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1989
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£14.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

66,67
Marcus Berkmann
Chris Bourne

Two years have passed since the Egrons' unsuccessful invasion of the planet Novenia (or since you last loaded up Starglider). The wreckage of the fearsome Starglider fleet lies rusting in a corner somewhere, while the various freedom fighters who sorted out the Egrons sit in bars and tell long boring stories about how brave there were and yes, they'd love another drink. Could you make it a large one? (Oo-er.)

The Egrons, though, are unimpressed. Novenia for some reason that escapes me right now, gets up the Egron nose right and proper. So much so, in fact, that the decide to build a giant projector beam around the planet Millway, point it at Novenia and, well, turn it on. The idea? One less planet on the skyline and lots of happy Egrons.

Now this all seems a little unsporting to everyone on Novenia, and indeed to everyone who's not an Egron. It's time, everyone says, for a bit more freedom fighting. It's time (stirring music) for Starglider 2.

It certainly is time, as it's more than two and a half years since Starglider 1 first came out. In the meantime, though, that spanky old blaster has seen its way onto the ST and Amiga, sold a stack, and prompted a swift sequel on the 16-bitties. Now it come home to roost on the dear old Spec.

But SG2 is a different kettle of turbot to its illustrious predecessor. While SG1 was a riproaring vector graphics shoot 'em up in the great tradition of the Star Wars games, the new one is a touch more complex. There are still loads of things to zap, but there's method behind your madness now - or at least there should be, if you're planning to finish the game.

Your mission is to stop the space station (Starglider 2, as it's called) being built, and the best way to do that is to blow it up with a neutron bomb. Much of the game involves trotting around the star system, picking up useful pieces of equipment that'll help you get the neutron bomb built - if, that is, you've found the people to do the job. Some objects are just lying around, while others will need to be traded. There are six planets and God knows how many moons in the system - prepare to visit the lot.

The graphics are still in that distinctive wireframe mould, and different planets tend to be in different colours, which perks things up a bit. Inevitably some of the zappier effects on the ST version have not made it to the Spec - no solid graphics herre, I'm afraid - but it's nevertheless fast and extremely playable. Between planets you can use the Stardrive, which conveniently brings journey times down to a few seconds and also helps if, for some reason, you want to run away from something. Most of the time, though, it's you who does the chasing. Many of the goodies you need can be found by blasting passing pirate ships, for when they explode they conveniently leave their cargo floating in space for you to pick up with a tractor beam. You'll also have use for any asteroids you may spy, as they can be used for refuelling purposes - pretty useful when the nearest Texaco is shut.

As for weapons, you begin with some highly efficient plasma bolts, but can pick up other things on the way. Bouncing bombs, for instance, can be very useful when you're trying to knock out projector stations on Millway's moons. But my fave is the time warp cube, which a noted scientific gentleman will give you (clue). Unlike most of the other weapons, this one doesn't run out - and it's pretty powerful too. Watch those pirates fry!

Doesn't sound too much like Starglider, though, does it? Well, no, I'd say Mercenary with nobs on is a bit nearer. As with that corky old classic, tunnels usually prove worth exploring (in the 128 version, the mazes are rather larger than in the dear ol' 48er), and it's far less violent than SF1. You can play it as a shoot 'em up, but as Rainbird says, "That's not really the idea". Still, as it's been converted by the same geezer who diid Virus for the Spec, it's no less playable than its big daddy, and possibly a little faster. You can play in one hand mode, which to be honest is a good deal less fiddly than playing with the keyboard (as I generally prefer) providing you have a decent stick. Control can be tricky at times, especially if you get out of it (control, I mean). But it's an entertaining game nevertheless - not perhaps as strikingly original as the first one was at the time (after all, we've seen Freescape since, haven't we?), but no less of a challenge.

In all, then, a good solid think-'em-up with lots of splendidly zappy bits. Those Ergons, though. Has anyone told them what a bunch of plonkers they are (ZZZZZAAPPPP!).

Fast 'n' furious wire-frame arcade adventure with less zapping and more exploring that its much loved predecessor. If not in the Mercenary class, highly playable all the same.

87%
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A. Your grid co-ordinates show you where you are on the planet or elsewhere - useful if you want ot go there again some time.

B. The digital clock is your countdown (or rather count-up) to the end of Novenia. So stop sitting around - get going!

C. Your score, dummy.

D. Your cursor, for shooting with, operating our tractor beam and getting IDs on unknown objects or people.

E. The Local Area Scanner, which shows all objects within range of your ship. And they're trying to get you.

F. A standard 360' compass, also useful for knowing where you're going (if not why).

G. This shows the weapon you've selected (a plasma ball in this case). On the 128K this'll be animated - on the 48K, it's just still. Aaaah.

H. These five indicators show you (from left to right) how many bombs you've got (none), how much laser energy you've got (none), how much plasma energy (lots), how your shields are doing and how much fuel you have left. Gasp!

I. This is an artificial horizon, a silly sort of gadget which let you know which way up you are. Don't you know?

J. These two show your speed and height of the planet you're on (it doesn't work in space). Are you remembering all this?

K. And this is your message screen. Read, digest, remember.

Screenshot Text

Here we are in the tunnels of Wackfunk, one of Millway's seven moons (be careful how you say that first bit). Pretty red, huh? Fortunately, there's a laser around here somewhere, only we've gone the wrong way again. Sassen frassen rassen...

Up with the moons of Millway. Rather pretty around here, don't you think? There's only one thing spoiling the view - a flying saucer shooting at you. AARGH! Don't panic Mr Mainwaring, don't panic!

Apogee is the first planet you'll see. There's the sun up there (well you didn't think it was a fruit pastille, did you?) and a reasonably pointless tower. But fly along those power cables and watch your fuel gauge rise...