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Ariolasoft UK Ltd
Ray Tobey
1985
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£8.95
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

58,59
Phil South
Chris Bourne

Skyfox, the ultimate war machine has arrived from the States. Ariolasoft has already started shipments for your Speccy. Now Phil South takes her up for a spin and goes crazy like a fox...

Clint Eastwood? Who he? No, this is the fight simulator. Yes, I said fight simulator. No airports, no stoopid maps, just wall to wall action, flyboys. You're in the hotseat of a hi-tech airborne killing machine of the first order, protecting your base from legions of tanks and flocks of deadly iron birds similar to your own. Yep, they keep on coming. But you're ready for them. Your'e the best there is.Well, in truth, soldier, you're the only one there is. So get out there, use your state of the art guidance systems and give 'em hell! Are you ready? Are you sharp? You bet! Do you want to give up now? The hell you will!

Does this sound like your kind of game? You bet it does. After keeping American kids blasting, and shooting to the tip top of the US charts like one of its own guided missiles, Skyfox is out now for the Speccy. And does it zoom blast pow zap the pants off every flight simulator/shoot 'em up you ever clapped eyes on - well yes it does! Skyfox is an arcade/strategy based on a cockpit view simulation of a powerful modern fighter aircraft. Now, I'm not much of a one for flight simulators; when most of my pals were building model aircraft I was reading Superman comics, so planes don't really turn me on. But this is not your average flight sim. You've got short and long range scanners, guided and heat seeking missiles (they don't like it up 'em saah!) to guide with the joystick or fire at their vapourtrails respectively, an on-board, heads-up display battle computer, solid state laser cannon (rapid fire type), and fifteen different scenarios to tax your tactical skills, an amazing seek and destroy auto pilot to zero in on enemy planes or tanks, and the standard photon deflector shields to divert the probing lasers of the enemy.

There are two training options, one for the tanks and one for the planes, and each option has three levels. And believe me, you're gonna need training for these guys are hard, and they never stop firing. Following these there's a final training mission where you face alternate waves of tanks and planes, to test your ability, high/low adaptibility-wise. And that brings the total to seven levels of training, after which you should be ready for anything. And boy, you'd better be.

FIGHT TO THE FINISH

Now for the main event - the battle. You can choose from eight battle scenarios - Combo, Small Invasion, Full invasion, Massive Onslaught, Halo, Alamo, Advancing Wall, Chess, and the aptly-named Cornered. This is the bit that sets this game head and shoulders above many others of its type - the strategy. This isn't just an average shoot 'em up, no sirree! By careful analysis of the enemy's movements while you're back at base, you can guess its strategy. Now it's down to you to choose targets to attack that'll destroy the enemy's bases, end so demoralise and confuse it. If you're really on top of your tactics, you can wipe them out entirely! So you have to have a quick mind, as well as a fast trigger.

The graphics are smooth and the foes are gruesomely life-like, but just so I don't swamp you with unqualified praise, I would say that my only real criticism is of the lack of colour in everything but the scanners. This isn't a major gripe though - after playing for a while, you get so caught up in the mastery of the graphic detail, you forget about it being largely black and white. Until you've chased a Foxbat nose-to-vapour-trail in some neck jerking turns in this baby, you've never played a flight/combat game.

So that about wraps it up. All that remains is for you to take your seat in your Skyfox, and zip off at Mach 1 into the sunset. (Cue sunset... okay Charlie, cue the victory roll... whadda ya mean "do you want butter on it, Mr Strohein?")

9/10
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COMPUTER-CONTROLLED COMBAT

This is your main scanner picture. It's sent by radio from the main computer at the base. On it you can judge the strength of the enemy's tactics, and choose a weak spot in its attack. Obviously the tanks or planes to take out first are the ones that are closest to the base. But you must also study your long range scanner to see how far away the next wave is – remember it’ll take precious time to wipe out one lot of tanks and turn back to catch the others before they get your base. So judge this use of time carefully.

Another good stroke is to push through to take out the motherships. They’re the enemy’s bases and wiping them out will speed your victory. But once again, choose your targets with the utmost care – while you’re out on a limb going for a mothership, some tanks or planes might be able to beat you back to your base! You can also use the scanner to get a bearing on your base when your shields are running down. Set the co-ords with the cursor and use the auto pilot to get back to base for a refit.

This is an enlarged section of the main scanner, as part of the zoom option on our computer. You can enlarge any one co-ordinate on the main scanner to see more detail, right down to the individual tanks. You can see yourself in relation to the enemy, and, using the pause option, study formation and tank/plane movements. It’ll also tell you where you are in relation to the selected square, which sector it is, and how far the pictured war machines are from your base.

This screen comes in particularly handy when plane and tanks icons become fused on your usual low resolution display. You can zoom in and see what really is in that sector, and make your moves accordingly. On the main scanner, you’re only told the number of planes or tanks in the sector, but it helps to have these figures translated into pictures. It’s especially useful for at-a-glance reference, which you’ll need if you’re in that sector yourself. It may warn you to get back to your joystick smartish before you get blasted to tiny little shards.

FOX HUNT

After your intensive bouts of training, you’ll be just itchin’ for some action. Well, I reckon you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a little preview of some of the action you’re gonna see. Tanks fodder memories, and planes to see. That’s what you’re looking down the business end of. I hope you’ve got the right stuff. Remember what I taught you; fly fast, watch your gauges and keep those metal birdies off your back.

Make sure you shoot these guys when they’ve got their backs to you. If they get a chance to turn around they’ll pop you out of the sky like a clay pigeon! Shoot first and ask questions when you’re safely back at base.

The cloud barrier lies between 1,000 and 10,000 feet. Above 10,000 somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000, you’ll find the planes. You can save time and fuel by pressing U to go up to 30,000 and D to go back down to lower altitudes. Take the strain off your fuel tank.

Heat seeking missiles should be used sparingly. I know it’s a temptation just to aim for their vapourtrail and let one of these fly, oh so easy. But there are more planes than missiles, so only pop them off when you really must.

Use your auto pilot to home in on occupied sectors. When you’ve reached a battle zone, the auto pilot will automatically dis-engage, returning you to... gulp... manual. Then it’s all down to you.

The clock ticks away elapsed time into the mission. Time is one thing you have nothing of, so don’t look at this unless you want to break out into a sweat. Fly fast and shoot to kill. Nothing can be wasted on this trip, boy; Fuel, shields... but most of all time!

By contrast with the details of the base’s computer scanner your on-board lacks any resolution at all. Everything, including your own base, is shown as a cross.

Use the base computer to zero in on targets before you start ‘em or you may find you’ve nuked your own base. Who’s side are you on anyway?

Shield strength is crucial to your survival, especially on latter scenarios. Keep an eye on the gauge, and when it drops close to zero hot-stick-it back to base for a re-charge. Ignore this at your peril, flyboy!

Watch your guided missile count. Don’t go frittering them on tanks or planes – they’re special long range little darlin’s. Save ‘em for those big fat motherships, and guide ‘em in with your joystick, slow an’ easy. Ba-boom!

This reading, in combination with the bearing, should help you keep precise track of where you are, when you aren’t accessing the base computer’s scanners. You’ve probably got better things to do – like staying alive!

You can toggle the on-board scanner from an overhead view to this forward scanner. This is mighty handy for bopping off those motherships with guided missiles. Just target them up with your forward scanner, and let fly!

Fuel gauge. Thrusts can certainly get you out of tight situations, but they’re very fuel intensive. And so is climbing altitude to go for the planes. Start off highm kapow the planes then coast down for the tanks. That’ll save a lotta fuel.

This is your bearing indicator. It’s based on a rule of North O, East 90, South 180 and West 270, back round to North again.

Keep your spare eye (how many have you got, hotshot?) on your altitude needle. Above 10,000 feet you’ll be zapping planes, below that you’ll be facing the wrath of the tank corps. Oh, yeah, and don’t bottom your plane on the ground too much, as on the higher levels this can wear down your shields real fast!