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US Gold Ltd
1989
Arcade: Action
£9.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes

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34,35
Garth Sumpter
Chris Bourne

Remember Battle of the Planets, the cartoon show involving a lot of slightly over-thin heroes leaping around like nobody's business and doing battle with an ever more technical alien force? Fab.

Strider is like Battle of the Planets with all the naff bits out. You've got a lot in common with the heroes of the telly show; : the enemies you face would see most normal mortals through several underwear changes. There are huge mechanoid nightmares, fantastic robot warriors and bio-machines of horrifying oddity. And they all need their butts kicked.

The aspect which sets Strider apart from most of the runny-jumpy combat games of the moment is the freedom of movement. If you're stuck down a pit, you can somersault out of it. When the bad guys have you in a tough spot, you can use the metallic architecture of the surroundings to good effect: grab hold of a scaffold, hoist yourself up to a vantage point and let the enemy have it.

Like virtually every game in the world at the moment you are presented with a number of power-ups which will transform you from weedy (though valiant-hearted) soldier into a laser-powered nuclear killing machine with super sword power to boost your boomerang-a-laseraxe. There are also soppy droids which hover above you in especially fraught times. When shot, these release a mini robot which will follow your movements and bump off the bad guys.

As I said, the freedom in the game is incredible. You can vault around to your heart's content, smashing the alien swine and liberating their allies from their worthless lives. However, if you're going to make much progress, you will need to follow an onward and upward pattern which will guide you through the levels, through increasingly mean baddies until, awk! - the End Of Level Bad Guy.

Strider is a gem to watch. All the animations have been meticulously coded to look fab. No question of a dodgy conversion here. This is quality programming. The detail of the panels and features on the robots by far outweigh the lack of colour. There's a lot going on at once, too.

Can you instantly prioritize whether it's more urgent to make a fatal impression on one of the advancing enemy droids, collect your servo-pack or find yourself some safe ground? If you can, you're a better combatant than me.

As you find yourself moving deeper into the game, as well as facing more and more bizarre enemies, the surroundings will become gradually more hostile. From clean steel walls, through barren wastelands to downright hostile, trap-ridden environments. There are crushing walls of fire, deadly laser pods and other nasty tricks the US Gold boys have put up their sleeves. The laser pods are my favourite. They stand guard over vital access tunnels, firing out slow moving tracking lasers. These continue in the direction which they were fired until they hit a surface. Then they bounce off at a vaguely predictable trajectory and continue until they either run out of steam, run off the screen or hit a soft object (you). Laser pods seem to take an absolute age to kill, so you'll have to negotiate a number of laser beams before you can dive down the chutes they protect.

The coders' smarts really come into their own when you're dealing with a number of aliens on the screen at once. Nothing slows down. The aliens follow their patterns and gradually sap your strength as you kangaroo around all over the place and everything rockets around at a hell of a lick.

The better you get. the tougher and bigger the aliens become. Thankfully, it's easy enough to get a fair way into the game before you meet a thoroughly tooled up baddy.

So. We're talking a seriously blinding conversion of an ace arcade game. US Gold are pulling off a consistently high quality stream of conversions. It makes a welcome change from the iffy days of 4x4 Racing etc.

Label: US Gold
Author: Tiertex
Price: £8.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter

A truly fine conversion. Excellent.

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