US Gold Ltd
1984
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

22,23
Chris Bourne

The 'Blue Max' was the highest award given by the Germans to brave fliers during the First World War. In this game you play Max Chatsworth (an Allied flier) whose nickname is 'Blue Max'. To earn your title you must make an assault on three specially marked targets within the city. The game starts by taking off from the runway, and continues as you fly low over the tree-lined terrain, past the river with its bridges, over tanks and anti-aircraft guns, and dodge the enemy biplanes as they try to shoot you down.

The screen display shows a bird's eye view of the ground which scrolls diagonally below your biplane. Controls allow you to alter altitude, fly left or right and fire with the forward facing machine gun or drop bombs on targets on the ground. The targets include buildings and bridges with flashing bullseyes, enemy planes, cars and ships. Entry to the next level of difficulty is achieved by bombing enough primary targets.

The biplane requires fuel and repairs if it is damaged, and this is accomplished by landing successfully on the runway. Below the playing screen is a command bar with information on altitude, fuel level, speed, bombs left and score. The bar also flashes colours to indicate when the plane is at strafing height, dangerously low, at a height to fire on an enemy lane, or if it has been hit. A letter code indicates the type of damage - fuel leak, bomb gear damaged, decreased manoeuvrability or machine gun damage.

Among the control options is one for having gravity effect on or off. When it is on, the biplane sinks if the joystick is released.

CRITICISM

'Blue Max is, in a nutshell, a 'sort of' WW1 version of Zaxxon. The graphics are convincing and the game is playable. It is not over colourful, largely green, black and blue, but with all the ground details more colour would probably have caused attribute problems. Bombing requires perfect timing to hit the target, especially at higher altitudes. Blue Max is certainly a great game.'

'The scrolling 3D works quite well, height above the ground indicated by a shadow. This goes for the enemy aircraft as well, so skilful judgement of height is an important factor in success. I particularly liked the landing bi4 which has to be judged accurately - land too late and there won't be enough runway left for the takeoff. The total playing area is not all that great (the runway cycles round in about one minute) but there is a lot of detail such as the trees and tanks, whose shells you can see firing and exploding. The graphics are generally very good, with reasonably smooth scrolling and some animated details like the revolving propellers of the biplanes. I found Blue Max an entertaining and reasonably addictive game which required some good reflexes and a sense of timing. Fun to play although US Gold's prices are sometimes a bit steep.'

'I was interested to see what US Gold brought out this time for the Spectrum and also see the quality of the graphics, because their Beach-Head conversion was really excellent graphically. The graphics here are fairly small and not very action packed with the exception of an enemy aircraft that flies past now and again, although it doesn't go out of its way to destroy you - on level one anyhow! Blue Max does have a sort of 3D effect, although not totally convincing or effective. One thing that I did like about this game was the way the bombs dropped and made craters - in fact so effectively do they make craters, that even the river begins to look like the surface of the moon. At least to start with (and I haven't got any further than level 1) the game isn't all that inspiring, but I must give it the benefit of the doubt and say that it will get progressively more difficult on further levels. I can't say I was totally taken up with this game.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: user definable, four direction and one fire needed, bombs dropped by pressing fire and down
Joystick: Kempston, AGF. Protek, Sinclair 2
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: a bit limited
Graphics: on the small side, but quite detailed although a little jerky on the scrolling
Sound: not much
Skill levels: progressive with achievement
Lives: 1
Screens: continuous scrolling
General Rating: Mixed feelings from reviewers ranging from great to okay-ish.

87%
84%
77%
82%
70%
68%
78%

Screenshot Text

Aiming for a barge on the river in BLUE MAX.

Refuelling after a successful landing on the runway while overhead an enemy biplane passes.