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

Other Links

Bob Wade
Chris Bourne

US Gold go to the rotors.

Top dog in the software chart battle last Christmas was US Gold's Out Run, and they're hoping to repeat the feat by taking to the air this year. The competition is much hotter these days though - so have they managed to come up with the gameplay goods?

To start with, the helicopter you fly is viewed from above. It sits on a roadway waiting to rise up and launch itself forward. Both speed and height can be controlled by the joystick, but it's easier to change speed using the keyboard. As you change height the chopper stays the same size, but the buildings, scenery and enemy weapons loom larger or shrink away - and very nice it looks too.

As you rotor-motor over the ground there are buildings that have to be avoided and lots of tanks and helicopters letting fly with shellbursts. Bombs and bullets will put paid to them, but violent evasive action in all directions is essential.

The second stage is just like the first, except for one crucial factor - the view is from behind the helicopter. Instead of everything passing by underneath it all comes straight on - bullets, buildings, trees and all. It's still a matter of weaving through the buildings and flak, pouring high-explosive death at anything in the way.

Stage three takes place out in the ocean, where the copter overflies a ship at a set speed. It can still be moved all over the screen, but the height remains at a set level. As the ship scrolls by, gun emplacements come into view and are dealt with in the same manner as ground objects in stage one.

Get as far as stage four and the controls are exactly the same as stage one. However, things have been complicated by having to fly down a canyon. Clipping the walls with the rotor blades isn't very healthy and results in a large lump of scrap metal on the ground.

There are 12 stages in all, and none of them are easy. Jets will fly across the screen, letting fly with everything they've got. Flotillas of boats will blast concentrated fire in similar devastating manner to the tanks. Head-on flights across open country will get increasingly hazardous for the health. Finally the target of your destructive aspirations will appear - an enormous fortress tooled up with lots of deadly weapons. Just getting this far will be tough enough, and taking it out even harder.

This is still a good shoot-em-up on computers as opposed to the coin-op. It lacks any strategy or depth, but you can't have everything. The switching of views and the types of problem that are thrown at you will provide no shortage of interest.

Reviewer: Bob Wade

Atari ST, £19.99dk, Out Now
Atari ST, £24.99dk, Imminent
Spectrum, £8.99cs, £12.99dk, Out Now
Amstrad, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Imminent
C64/128, £9.99cs, £1x.99dk, Out Now
IBM PC, £24.99dk, Imminent

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 88/100
1 hour: 90/100
1 day: 80/100
1 week: 70/100
1 month: 40/100
1 year: 10/100

Bags of entertainment, blasting through the stages.


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The graphics are fast and impressive. Loads of detail and meaty explosions. It's tough to see what's going on in the head-on sequences, and the collision detection is questionable at times. The chopper noise is acceptable and goes nicely with the bangs and booms.


Graphics are on the chunky side but move with speed. Much easier to tell what's going on than on the Spectrum. Good music and effects too.

Graphics: 8/10

Audio: 7/10

IQ Factor: 1/10

Fun Factor: 8/10

Ace Rating: 800/1000

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 90/100

1 hour: 90/100

1 day: 80/100

1 week: 70/100

1 month: 40/100

1 year: 10/100


Thunder Blade is another coin-op that relies heavily on physical effects for thrilling and shaking up the player. Once again that all goes out the window for the computer versions, resulting in a loss of much of the adrenalin rush from the arcade.

Having said that, it isn't in as difficult a position as After Burner because there's more variety and skill required in the gameplay. The conversion is excellent, even on the humble Spectrum, but only time will tell whether coin-ops are soon going to be completely impossible to convert.


Faithful reproduction for all the arcade features and admirably close graphics and gameplay.

Coin-op Score: 9

Screenshot Text

Amiga preview shot - Here's what the graphics look like. From the demos we've played it appears to play well too. Wait for the update review in a future ACE.

Amiga preview shot - keep firing! Keep firing!

SPEC - The final fortress is packed to the gunwales with weaponry - an awesome prospect for your little helicopter.

(Above) Amiga preview shot - the game's not quite finished yet, so haven't reviewed it. We couldn't resist printing a couple of shots to whet your appetite though...

C64 - 1. Those tanks look tiny but their firepower is deadly. 2. diving downwards, the detail increases on the tanks and the buildings loom threateningly near. 3. Two tanks in glorious close-up.

Approaching the fortress in the arcade game.