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Steven A. Dunn
1988
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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70,71
Phil South
Chris Bourne

What's this? Not a naughty little program that crashes your computer, no. it's the game no one thought would ever appear on the Spectrum, and it took the might of Firebird to do it. Phil South takes a look and gets the sniffles.

Last year, everyone at PCW was heavily impressed by a game on the Archimedes computer, a game called Zarch. This convincing tour de force was masterminded by the creator of Elite, a guy called David Braben, and at that time no plans existed to port the game down to even the high end 16 bit machines like the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga. But now Firebird has produced 8-bit versions... Including one for the 128-48K Spectrum!!!

Any attempt to bring such a game to the Spectrum could only result in a desperately shoehorned. graphically-inferior pie of old doodahs, couldn't it? Well, actually it's not a billionth as bad as anybody here anticipated, with all the original gameplay surprisingly intact.

You are in control of a terrific little spaceship, a bit like the one in the old asteroids game only this time instead of being in cheap black and white and 2D, this little devil is in wondrous colouramic 3D. You are charged with a task of ridding the planet of the aliens which are spraying the planet with a deadly virus. There are many different types o' aliens, and you have to zap them all in order to clear a level. Your score is a percentage of how much of the planet is left uninfected.

As you jet away from your start-up position, you notice immediately that beneath you is a brilliant 3D wire frame representation of the planet, scrolling neatly under you. As you move, the square scrolls, revealing hillier sections with trees whipping by, and your scanner in the top left of the screen shows that some aliens are pursuing you. You've got to blast the little beggars, you see, but that's only if you've got enough fingers left after controlling the ship to press the fire button on the keyboard. Yes, the controls are a trifle tricky, but if you've got a joystick interface (all are supported) then it makes it a little easier. Shooting with a keyboard button and flying the ship with the joystick can be a little bit like rubbing your head and patting your belly simultaneously though.

This is a very entertaining game. and even if you can't really get into the gameplay of shooting down the aliens, just flying around the landscape learning to fly your hoverplane against the planet's gravity is a fun game in itself. And finally, an interesting fact. It's been said by Telecomsoft that it never intended to program the game on the Spectrum but the programmer of the Spectrum version, Steve Dunn, just sent it in. Steve was so impressed by the demos of Zarch on the Archimedes at PCW that he set to programming in machine code. Blimey! Next Firebird'll say that it was written in binary on the back of an airmail envelope with a stub of pencil and a slide rule! Hah! Only kidding, choplets And, if that's Steve's first effort of machine coding on the Speccy, all I can say is his Basic programs must have been brilliant! Take it from a dude who knows... Virus on the Spectrum IS the state of the art.

A brilliantly programmed conversion of a 16 bit smash hit. A fast and fascinating 3D blast a mundo. Buy it!

9/10
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Know Your Enemy

Here's a listing from the Hoverplane's scanner, showing you what all the nasty alien craft will look like on your radar screen, and giving you essential tactical information on each one.

Seeder

This flying saucer flies around and lands to spread the virus.

Scores 100 (in the air) or 50 (on the ground)

Mutant

Similar to the Hoverplane with less thrust. They'll buzz you and smash into you if they catch you.

Scores 500

Pest

Pests are small, fast ships, whose sole mission is to smash into your ship and destroy it

Scores 400

Fighter

A chevron shaped ship which flies in a similar manner to the Mutant and the Hoverplane. Must be hit twice to destroy it, even if you use a smart bomb!

Scores 800

Bomber

Flies straight and level and at high speed, spreading the virus at a higher rate than even the evil Seeders.

Scores 800

Mystery Spaceship

You will only recognise the strange alien vehicle when it actually attacks you, as it wil not fit any of the descriptions you have for other ships.

Scores Mystery Amounts

Screenshot Text

GOING TO SEED

The seeder is spotted behind a tree and now it's simply a matter of divebombing from a great height or using one of the ship's two remaining bombs.

Your ship is a small, wedge shaped hoverplane, whose only form of propulsion is a small vent on the underside. This means that in order to move along the landscape, you have to point the nose of the ship down and thrust forward, but pull the nose up to thrust up so you don't fall to the ground.

You may think after playing for a while that the trees are just there for decoration. No such luck! Just try skimming the terrain at a high speed, and you'll soon clip one and spray your ship all over the landscape.

Unlike almost any other game in the history of the world, every bullet you wang off at the gribblies whacks a point off your score! Oh no! So you've got to choose your targets quite wisely, and make sure you hit what you aim at.

The best bit about this version of the game is its amazing scrolling landscape, which undulates beautifully underneath your ship as it skims the surface of the planet. Your shadow us not only "pretty", it also serves a useful purpose in letting you gauge your height above the surface. Watch out for other shadows, too!

Seeders are squat, spinning tops which spread the virus whilst on the ground, and then fly up to a new location, where they spread the virus again. They can be shot in the air, but it's tricky. Shooting them on the ground is easier, but the score you get is much less. Try to get a pair of them and blast them with a smart bomb.

PEST CONTROL

High above the treetops the pests and fighters home into the kill and... there goes the neighbourhood!