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Domark Ltd
1991
Arcade: Gang beat-em-up
£9.99
£3.99
English
ZX Spectrum 128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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44
Mark Caswell, Nick Roberts
Chris Bourne

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum, me hearties! Once pirates were the scourge of the Spanish Maine so it was only a matter of time before their adventures popped up in a hacking-away coin-op, which now makes its appearance on the Speccy. We're talking serious swashbuckling here as you, with or without the aid at a pal, become either One Eye or Red Dog and search through eight levels for treasure, stolen by an evil sorcerer. Armed with trusty (and probably rusty) cutlasses, they fight the continuous stream of attacking pirates to regain their booty. Hah har!

The action is spread over eight levels, set aboard galleons, in Spanish castles, in caves and all sorts of locations where Errol Flynn would feel at home. The brightly coloured backdrops scroll from one combat location to another and once you're there you fight until all your attackers are disposed of. Along the way are lots of bonus items to collect, chests full of treasure, golden goblets, pieces of eight and 'X marks the spot ' where buried treasure lies.

The more treasure collected, the stronger you become. And strength is needed because the opposition put up a stiff fight. A swift poke with your sword usually sends your attackers to the great pirate banquet in the sky - that is as long as they don't retaliate and knock a few points on your energy bar.

Food and drink is scattered around and consuming these pushes your energy meter up to an acceptable level, keeping your three lives intact for a while.

At the end of each level, one of the evil sorcerer's huge henchmen tries to hack you to bits, and having overcome him you still have to fight your treacherous crew for it! The sorcerer himself awaits your presence for a final battle at the end of level eight.

Eye strain is the first concern for anyone playing Skull and Crossbones; the small monochrome sprites are almost lost in the garishly coloured backdrops.

Right, the gameplay: what we're looking at here is really a standard beat-'em-up, much in the style of Golden Axe but with a pirate theme. It can be a case of 'seen it all before' if you're a beat-'em-up addict. All you have to do is walk along, wave your sword at the enemy forces and grab the loot. There isn't a great variety of combat moves; our pirate pals can only swipe with their swords.

Skull and Crossbones is a much better than Tengen's last game, Stun Runner, and although I've not seen the arcade game that Skull and Crossbones is taken from, it's a pretty entertainment romp!

MARK ... 70%

CRITICISM

'Skull and Crossbones follows in the footsteps of the Renegade games. You go around the landscape swashing and buckling your enemies until they blow up and leave 10p pieces behind (strange!). The funny thing about it is you only have to battle it out against one enemy at a time and the main character only ever seems to face one direction. If you want to go right, for example, but you're facing left, you moonwalk along the screen! Leaving each section of the game is quite peculiar: you jump on a cross and your character flys over to the next stage (not a very piratey thing to do, is it?). Skull and Crossbones's theme spices up the old beat- 'em-up style but doesn't hold many surprises.' NICK ... 76%

A good conversion of an obscure coin-op but doesn't progress beyond previous beat-'em-ups.

70%
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Screenshot Text

Ol' One Eye battles it out (and when he's killed the pirate he'll probably indulge in rumpo with the lassie relaxing on deck).