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Faster Than Light
1986
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£7.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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32,33
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Lightforce is, simply the ultimate shoot 'em up on the Spectrum.

'You obliterate things, you dodge things, you need faster than lightning reflexes. If you survive the first couple of levels you're pretty good.

Hang on a minute though. Isn't there something wrong here. I mean is the age of up-right-left-down-fire games gone or what? What about icons, artificial intelligence, what about complexity?

Lightforce is a simple game presented using every programmer's trick there is, Faster Than Light are experienced programmers. In another guise the company was called Gargoyle and created game like Tir Na Nog some of the most sophisticated and complex adventure puzzles ever.

I think this achievement in Lightforce is simply this - Faster Than Light has created the nearest thing to a true arcade game ever seen on the Spectrum. Somehow it combines highly detailed backgrounds , with large sprites, with colour and manages to scroll the whole lot along very smoothly.

Do you need a plot? For some reason or other you, equipped only with a few battle cruisers, must destroy not only a wide selection of assorted alien spacecraft, but also a host of buildings, and other gear. SOme of the aliens lob vicious mines at you. This is bad. There are a variety of backgrounds, each with particular features and problems. The detail and variety of the backgrounds is astonishing. You begin hurtling over a jungle planet but later blast your way across an ice world, an industrial complex and a river.

Getting a high score means not only lasting the course but going for a wide range of bonuses. This usually involves destroying all the buildings of a particular complex. Though the game is simply described, survival is not easy. The alien hoards in Lightforce are a sophisticated bunch not about to fly in conveniently avoided formations. ALien attack patterns are subtle and complex and with each you must learn a whole new set of tactics. As with all the best games at least some of the aliens seem absolutely impossible to avoid and just when you're about to admit defeat you discover a way, something, a dodge, that will get you through.

The first such situtation in Lightforce arises when a bunch of star shaped aliens come straight for you - it seems impossible to get past then and you end up pinioned on the back wall - easy pickings with little you can do.

I lost, a hundred lives or more until I discovered how my movement patterns were linked to the star ships and figured out how to avoid them...

Much fuss is being made with Lightforce the fact it has 'no attribute problems'. It's an astonishing thing to see - all those highly detailed multi-coloured backgrounds and large sprites resolutely refusing to change colour. The answer is simple but brilliantly executed - in fact al the colours keep to character squares but pixel shading in black and white disguises the fact extraordinarily well.

There isn't much else to say about Lightforce, no complexities of plot to discuss. All it is is just about the most impressive zap 'em game yet seen on the Spectrum. Does that sound pretty good?

Label: Faster Than Light
Author: In house
Price: £7.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

*****

The ultimate blaster, Lightforce is mindless destructive at its very best. An essential purchase.

5/5

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HINTS AND TIPS

Don't stay on the bottom of the screen - you'll get blasted.

Go for all the life bonuses you can - you'll be sure to need them later.

Don't let the Mothership form. Blast the parts before they come together.

Go for survival, rather than a high score.

Screenshot Text

Space, the final frontier. Battling over the asteroid belt.

The jungle planet. The obliteration begins.

A space industrial complex. You know what to do with those little blue devils... Destroy buildings for bonus points.

Ships on the runway. Hang on - not too far to Level 2.