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US Gold Ltd
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

Other Links

Sean Kelly
Chris Bourne

Thunder Blade is probably the game which took most of your money in the arcades this summer, probably one of the most eagerly awaited coin-op conversions, and Carlsberg is probably (Get on with it. Ed).

Sorry. Your country has been invaded yet again, this time by someone more Merciless than Ming, more Horrible than Hagar, More Rotten than Johnny, the one and only... General Swindells. Bit of a lousy name for a baddie, really. I mean, if I (GET ON WITH IT! Ed.) The General's hordes have wasted no time in saturating the land, sea and air with all manner of craft, and so it is no wonder that your battle weary troops are being easily defeated by the onslaught. As a last resort. U.S. General Headquarters have ordered you into service, and given you the ignition keys to a Thunder Blade helicopter, the most awesome attack helicopter around. As you gibber pathetically in the corner, the bosses remind you that you are a distinguished veteran of many campaigns with more decorations than Habitat. So chest out, shoulders back, and here we go...

You begin the resistance battle, flying through one of the overrun cities. Watching from above, you see tanks rumbling through the streets, and taking every opportunity to fire deadly missiles in your direction. The tension mounts as the Thunder Blade swings wildly to avoid the buildings hemming it in on all sides, and dives low in order to destroy the tanks. Diving low makes the tanks easy to destroy, but also increases the likelihood of being destroyed. Flying high makes it easy to negotiate the buildings, but impossible to score any hits. The scrolling and graphics in this section are the best I've ever seen on the Spectrum - each building is ingeniously represented by a sort of stack of wafers, alternately black and white, creating the illusion of the building without significantly slowing down the action. On completion of this part, the Thunder Blade must be flown through the city again, but now it's viewed from behind.

This time round the city is much more treacherous, for as well as the tanks, helicopters also make their presence felt. As you are forced to swoop extremely low to hit any of the tanks, seeing the helicopters before they launch their deadly weapons at the Thunder Blade is nearly impossible. Once through the city your problems aren't over, for once you are over open land. Meercat jet fighters use the opportunity to launch their attack on you.

The quality of scrolling and the graphics are maintained in this section, and the way in which the tanks grow' as you approach them at speed is breathtaking - and it's almost worth getting killed just to see the tanks in full detail for a moment or two before restarting the game.

Should you survive this part, then it's back to the view-from-above playing style as you progress along an aircraft carrier, TRYING to destroy all the aircraft on board. This is made yet more hazardous by the rows of guns which run the full width of the ship and fire in unison, leaving you to dodge around eight missiles at once.

Next stop is a canyon, along which numerous tanks are running, just waiting to be bombed by the Thunder Blade. Again, this would be easy, if they didn't keep firing back, and if the canyon walls weren't so close to your rotors. This was as far as this humble pilot managed to get, so beyond this, who knows what horrors lie?

First of all, whoever is responsible must be congratulated for the best scrolling and graphics I have ever seen on the Spectrum. Admittedly this will involve a lot of multi loading for most Speccy players, but when this type of quality is the result, it is worth the fiddling.

Addictiveness is also there in abundance, and this is helped by the variety of gameplay - in the sections I played, the tactics varied from zooming along swooping at targets, to slow, deft and tricky dodging, which kept your mind one hundred per cent on the game. Although I have given Thunder Blade megagame status, I do have a couple of reservations. It sometimes seemed impossible to judge when you were about to be hit, which makes progressing a little random. I also wonder how long it will take the average YS reader to complete the game, and I suspect that the answer is not too long. Reservations aside, however, this has got to be the whammiest, most jaw-dropping game I have played this year.

Brilliant scrolling and graphics combine to make an excellent shoot 'em up and faithful conversion from the coin-op.