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Graham Johns
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

Okay, fasten your seat harness - it's a deep space zappowham game again! Just when you thought they'd run out of reasonably original ideas for shoot em up games, along comes Blockade Runner!

You're in this ship which is trying to get supplies through an alien blockade of Earth, and there are five layers of defence to be got through first comes a dense meteor shower which can be dodged or shot. Next comes a series of vertical laser barriers which cannot be shot and you must avoid contact with them. They are followed by tractor-beam units which push or pull you off course. And then finally there is the fleet of alien ships which will try to blast you away. If you manage to survive all this you must then transfer your cargo pods to an Earth ship. There are only three chances to do this right, or its back to the start without losing a life.

One complaint from our reviewers which seemed common to some of the games from Thorn EMI was the choice of control keys for non-joystick players. Of course it isn't their fault that keys 6,7,8,9 and zero have been employed, since this is the daft non-standard Sinclair chose for their interface 2. Sinclair are hoping to bully every other software house into using it too, or changing their existing software to match it. The cursor keys are already a poor game arrangement, and to move one key along the board is no better. We all felt a more ergonomic arrangement like Q, A, O, P or Z, X, K, M is much better. It seems a pity Thorn EMI haven't chosen to provide an alternative or user-defined keyboard layout.


'For shoot em up addicts this is going to be popular. There is a fair range of obstacles to overcome and plenty of speed levels to play at. On the first screen of meteors it frightened the life out of me at how fast the ship manoeuvres. When you get to the second screen and see the laser barriers you realise why it has to be so fast. Good, simple graphics and smooth movement.'

'The graphics are quite small except for your ship which looks like a film camera, but they are pretty smooth in movement and the explosions are good. I like the fact that if you lose a life in, say, the second or third screen you aren't sent right back to start but pick up on the same screen. The speeds are about right, with the highest level being a blurt. Medium addictive, I would say

'There is sound on this game, I noticed that the others from Thorn seemed a bit lacking in that department. The graphics are nice especially the dancing star background, but I found it didn't have lasting appeal overall.'

Keyboard positions: awkward, 6/7 left/right. 8/9 up/down and zero to fire.
Joystick options: Kempston, Sinclair
Keyboard play: very fast and responsive
Use of colour: average
Graphics: reasonable and smooth
Sound: average
Skill levels: 6
Lives: 5
Screens: 6

General Rating: fairly good, mixed opinions on addictivity.


Screenshot Text

Screen 1 from BLOCKADE RUNNER.