I dunno, it seems like I only reviewed the coin-op of Strider a couple of days ago. Where's that back issue binder? Strider, Strider, Strider... yup. here we are - Strider. It got a Corky Coin-Op only (rustle rustle) four issues ago, and we've got the Speccy version already! Ber-limey!
In Strider the game, like Strider the coin-op, your task is to infiltrate the Russian Red Army and return enemy secrets to your superiors (so much for the thawing of East/West relations eh?). You've got to battle your way past five levels of Russian nasties before you face the Grand Master of the Red Army. And then it's a battle to the death, on which the future of the western world depends Yikes!
Strider - The Man Himself
The star of Strider is... um... Strider. He might not look like much when he's standing still, but watch him move! A bit like the big eyed, pointy chinned heroes of Japanese TV shows and comic strips, he's never content to walk when a triple back flip with reverse spin will do. He can run, jump and crouch as well as anybody, and he can also do vast somersaulting leaps, claw his way up walls, hang from overhead gantries and perform sliding tackles. He comes armed with a laser sword too, which is upgradable on later levels for more slashing power. And as all of these moves are easily accessible from the joystick, there's no faffing around with the keyboard or anything. Hoorah!
We first meet Strider, hang-gliding into Moscow. It's a pity we don't get all the onion shaped towers in the background that we had in the coin-op, but at least it means that for most of the time we have a nice clean black background against which the white sprites are very clear indeed.
Strider's task is to make his way into what looks like the Kremlin Politbureau, though first he has to climb, jump and fight his way across the rooftops, dodging gun emplacements, guards and laser beams. Flying robots drop crates that release little droid doobries when slashed. These droids are pretty useful too, 'cos they circle Strider constantly, and each time you fire they release little circulating smart bombs which wipe out everything they hit.
There are two big set pieces on this level. The first comes about two thirds of the way through when Strider must fight a giant muscleman, then dodge out of the way (up the wall Spiderman-style or under a platform) before a ceiling of flame burns down.
The second is even more spectacular. Strider enters the parliament chamber, and all the Politbureau members transform into a giant, hammer-and-sickle-waving snake! Yikes! Unfortunately the rather nice transformation scene has been taken out through lack of space, so you just get to encounter the monster in its final form. You'll have to do some nifty manoeuvring to get rid of this one!
This is set in the snowy Siberian wastelands, populated by more Russian guards, robot dogs and other nasties than you've had hot dinners. This is much more platform and laddery than the last level, harder and perhaps more playable.
Baddies on this level include a gigantic mechanical gorilla that lumbers up the screen early on (but isn't too hard to kill) and a final section incorporating waves of bombs that parachute slowly down on top off you. These are quite tricky to avoid, but the end off level encounter is a bit of a disappointment. It consists of a bunch of manic Bolshoi Ballet members who high kick toward you and are easily wiped out.
Ah, this one's a bit different. Quite how it fits in with the plot I'm not sure, but suddenly we're out off Russia and into the Amazon rain forest. At least, that's what it looks like. The platforms are this time made out of trees and vines and such like, and are heavily populated by boomerang tossing warrior women. Blimey!
This is one of those bits where you have to do a lot of running and jumping blind, hoping there'll be a platform to land on somewhere in the inky blackness.
Later on, this level reveals such delights as leaping piranha fish and rampaging dinos. And in one of the rare instances where it's not quite clear what's happening a handful of mini triceratops (about rhino size) lumber across the bottom off the screen, and instead off a nice black background you've got a slightly confusing shades-of-grey leafy jungle floor type backdrop. So there's a spot of guessing going on.
Eek! Next up you're on a big, floating enemy battleship thingie. Watch out you don't fall down the holes in the bottom (it's possible to since you're only hoping there'll be a platform to land on half the time). There are yet more guards, trillions of platforms and corridors to explore and a couple of big baddies near the end to cope with. The first is a giant floating satellite thing covered in what look like camera lenses. Get rid of that monstrosity and a hole opens up beneath you. Drop down and there's a giant geezer with a big sickle to cope with. Yikes!
You're back in Moscow for the final level, running along a weird set of high tech roof tops, swarming with guards. Drop down a hole and there's another big satellite to get past. Lumme! And another giant!
Like the coin-op, Strider the game is about twice as good as Forgotten Worlds. Yep, I know everyone thinks Fog Worlds is the bee's knees, but I've never got the hang of the loopy control system. Strider is similarly individual but much easier to play - about 60 trillion times easier. And the little hero sprite is just about the jumpiest and somersaultiest in Spec history. The arcade machine must be one of Capcom's biggest money earners this year, and I reckon it's safe betting this'll do the same business for US G.
So there we have it. Maybe the levels are a bit short (there are only five of them), and the difficulty level could possibly be pitched a bit higher. And though the big set piece monsters all look pretty impressive, they sometimes seem a little easy to kill - once you've sussed it. But what is here is really good, so I'm going to give it a Megagame. It's a nifty piece of programming, one of the cleanest, best looking Speccy games I've ever seen, and some of it plays like a dream. Just bear in mind that once you know your moves that's it. You've done it. Our Jack is bored of the game already.
Brilliant looking, smooth playing platform and ladders leap 'em up with a neat main character. There could be more in it, but what's there is excellently done.