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1988
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£7.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Hewson Slowload

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12,13
Jim Douglas
Chris Bourne

"Eat photon death you filthy alien sleazoid scumbag pig dog vermin! Ha ha ha hahahaha! Pow pow zap boom zap bam boom!" It's only very, very rarely that a game comes along that provokes such a tender, touching emotional response in an SU reviewer. We're usually a jaundiced, tricky to impress bunch of degenerates. Marauder however, managed to get even Tony Dillon to comment "It's wicked," (charming lad)

Anyone who has been made to feel horribly humble and inferior after playing Xenon on a mate's ST will have their faith restored in Speccy games. This is similar - it's ultra-smooth, super-fast and unbelievably difficult.

The venue this time is Mergatron, a remarkably heavily defended planet which is where a bad ole alien 'civilisation' has hidden some precious jewels. You, Captain C T Cobra (spewey ptooey) have got to get in there and shake the place up a bit and reclaim the jewels.

Marauder is a scrolling top-bottom shoot-out of fantastic difficulty and playability. Any of you who've seen Hewson's recent efforts like Exolon and Cybernoid will know exactly what to expect - a seemingly insurmountable task at first sight that lures you back again and again until you gradually get the hang of it (if only to see those fantastic graphics one more time).

The graphics really are impressive. Though there is a certain two-colouredness about it in places, there are plenty of multi-coloured touches here and there, to lift it out of the ordinary. Different levels really are different, not just the same again with different blobs. You control a battle tank kind of thing which can move left, right and - to a certain degree down the screen as well as up. You've got an unlimited number of bullets and a finite supply of smart bombs which will wipe out anything of an unfriendly nature on the screen.

For the most part, the game involves rushing around and shooting out gun implacements left, right and centre. Some of these are tougher to hit than others. While most have feeble bullets that travel in straight lines, some have totally appalling homing missiles which will dog you and fly about and panic you into crashing into something.

If everything seems to be getting a little too much to bear, you can always try and take out one of the bonus pods which crop up every now and again. By shooting the flashing lights when they're on a specific colour you'll be awarded some for of bonus (see box).

The further you get into each level the tougher everything gets. Bullets and missiles zing around you. Tanks emerge from nowhere and bombard you. Air attacks are launched, bombers swoop across the screen, dropping shrapnel missiles all over the shop. You've got to dodge these as best you can and avoid obstacles while everything else is happening.

Once you reach the end of a level, you'll have to combat a whole bunch of bad guys all in a giant swarming mass. They're largely faster than you, and as you can only go a certain way up the screen (cos it's the end of the level) it's essential that you pick off as many as possible straight away.

Level two is primarily desert-based, with palm trees and sand dunes forming the battleground. New waves of aliens appear and attack you in different patterns. Again, while neither huge nor coloured, they're fantastically animated. The blinking eyes that drift around are totally spooky and there are revolving things like you used to get in cap-guns which are complete nightmares.

Later levels involve even more mad graphics - harlequinesque checker-board patterns swirl around just to make everything very confusing.

It's shockingly difficult. Even using your limited number of smart bombs only relieves the stress for a moment. if you're not endowed with especially tough nerves, I'd steer clear.

If, on the other hand, you're the toughest starship pilot this side of Wisconsin, get on your killing trousers and get shooting!

Label: Hewson
Author: Arcanum Software Developments
Price: £7.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

Graphics: 95
Sound: 80
Playability: 92
Lastability: 80
Overall: 90

First class shoot-out that surely can't be topped. Action a-go-go!

95%
80%
92%
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90%

Banner Text

Keep firing! You've got unlimited rounds and there's nothing on your side, so spray away.

Don't dither about too long waiting for the bonus lights to change - by the time they're on the colour you want you'll either be shot or will have had to use up a smart bomb to keep yourself alive.

Learn the aliens, patterns! Some have predictable movement sequences and remembering them is invaluable.

When an air attack is launched, get yourself into a position where you can go up or down the screen - it's easier to dodge the bombs vertically, as you can instantly tell which plane they are on, but not in the horizontal position.

DEFENCE BEACONS - WHAT THEY DO

Shoot the beacons out when they are the following colours to achieve the effects below:

RED: Extra Smart Bomb

YELLOW: Arms you with a shield for 10 seconds.

CYAN: Gain an extra life.

BLUE: Reverses controls.

PURPLE: Lose a life.

GREEN: Gun jams for 10 seconds.