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US Gold Ltd
1991
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£10.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

54,55
Andy Ide
Chris Bourne

I wish all these aliens would go away. One minute you think you've got rid of them all, and then you turn your head and a whole new bunch have just teleported into a cornfield from Zebra Gloopglox 90 or wherever. It's just not cricket.

And they're ruddy rude as well - take the blokes in Alien Storm. Some even have the audacity to disguise themselves as dustbins(!) and pounce on you when you're walking by! Of course, you can splat them with your ziagron laser blaster, but they still make a disgusting mess all over your Nikes and leave a pongy smell behind. (Personally, I blame cutbacks in airport immigration staff.) Still, if a job's got to be done it's, er, got to be done, so let's take a closer inspection at the game they're all calling "Alien Storm actually" and see what we think.

HEY, GOOD-LOOKING!

And as coin-op conversions go it's pretty top-notch stuff. This isn't to say that it's particularly playable - just that it's politely faithful to the original. The Sega machine was a bit of a star, but that was due more to fancy sprites and graphics than any outstanding playability, and the Tiertex game is the same.

The six levels are split into different bits, but all of them contain a horizontally-flipping walk-along-the-road sequence where you've got to blap loads of uglies and pick up energy pods. You do this by using a sort of backpack firehose thing that sends out lots of deadly electricity (which, along with the name of our heroes - the Alien Busters - is as flagrant a rip-off of the mighty Ghostbusters as I've ever come across). Other sequences include an Op Wolf shooter in a supermarket (more originality), and some really, really fast scrolling along another road, where you've got to, well, kill a few more aliens.

And, as I said, it all looks jolly scrumptious. The sprites are crisp and fluid, and the fast scrolling zips along like lightning. The crosshairs bit comes a cropper - everything's so detailed you can't see what's coming at you, but you get used to it in time.

Which means it's a real pity the gameplay's so flat. Despite what I said, killing aliens can be fun (especially when they look like vegetable omelettes and spooky snails like they do here). But when all you've got to do is dodge them on a pavement and then pound away absent-mindedly at the fire button it can get a bit trying. Alien Storm isn't easy - but who wants to play a game that's difficult when there's no skill involved. It's a shame. You kind of wish they'd given the spanky graphics to MERCS instead (which was a good game, but with pretty crap design).

Two-player shooter with excellent graphics and dull gameplay - much like the coin-op original really.

72%
78%
87%
70%
75%

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THE CHANGING FACE OF AN ALIEN FROM SPACE

1. Meet Boris, one of the illegal immigrants you'll bump into on the street. Shoot him once, and nothing much happens. Shoot him again, and lots of spooky weird things start going down...

2. He loses all his fleshy bits (including his trunk) and turns into a skull, and then quickly turns back into...

3. This again - but shoot him a couple more times, and he ends up like...

4. A spooky spider! Eurgh! (A pretty impressive shrink job, I'm sure you'll agree.) But wait, because here comes his piece de resistance...

5. An energy cannister, for you to pick up and keep, and make you fit and well and healthy again. Hurrah! (So, maybe these alien blokies aren't so bad after all.)

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Mmm. Now where've we seen this type of game before? This Op Wolf bit crops up in the second half of Level Two.

Save your energy, mate. There's another bus in five minutes.