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1988
Arcade: Action
£7.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
None

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52
Chris Jenkins
Chris Bourne

Crikey. They're back. Just when you thought you'd I heard the last of those nasty terrorist-types from VENOM, they've kidnapped Scott Trakker, son of hero Matt, and it's time for MASK to leap into action again.

This is the third MASK game from Gremlin, and the series shows little sign of running out of ideas. Basically, you could take any action game format and stick the name MASK on it, and it's to Gremlin's credit that they haven't taken the opportunity to put out a load of old plop.

Like many recent releases including Exolon and Yeti, Venom Strikes Back takes place over multiple screens through which your beweaponed figure must fight from left to right. In this case the target is a VENOM base on the dark side of the moon, the weapons are various MASK goodies, and the enemies are the guardian monsters and machines of the evil Miles Mayhem.

The background details are nicely designed, while the black backdrop of space means that colour clashes can be kept to a minimum. The figure of Matt Tracker bounds energetically across the screen, leaping over cases, extending bridges and what appears to be water (on the Moon)? The nasty weapons include exploding globes, guided missiles, gun emplacements, giant serpents and little acutely armadillos. So what do you do to fight them off?

Scattered over the landscape you will find packages containing alternative MASK helmets. These give you special powers, and can be selected from an icon menu at the bottom of the screen using the number keys. The first mask fires bullets, but you only have 99 so don't waste them. The others wear out as you use them, so keep an eye on the meters or you'll find your weapon cut off unexpectedly (oo-er). The second mask gives you invulnerability for a short period, while the third allows you to fly and gives you a laser. The fourth is a bit of a mystery, 'cos I haven't found it yet, but expect it'll be something spiffy.

As you'd expect, after moving through several doors, you'll come to the end of the level where there's an extra big, extra nastie waiting to take you out. At the end of level one, it's a cannon mounted on the top of a hill, and here you'll be forced to wade through its fire or waste your flying power in order to get at it.

At the end of each level you're given a code which allows you to start at that level in subsequent games. Quite right too; I loathe games where you have to fight your way all through the first levels over and over again. Apart from the odd silliness - water and clouds on the moon, for instance - Venom Strikes Back is jolly good fun. It's remarkably similar to aforementioned titles like Exolon and Yeti, though, so don't expect much in the way of originality.

Label: Gremlin Graphics
Author: Mark Rogers & Colin Dooley
Price: £7.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Exciting multi-screen action, ideal for the trigger-happy toy freak.

7/10