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Zeppelin Games Ltd
Brian Cross
Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Linda Barker
Chris Bourne

In my younger days, ie not very long ago, I used to get dead confused by the word martial. I always read it as marital. I used to think that there was such a thing as marital arts but cos I didn't like to ask, I was never told that those classes were all about fighting and there was no kissing involved at all. Kissing's not big in martial arts circles, they don't really bother with social niceties.

The Sword of the Samurai is the latest shuriken-throwing, social niceties-ignoring, Shinobi-'em-up from Zeppelin and it's pretty darn darn. The plot is as far-fetched and fantastic as one would expect, but I'll give you the details anyway. You are a member of an honourable martial arts gang, a noble warrior who has been brought up to defend all that is true and good. Luckily, the forces of good and truth are under threat from a gang of renegade Ninjas. It's lucky because this means that you can go out there and flash your shiny sword around. Y'see, the naughty Ninjas have kidnapped tonnes of good people. These hostages have been locked up and put under the guard of some very big baddies. It's time to polish that sword, sharpen those shurikens, brush up on your martial lore and go slash some nasties.

The Sword of the Samurai is, basically a monochrome shoot-'em-up with platforms to jump on and it's teeming with baddies. You've only got a few minutes for each level and each three hostages to collect and keep. As soon as you've freed the first two, it should be a bit easier to get the third cos you get cut-throat daggers to chuck at them. Of course, it doesn't quite work out like that cos the guards get more and more violent and getting that final hostage within the time level can be frustratingly difficult.

There are seven levels to get through, including some sewers, a holy mountain and a dragon temple complete with magical dragons. As I've said before, the whole thing is oozing with baddies and, even better, playability. It takes a couple of goes to get your eyes properly focused, at first it seems as if the nasty Ninjas have appeared from the trees or rocks. As soon as your eyes have adjusted themselves to the simple colour scheme (black and a single colour) you too will be able to spot an ape man at 500 yards.

So if it's slashability you're after, thin simply pop out to the nearest trading post. Just make sure it's one that sells Speccy games and you'll be well pleased. In the originality stakes The Sword of the Samurai isn't exactly Top of the Pops, but even though we've played the game before in various different guises it doesn't hurt one bit to have another go. In fact, it's quite a pleasurable experience. I think I'll just go and finish that level, this martial business is alright (One Last thing, is a married Ninja a marital martialist?) (No, he's a married man who's well versed in martial arts. Jon) (Sounds a bit rude, if you ask me.) (Oh please! Jon)

Uppers: Despite the drawbacks, The Sword of the Samurai is still perfectly adequate in every department and it's a fun game to play. Downers: The Sword of the Samurai isn't the most original game we've seen in the Shed lately and it's not going to be one of the most memorable games you'll ever play. Four quid can't buy you much these days, so why not spend it on a game that'll keep you happy for a while.


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