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Konami Ltd
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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Nat Pryce
Chris Bourne

Interesting fact: most salamanders are less than six inches in length except the giant salamander from Japan which reaches three feet from tip to tail. Another interesting fact: the despotic Salamander rules an evil galaxy beyond infinity, among Organic Monsters of desctuction, Nuclear Spiders, infernos burning like raging seas in torment, (Ever seen a sea bu? I ain't). Caverns of Despair and Demons beyond the dimensions of our minds (very poetic, I'm sure). Not bad for a small slimy newt-like creature, is it?

Anyway, the powers that be have decided that the Salamander must die. No reasons given of course: ours is not to reason why, ours but to do and die (and many times too, I can tell you). To help turn the monsters, into radioactive goo, the aforementioned powers have doled out weedy ships, armed with one-shot-at-a-time cannons and given you the job of flying them; though why they just couldn't use a couple of H-bombs is beyond me. What all this 'atmospheric plot' stuff comes down to is a straight-forward (by today's standards any rate) horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up and a pretty damn good one at that.

The game is split into several levels separated by huge mega-nasties, which probably need several hits to eradicate (I don't actually know; I've never met one yet). These levels are further separated onto different landscapes, which, were told in the instructions, require different tactics to negotiate. This doesn't seem to be strictly true: just dodge and blast and you can get past anything near enough.

The first level starts off with a few formations of cannon-fodder but soon progresses to a dark tunnel full of growing arms, then caverns full of wobbly things which spit white blobs at you, and then a cavern full of huge gnashing teeth, and then... er, well, I've never got past those teeth, I'm afraid; I keep getting chomped. (Ouch!)

As usual these days, the alien vermin don't have it all their own way. You can collect all sorts of extra goodies. Wap 'em on to yer ship with a bit of double-sided sticky tape and you can kill the scum with missiles, lazer beams, speed-up thrusters, a couple of drone weapon pods and some techno-gadget called an Extra. Pretty good, eh? Well not quite: you see as you grab extra weapons. the aliens chuck more stuff at you! There's a real sadistic designer behind this game, I can tell you.

But it's little touches like that which make Salamander so utterly addictive. Even though I've been stuck at the 'teeth' bit for the last three hours, I've been sneaking extra goes while writing this review, absolutely sure that I can do it with one more try. The scrolling is smooth and fast, and when the action hots up your adrenalin really starts flowing. If I play it too much, I'll probably get an ulcer.

It's also very playable, well presented and blimin' good fun, and although it may have striking (bap!) similarities with a squillion and three other scrolling-blasting-add-on-weapons games, it stands out from the rest with good programming and great game design. And its a must for Nemesis fans, who must have been disappointed with the first Speccy conversion. Go out and buy it, you won't be dissappointed. Take it from a person who doesn't ordinarily like shoot em ups - me!

STOP PRESS: I've just got past the teeth... I'm approaching a huge while wall and... I've crashed. Rats!

"A jolly good blast. Like Nemesis only more so. Just buy it, it's flamin' great!"