Faster Than Light
1987
Arcade: Action
£7.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

32,33
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Shockway Rider is the latest release from Faster Than Light, who brought us Lightforce. It looks like a brilliant conversion from some coin-op game, so ingenious is the gameplay, but I can find no precedent, it seems Faster Than Light has done the impossible and invented a really new game idea.

Shockway Rider is cheerfully violent, very gory, and utterly maddening. It's all about racing against time through city streets of the future. It features brutality towards innocent bystanders and roving gangs of thugs, there is decapitation, and the throwing of bricks and other offensive material. As you can imagine the game is a winner. The way your central character (a sort of futuristic teddy boy) calmly barges helpless pedestrians remains amusing even after the umpteenth time.

The layout is this: across the screen run three walking tracks, like the different lanes in a motorway they travel at different speeds. Each is filled with assorted pedestrians and other obstacles, chiefly police road barriers which decapitate the unwary. Ruthless but effective.

You get three minutes to complete a game area, in order to do it in that time you will have to travel in the fastest track as often as possible, in fact, you will have to continuously dodge between tracks leaping from on to the other to avoid barriers and barging everybody else out of the way. This is what makes the game, time and time again you crash into barriers because you didn't quite remember in time to change tracks...

If all this wasn't enough to worry about every so often a gang - they have charming names like the Blockboys and the Krazies - leaps out to attack you or a polkice riot scoop appears to punish wrong doers.

It isn't just highly original and utterly infectious, its also funny. Faster Than Light, in its previous guise as Gargoyle was noted for never taking itself entirely seriously. Same here, you are a somewhat incongruous looking greaser, slicked back hair an' all. The other bystanders are all similarly characterful, large sprites with plenty of detail. Very dodgy old ladies...

As you would expect, the programming generally is excellent; movement, despite the large sprites, is smooth and the animation equally excellent, check out the sequence when you knuckle someone - just like Southend seafront on a bank holiday.

The background is fairly plain but there are occasional passing billboards with the odd good joke on them and signposts that tell you how far around the current city block you have got.

Shockway Rider is simply marvellous, combining original idea, with excellent programming and a touch of good humour. What else could it be? A Classic.

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

*****

Large animated sprites, lots of fun and as original a game idea as you'll find anywhere. It's marvellous, number one.

5/5