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

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Chris Jenkins
Chris Bourne

Say what you like about Codemasters (we do, we do), they come up with some real rip-snorters sometimes, and this is one of them. In case you're not used to having your rip snorted, let me explain the experience to you; it involves lots of zippy graphics, non-stop action, joystick-pumping excitement, and not spending too much money.

Hit Squad is a fairly standard arcade-adventure with loads of levels and loads of flip screens. Set in a shattered Los Angeles of the year 2125, it follows the adventures of four valiant streetfighters in the their attempt to hunt down and eliminate a criminal warlord. Before starting the game you get to choose which character you play; pouty vixtress Xena, sneaky Stak, brainbox Acce or wiru Zara. The digitised pictures on the title screen look more like Kev, Shaz, Daz and Trace from MacDonald's but there you are.

The backgrounds for the twelve levels are extremely good; ruined tube systems, complex pipeways, broken vending machines, streetlamps, causeways and piles of packing cases overrun by plantlife. Part of the fun is figuring out how to get safely from one side of the screen to the other, avoiding pitfalls and using objects to reach higher and higher.

You have to move fast, too, because the screens are packed with 'orrible monsters; coiling springs, hammers, demons and the like. They come boiling out of air vents, and have to be despatched with a single shot to stop them draining your energy, shown at the top of the screen.

You start off with a simple hand-gun, and by finding W tokens you can upgrade to altogether sexier weapons such as the Wave, Burst and Bozuka. These fire in different directions and with different powers, but all basically allow you to clear out the scummies faster and better.

You also have to find a teleporter token to complete each level. These are often tucked away at the top of the screen, so you have to fight off the baddies as you climb, then find the teleport booth and enter it to be transported to the next level.

The sound effects are find and the animation extremely fast and smooth. What's strange is that each individual level seems to be over very quickly; once you've learned where the telporter and token are located in Level One, for instance, you can complete it in about ten seconds. No doubt later levels get more complex; I eventually got stuck when I failed to find the teleport on one level.

Choosing different characters doesn't make much difference to the way the game plays, so it isn't exactly a "penetrate the criminal warlord's secret hideaway-simulator", but it's so fast and bangy-bangy that you won't have time to worry about all that. Just for once, the little Darlings' wild claims on the package - "technically brilliant, ultra fast, infuriatingly addictive, mega blast-'em-up!" - aren't that far from the truth. But then, they didn't write it. Binary Design did. Teehe.

Label: Codemasters
Author: Binary Design
Price: £2.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Fast-moving, well-designed, enjoyable blaster.