We seem to be seeing some well spanky shoot 'em ups around at the moment, which is fine by me 'cos I'm pretty partial to a touch of senseless violence every now and again. Just look at this issue - Dominator, Forgotten Worlds and this one, which for my money is the best of the three. Want to know why? Nope! Um, well be like that. Hmm, just you and me left now, is it, Mum? Well, I'll just tell you then.
Silkworm is one of the licences Virgin/Mastertronic has picked up in its deal with the Sales Curve and it's a whole barrel of laughs. Not very colourful, it's true (all the sprites are monochrome, though some of the scrolling background areas are quite bright) but it's so fast and busy and full of all sorts of things going on that you hardly notice.
Basically it benefits from being based on a very playable and non-too ambitious coin-op (quite how I can get away with such rash statements is quite beyond me - I've never played it in my life) and reproduces all the various enemy craft and progressively more difficult attack formations very faithfully. It's a horizontal scroller featuring a helicopter (a nice little sprite which dips and swings very realistically, featuring a moving tail rotor) with two maim points of interest, the first of which is the bizarre assortment of enemy copters. Half of them are very organic, semi-alive looking, the most memorable of which is probably the large goose-shaped craft that forms together from various component parts in front of your eyes. Very hard to kill, this.
However, there are also froggish vehicles that hop along the ground, insect look-alikes that hover threateningly then buzz straight for you, and giant end-of-level monsters that Jackie insists look just like big goldfish. Blow one of these giant choppers fnar) and you get all sorts of bonus points and extra guns and stuff.
The other snazzy thing is that it's a true two player - it you've got a mate who doesn't mind being hunched over the keyboard while you sit back with the joystick, that is. While you fly the chopper he gets his mits on the jeep that cruises along the ground beneath you.
Basically your chum'll have a much rougher ride, because he's limited to tooling along on the ground and blasting things as opposed to having the whole screen area to duck and dive in. He can change the angle of his gun though and jump in the air at the jab of a button to either avoid tanks and ground objects or to get a different angle of attack on incoming aircraft.
Occasionally, you can work together quite effectively to clear the screen, at which point everything gets incredibly busy with bullets, missiles, tanks. choppers, jeeps and even Duncan's granny's garage thrown in for good measure. Brill fun.
My one real complaint was to have been that every successive level has pretty much the same sequence of enemy craft - just a few more of them each time - until I realised that this was total cobblers and a few levels into the game they throw a whole new assortment at you. Yikes! Don't let the fact that you can quite easily blast your way through the first few levels fool you - there's some tough, nicely designed and well thought out stuff in here. Sound on the 128K is spanky too, with some good bullet and metallic hitting noises.
One last thing - this game isn't to be recommended for anyone suffering from epilepsy. When you are near to killing one of the big end-of-level monsters the screen very quickly flashes black and white which made my eyes go all funny. Just thought I'd mention it.
Phew! What a spanky little shoot 'em up. Buy it!
Oh my goodness it's a big 'goldfish' thing. I'll need my pal in the jeep to help finish this one off. Interesting point - if you don't have a pal you can operate the joystick with one hand (sort of) and use your other one to operate the jeep. Or you can use your elbows. (Worth a try anyway.)
Blimey, guv. It's a helicopter. It's also a goose. Good job I picked up the double bullets earlier to help me wring the feathered fiend's neck. But where's the smart bomb when you want one, eh?