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

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Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Listen. I'm quite prepared to die. I mean, I can admit to an error. If I couldn't hack it with the joystick - call me a dodo. If I didn't read the instructions properly - I'm a nerd. Maybe I didn't master the strategic intricacies - call me dumb but here's one thing: I DONT WANT TO DIE BECAUSE I CAN'T SEE THE DAMN BULLETS. IT'S JUST UNFAIR.

That in a nutshell - is the big problem with Slap Fight. Otherwise it's really got a lot going for it. Excellent coin-op original, neat game ideas, very detailed and smoothly scrolling graphics, even the sound is OK.

But because of the graphic detail the display is two-colour black-and-white only (apart from twiddly bits like the score) small objects can sometimes be very hard to see. Under the general category of small objects come enemy bullets. This means that half the time your Slapfighter (a disappointingly unimpressive name) explodes in a ball of flames for no apparent reason whatsoever. I felt disappointed. Depressed even.

In all other respects Slap Fight is grade A prime material. The thing that separates this particular kill and dodge extravaganza from others is a weapon select system based on collecting stars. The more stars you collect the greater (roughly) the power of your defensive systems. You get stars by destroying particular aliens or groups of aliens. One star buys you 'speed' and you can shunt your spaceship over the screen at about twice the usual speed, larger numbers of stars win you gigantic wings which quadruple your fire power (but make you easier to hit) or incredible enemy- seeking missiles which whizz around the screen like, um, well just like guided bullets hitting targets really.

The skill comes in deciding what weapons to select where - you don't have to select the current system on offer, you can elect to wait and collect more stars for something better (it's a lot like Green Shield Stamps actually) or even, under some circumstances, something worse. This is not as dumb as it sounds - some of the earlier options may be more useful in some circumstances. For example I found lots of use for the homing missiles and not much for the temporary invincibility shield which makes you impregnable for a while but takes you back to weapons Stage 1 when your time runs out. Maybe I just like watching things explode.

The background is the usual abstract industrial landscape - geometric buildings, the odd road, runway and gun installation. The baddies are, to begin with, round and boring (later on they look like rather nasty but small flies). At certain points you get a very large and seemingly ferocious alien to deal with. Though disturbing in many ways, it responded pleasingly to a quick burst of laser fire and exploded.

I almost think this game is great except that, since half the time I can't see the alien bullets, death came as a particularly bitter blow. It may turn out to be a matter of our very average TV and may be fine on a nice crisp monitor but my betting is most people out there have average TVs and will suffer similarly.

Lots of good points for Slap Fight then but beware of invisible bullets.

Label: Ocean
Author: Probe
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

Generally a fine conversion from an excellent original coin-op. But watch out for those invisible bullets!