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Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Jon Pillar
Chris Bourne

Old games never die, they just get remade. Commando is still (still!) one of the most playable games on the Speccy - a triumph of design. What many people failed to notice was it was a smart feat of programming as well - umpteen little blokeys hacking around the screen at once, full-screen colour scrolling, a fair lick of speed... ooo, lovely. Keith Burkhill's finest hour. (That's assuming he wrote the thing of course. My memory's a bit hazy on this point.)

Blazing Thunder substitutes a clanky tank for the battle-crazed soldier character you controlled, but in every other respect it's Commando. Except for the colour scrolling. And the speed. And the playability, and so on. Actually, that's a bit unfair on it - Blazing Thunder plays pretty funkily in its own right, and even has traditional end-of-level baddies. (Instead of huge enemy vehicles and suchlike, Commando had a series of fortresses whose doors you had to blow open whereupon scores of baddies poured out. Aie!) It's just that after about half of Level One you've seen the whole game. And besides, it's a little silly that this amazing death-dealing tankish machinery can damaged by running over a small and dodgily-animated solider. (Ugh. Ed) Still, only in Speccy games eh? It's the wonder of modern technology.

As with so many respectable but nowt-to-get- excited-about games, it's awfully hard to put your finger on exactly why playing is such a take it or leave it affair. The programming is competent, there are tonnes of opponents and bullets fly thick and fast. It's not startlingly grabworthy.

Much of the problem is the fact you've got energy and lives rather than just lives - as with every other game that uses the same approach, you trundle without bothering to avoid anything until suddenly you drop in your tracks. (Ho blimmin' ho. Ed) What's wrong with one-hit-and-you're-dead, eh? I mean, when I was in the Boer War there was none of this energy business. I said to General Wreath, 'Genny,' I said, 'You don't want to advance on the Northern Front. You want to go home and forget the whole thing.' But did he listen? No. (Because he doesn't exist. And you weren't there. And there was no such thing as the Northern Front. I'm sorry, but you simply have to leave your fantasy world and face reality. Ed). Oh dear (Sobs uncontrollably.)

(Erm, it looks as if Jon is indisposed for the remainder of this review. So I'll have to take over. Where was he? Ah yes. That horrible energy system takes away all sense of danger, so even when you're battling across ricketty bridges, surrounded by the enemy and pinned down by a nasty mortar, there's no excitement. None. What a waste. Mind you, it does perk up when you're suddenly confronted by the incredibly huge end-of-level baddies, but, erm, they're actually a doddle to beat. So a bit of a missed opportunity all round really. Oh, do stop crying. Ed)

Uppers: You can't really you wrong with a Commando clone... Downers: ...although Blazing Thunder comes close to managing it. No different from any other vertical shooter.


Screenshot Text

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