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Elite Systems Ltd
1987
Arcade: Gang beat-em-up
£7.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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62,63
Andy Wilton
Chris Bourne

Feline fury from Elite.

Puss Boots takes on a whole new meaning this Xmas, as the fruits of Elite's Thundercats tie-up hit the worthy chemists and thousands of other software dealers. Elite are producing three games based on the hit TV series/comic/plastic toy, this first one written by software house Gargoyle.

If the mention of their name puts you in mind of Gargoyle sideways-scrolling games like Marsport or Dun Darach, then the look of Thundercats won't come as a surprise: it's a side-on view scroller with all the graphic flair of old. Don't expect complex arcade adventuring though: that Elite influence has given the game buckets of good honest arcade playability instead.

The Eye of Thundera, source of the Thundercats' power, has been stolen by the evil Mumm-Ra's henchmen and somebody's got to go and get it back - you. As that heroic moggie Lion-o you'll have to fight your way into Mumm-Ra's stronghold, hacking and blasting hordes of nasties and leaping across lethal gaps which block your path.

Each of the game's 14 levels is a straight-line dash from start to finish. Though there are obstacles to leap over and platforms to run across, there's no real choice of route. Just cover the distance within sixty seconds, killing or dodging any nasties you come across, and it's onward to another, tougher level.

You start off armed with a broadsword to fend off the foe. Its a tricky weapon to use: timing is critical, and you'll need to duck while using it to hit opponents below (or shorter than) you. Lion-o stops running to use his sword, giving any pursuing nasties a chance to catch up, so you'll need to work on turn-and-slash moves if you want to live long. You'll also have to keep moving: run out of time, and Mumm-Ra himself will polish you off very quickly indeed.

Tokens along the way can be picked up for extra lives, and also for a change of weapon. Learn which ones do what - some of them can be distinctly unhelpful - and you'll soon be blasting your opponents instead of hacking them. There are vehicles you can use too (if you can find them) to help beat those time limits, not to mention those bad guys.

As well as recovering the Eye itself, you can rescue imprisoned comrades on your mission. The game has three rescue levels, but you only get one shot at each of them - lose a life and you're straight on to the next level, with no second chance for that hefty rescue bonus. To further vary the pace of the game, levels 4 to 7 can be taken in any order you want. Find the right order and you'll make things a great deal easier for yourself, but working that strategy out will take you plenty of time.

The pace of the game never lets up, and its simple short term aim - get to the finishing line before the time runs out - combines with the toughness of the opposition to make it fiendishly addictive. The game demands your full concentration, and gets it too. More than Green Beret. Ghosts and Goblins or anything else in this style, Thundercats goes the distance.

Its graphically impressive too: the animation is stylish and the scrolling impeccable, with digitised backdrops adding enormously to the game atmosphere. The enlarged 128K version uses the extra memory to store further digitised graphics for bonus screens and the like, along with an enhanced soundtrack for Rob Hubbard devotees, but even with only 48K you'll still have a good-looking, compulsively playable game for your money.

Reviewer: Andy Wilton

RELEASE BOX
C64/128, £9.95cs, £14.95dk, Imminent
Spec £7.95cs, Reviewed
Ams, £8.95cs, £14.95dk, Reviewed

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 80/100
1 hour: 85/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 85/100
1 month: 60/100
1 year: 30/100

Playability with legs.

6/7
Great animation, lovely digitising.
4/7
128's terrific, 48 none too bad either.
1/7
Eggheads need not apply.
7/7
Magnificently obsessive.
931/1000

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ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO

Of the two Thundercats games yet to see the light of day, one's being developed in house at Elite, and so is pretty much under wraps. The other's a four way scroller with an exploration element to it, but as with Lost Eye of Thundera the accents on arcade action rather than strategy. It should be ready real soon now, but the title's still undecided: obviously Elite will have to go to considerable lengths to avoid confusion, if more than one of the games is out at once.

AMSTRAD VERSION

Not one version but two: 464/664 users get fewer digitised graphics, and only 11 game levels. On the 6128 you'll get all 14, but either way the game looks great and plays better.

C64 VERSION - A TASTER

Gargoyle have always tended to specialise in Spectrum and Amstrad games, so a major C64 release is something of a departure tor them. The C64 Thundercats is some way off being finished, with work still in progress on the crucial difficulty tuning.

Screenshot Text

Level 3's a bonus mission: rescue Tygra, a fellow Thundercat of yours, without losing a life.

In the Garden of Fire (level 4) and you're looking for a vehicle to help you on your quest.

The Caves of the Molemen (level 2); bats are a constant menace here, but the fireball weapon you've got should help fend them off.

THE CAT'S WHISKERS: The finishing line's this way, but you'll have to fight your way to it.

Your current weapon - the broadsword.

Amstrad shot: The Fertile Plain: the game runs in four colour mode on the Amstrad, but there are eight colours on the screen. Clever stuff!

C64 Shot: The C64 version isn't finished yet, and the Lion-O sprite may well be redrawn before release, but this should give you a fair idea of what to expect.