effects when you destroy anything big - like a rock or a gun emplacement You play a little man in a space suit - or father a series of space suits, because the game lets you change into extra tough'n'beefy exoskeletons occasionally to make wading through the nasties a little easier.

Besides the various waves of hostile aliens - including sneaky little beggars that come up behind you (oo-er) - there are also funny things that shoot you into the air if you stand on them, teleports which take you elsewhere m the killing fields, and plenty of alternative routes to take. It all adds up to a pretty spectacular shoot em up with a hint of strategy and addictiveness coming out of its eyeballs. Not only that, but the central sprite has a lovely walk(!). A classic from programmer Rafaelle Cecco, about whom more later.

Another spaceship shoot em up, but vertically scrolling this time. Big mother ships abound - surprise, surprise - and there are some quite devious touches like floating mirrors that reflect your fire back at you. US Gold originally converted this one, and went for the fast, smooth speed rather than the stunning graphics route. Though this does make it fun to play, the look of the thing is pretty basic, and I would award it seven now rather than the eight we originally gave it.

Another ex-megagame, Trantor is a graphically sound platform game which bridges the gap between shoot 'em up and pure arcade adventure. Sound is great, sprites are very large for the Spectrum and move nicely, and there's heaps of violence. Takes some thinking about, and is pretty hard - at least, I tended to die a lot! - but well worth the nine we gave it.

Arguably the weakest of the bunch, but by no means a total waste of time You play a little man with a bionic arm a la Bionic Commandos - lovely running action, by the way - in a horizontal shoot 'em up. At least it would be a shoot em up if there were any guns involved. Instead it's more like tag - 'if I touch you you're dead' sort of thing. We only gave it a six, which is a touch mean, but then it is a bit slow.

The biggie in most people's minds, and deservedly so. Cybernoid is a megagame and a half. It's very hard, very clever, and goes off the scale in addictiveness. Lots of extra weapon add ons - including a whirling mace - to add to your ship from the corpses of dead aliens, and a heavy strategy element. Each new screen features a new problem which is going to take quite a few lives to work a route through. Brilliant stuff from Cecco.

Last of the MASK games - and happily the best. Big Matt, the hero, moonwalks along shooting lumping things, wobbling things and floating things. I remember playing it on the C64 (boo, hiss) and it was a lot better than here, but still not too shabby an effort. Rather suffers in comparison to Exolon, though.

And there we have it. An excellent compilation if you don't have any of these games, with no real weak links, but perhaps not quite so much of a must buy if you've got Cecco's two contributions already.

One of the best compilations around, and great value if you lack the real superstar games. Love it to death!