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Piranha
1986
Arcade: Action
£9.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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62
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Well, it's certainly clever. And complicated. And big.

Strike Force Cobra is the sort of game nobody even dreamed about in the days before Knight Lore proved animated 3D graphics were possible.

I suppose in terms of plot Strike Force is a little like Shadowfire and in terms of look it's a lot like Fairlight. Having worked my way through the first level (armed with twelve cups of coffee and extensive reviewers crib notes (that said things like 'now move the joystick up') I can guess that the game could take months to solve.

It's plot no: 6088/7B. Take one evil criminal genius. Take it as read he wants to blow up the world, and you stop him by getting into a computer. Your mission (should you decide to accept it) is to select four team members (from a choice of eight), enter the enemy fortress and find your way through to the computer. Getting there involves much opening of locked doors (unusual, that) and much finding of computer room codes - by freeing hostages.

The first of a great many steps is to choose your team - actually I doubt that it matters which four you pick from the eight in terms of playing the game - but for reasons of taste you may not wish to select some of the more gruesome options. (They are digitised computer journalists and therefore not a pretty sight.)

You can switch between the four members of your team at any time and the real skill of the game comes in working out how to get the team members to work together effectively.

First orientate each member of the team relative to the others and arrange for them to meet up. There are various rooms which contain door control mechanisms which open shutters in quite separate sections of the fortress - perhaps the ones blocking the path of some other member of your team.

There are of course lots of things: round things, square things, hexagonal things. Very many of them attack you. Some attack you accidentally, others go straight for the jugular.

Your commandos are capable of a variety of movements, all of which will come in handy at one time or another. Diving can get you over obstacles and through windows (and makes you feel macho). Jumping achieves similar results. And crouching is sometimes vital to avoid gunfire.

Your team members get tired, too. I had an entertaining few minutes making one of my unit crawl everywhere on his knees and whenever he got tired - which was every few steps - he wiped his feverish brow. I haven't laughed so much since I tried to starve Activision's Little Computer Person.

Now all this would be wonderful and the game would get a Classic rating were it not for the fact that the game doesn't really look that good. It is 3D, but the animation is very jerky and the perspective is sometimes very confusing. Some of the characters are just not very well drawn. This detracts from the tension in a major way.

Strike Force Cobra is clever, complicated and big, I don't think it looks very good and I was infuriated by the slowness of response. Treat it as an enormous puzzle rather than an arcade game and you may be less disappointed.

Label: Piranha
Author: Five Ways
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

*****

Vast 3D arcade strategy game. Big on complexity but partly spoilt by jerky animation and inferior graphics.

5/5

Screenshot Text

Destroy the orb and dive over those bundles. Then avoid the man. And then...

The footplate might open the door. But what will it do to those piles of dynamite. A robot lurks to trap the unwary.

A hail of bullets from the machine gun. Take it out with a grenade. And escape by diving through the window.