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

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Jerry Muir
Chris Bourne

There are some games where you combine lightning reactions with cunning strategy. There are some games where you spend hours pondering your next step. And there are some games where you just blast everything that moves. After I totally failed to understand the subtleties of the several stages of this game I resorted to the latter approach and a jolly good time I had too.

Starstrike II is, hardly surprisingly, a sequel to Starstrike I - though, to confuse things, that was called Starstrike 3D.

This time around the 3D graphics are shaded and though it slows them down rather and creates one or two jerky patches, it's still a highly addictive shoot 'em up. The main addition is an overlay of Elite type lore.

The basics are simple enough. The Outsiders are on their way in - to Earth, that is - unless you can neutralise their 22 planets. Your ship isn't equipped for hyperspace jumps so you'll need to return to the mothership for transport between the five star systems and also for taking on reserve fuel and repairs. Choose your system and you'll see stars as you warp in.

Once there you choose a star and as some are as heavily defended as a wet paper bag full of jelly beans while others are more like Fort Knox it's wise to take note of the information on the inlay. Hint - you'd expect an agricultural planet to be less well defended then a military or industrial one, wouldn't you?

So you're on your way to Beta III which means you miss out on the joy of knocking the pods off a space wheel then docking with it - a wholesale lift of everybody's least favourite activity in Elite. Once inside the wheel you'll need to get out again by blasting the three control units that surround its constantly opening and closing iris valve.

On Beta III it's straight to the Defence Fields which have small openings in them. These are incredibly well defended, with circling shapes and spinning shutters and cannons to blast stars at you.

This stage is straight space dogfighting, and when the enemy isn't in view - which is most of the time if your reactions are as slow as mine and the enemy's fighter is of a particularly nippy type - there are two displays to indicate relative position. This is very fast but can become almost infuriating if your opposing ace is so agile that you can hardly ever target him. Once you zap one of them there will be a fuel pod for you to scoop up and replenish supplies, which may later be traded in for stronger shields, but Outsider scoop ships will claim it if you're not quick.

Finally Ground Attack and The Ventilation Duct and now your cross hairs run along the ground as you lay waste to everything in sight in a style that would make Ronnie smile.

There are lots of defences to dodge here too. Once you're in the control centre of the relevant type for the planet, you have a brief period to blast the Reactor System/Battle Computer/Agricultural Control Centre (distinguishable because of the mud on its wellies) then exit through the rear wall and it's on to the next planet.

Just before writing this review I loaded the game for a brief final look... and when I finally dragged myself away it was over an hour later which tells its own story.

Jerry Muir

Publisher: Realtime
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston, cursor