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The YS Complete Guide To Shoot-'em-ups Part II
Published in the Aug 1990 YS56 issue
World Of Spectrum links for:
 After The War   Alien Syndrome   Army Moves   Bionic Commando   Cabal   Chicago 30s   Commando   Dan Dare   Dan Dare II   Dan Dare III   Forgotten Worlds   Gauntlet   Green Beret   Ikari Warriors   Moonwalker   Navy Moves   Nemesis The Warlock   Obliterator   Operation Thunderbolt   Operation Wolf   Platoon   Predator   Prohibition   Rambo   Rambo III   Road Blasters   Robocop   Rolling Thunder   The Real Ghostbusters   The Untouchables   Xybots 
Tipshop links for:
 After The War   Alien Syndrome   Army Moves   Bionic Commando   Cabal   Chicago 30s   Commando   Dan Dare   Dan Dare II   Dan Dare III   Forgotten Worlds   Gauntlet   Green Beret   Ikari Warriors   Moonwalker   Navy Moves   Nemesis The Warlock   Obliterator   Operation Thunderbolt   Operation Wolf   Platoon   Predator   Prohibition   Rambo   Rambo III   Road Blasters   Robocop   Rolling Thunder   The Real Ghostbusters   The Untouchables   Xybots 
YS Scan Well, maybe not 'complete' but at seven mega-whopping pages who's complaining? MATT BIELBY picks up the pieces from last month (and quite a nasty little mess it was too)...
    Shoot-'em-ups, eh? They get bloomin' everywhere, don't they? Every issue (just about) we seem to review two or three new ones, which we can broadly split into two categories. For a start there are the flying-along-in-a-weedy-little-spaceship-shooting-things ones (which we dealt with last month), and then, of course, there are the walking-along-shooting-things ones - the real man's games! And guess which we're looking at this ish? That's right, the real man's games!
    Phew! All I can say is it's a good job we're not counting every single game with a gun in it as a shoot-'em-up or we'd be here all blooming night! Even so, there are an awful lot of them about, so we've not only a) split the thing in two (see Part 1), but we've also b) dispensed with the traditional list of 'every so-and-so ever invented' - it'd take up all the space on its own! Oh yes, and c) we've also been pretty strict about what we're counting as a shoot-'em-up.
    It's a difficult division to make though - a couple of the games we're going to talk about on this page could arguably be described as arcade adventures I suppose (the line between these and shoot-'em-ups is notoriously wobbly), but on the whole I've limited things to games where the actual 'shooting up' of one or more people (or robots or aliens or whatever) is clearly the most important part of the gameplay. So does everyone understand what's going on here? (Good, 'cos I'm not sure that I do.) Let's get on with the show then, shall we?
    
SO WHAT'S THE BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SHOOT-'EM-UP AND AN ARCADE ADVENTURE?
Um. Ah, um... Not too clear on this one actually. With little spaceship games it's easy - just about anything with a little spaceship in it can safety be called a shoot-'em-up - but introduce people (or whatever) to the equation and things get a bit more tricky to define. I mean, take the kiwis out of The New Zealand Story, add some little Rambo types, and what does it become? (I'm not sure actually, but it's not just a cutsie platform-and-ladders game any more, even though there'd still be loads of platforms and ladders left in it of course).
    I suppose then what we are talking about here are, firstly, games where the wiping-out of baddies is more or less the be-all-and-end-all of the gameplay and, secondly, games where the heroes are real Rambo types (more or less). To at least some degree it's all to do with how a game is packaged and presented - if the sprites are about six foot five, packed with muscle and hauling 16 machine guns, two rocket launchers, three flame throwers and a cuddly toy (optional) the game's going to appear much more as a 'shoot-'em-up' than if it's full of fluffy little cuddly things. (All these Schwarzenegger types though, it'd be enough to make any less macho chap feel a bit inadequate, I should think - not that I'd know of course, ho ho.)
    Anyway, as with the little spaceship games, these macho things come in a handful of main types, which are listed below...
    
THE FIRST EVER LITTLE-MEN-SHOOTING-EACH-OTHER SHOOT-'EM-UP
Trying to suss out this one is going to be a bit of an impossible task I'm afraid. As with most of these things it's bound to have been some crappy Basic program 'heavily influenced' by an early arcade game and printed in listings form in one of the first computer mags (early '83 probably). Flipping back to the first-ever copy of Your Spectrum (Jan '84) we find Wild West Hero from long-forgotten Timescape - a tiny little cowboy wandering around the screen and blasting away as the baddy gang close in. It's a shoot-'em-up all right, and certainly looks crap enough to have been the first, but of course there's no possible way it can have been. Still, it's the first I can find so I suppose it'll do as well as anything. Yes folks, the first Sinclair Spectrum shoot-'em-up was Wild West Hero by Timescape - it's official!
    Moving forward in time a bit we find another significant and historic game - yes, it's Commando, an excellent little blaster that was incredibly influential in its day and still holds up quite well. Hurrah for the great grand-daddy of the modern shoot-'em-up!
    
SHOOTING GALLERY
Or Operation Wolf style, as nearly everybody seems to call them these days. This is the sort of game where you view the action from a first-person perspective, as if you really were in the thick of it - you never see the hero of these games at all, because (of course) the hero is you.
    Fairly obviously a direct descendent of clay pigeon shooting or blasting away at the ducks down your local fair, the big difference between the computer version and 'real life' is that the bullets always go exactly where you place the cursor/gunsight on-screen. In other words, it's less a test of aiming at what you want to hit than of pure reactions - the winner is the guy who can move his gunsight around screen to the correct targets the quickest.
    Although these games do tend to be incredibly popular - from Operation Wolf and Operation Thunderbolt to cover tape freebies such as A Nightmare On Robinson Street - they do tend to have one very slight problem (as do all shoot-'em-ups, actually). And the problem is? Well, simply that they can be very samey indeed - once you've shot one screen full of tanks, helicopters and little soldier chappies (but avoided all the nurses who'll lose you points if you don't) you've shot 'em all.
    A few games (Cabal springs to mind) vary things a bit though by actually including your character on-screen (most often down at the bottom somewhere with his back to us). Not that they're that much different of course - despite their presentation the gameplay remains essentially the same.
    
HORIZONTAL SCROLLERS
One of the most common forms, and the one that's always getting confused with arcade adventures and so on, these little-man-running-along-blasting-things crop up all the blooming time. Occasionally one or more platform(s) will be added to make things more interesting (the game might even scroll upwards as well if this happens), or the screen will be drawn in what is referred to as 3D (though it's not really) where you can see the ground in perspective as opposed to slab-side on. (Robocop is slab-side, Predator is 3D, for those who can't tell the difference.) Otherwise things vary very little, and it's straight down to the skills of the programmer and graphic artist to make things interesting. On occasions a flip-screen version of what is essentially the same thing will crop up too (Raf Cecco's Exolon is a good example of this, but since it's reviewed elsewhere I won't dwell on it.)
    
VERTICAL SCROLLERS
Like Commando, Ikari Warriors, or Fernandez Must Die this is the third way of doing it. As you might expect, you have to wander up the screen, diving behind rocks, shooting everything that gets thrown at you and, um, that's about it really (except that your main sprite isn't very interesting because all you can generally see of him is the top of his head). Oh well.
    
THE 'OUTRUN-WITH-GUNS' DRIVING GAME
A bit of an oddity this - there was a rash of them last year (games like Overlander, Road Blasters and so on, as well as boat variations like Live And Let Die), but they hardly fit comfortably into either of our two main categories of little man or little aeroplane games. Still, they're definitely shoot-'em-ups, so we had to include them somewhere.
    What happens is that you get your typical rolling-road race game set up (usually not a particularly good one, I regret to say) spiced up with the addition of a bit of shooting. Your central car sprite comes equipped with oodles of guns to clear the road of oncoming enemy cars (occasionally you get the chance to choose or upgrade your weapons), and then it's a case of driving straight at them Mad Max style, blasting away with both barrels. Unfortunately though the built-in weapons can usually only be brought to bear by directly pointing your car in the direction of whatever it is you want to hit, resulting in some ungainly slewing sideways across the road. Of course, some people swear by these games (and some people swear at them) but looking back on them now (nobody seems to be producing them anymore) on the whole they seem very one-note and dull.
    
Ratings:
In the great tradition of these guides... we've come up with a special, mega-macho ratings system for all these rock 'ard games. It all goes something like this...
Macho Factor: Basically, how hunky is our hero and how big's his gun? These two are quite possibly THE most important things to bear in mind - I mean who could possibly take seriously a wimpy, slouching little hero, and as for the weapon, well, despite what anyone might have told you, size IS the most important thing of all!
Explosiveness: There's not much point in shooting anything if it doesn't explode in a spectacular, colourful and generally very loud fashion is there? (No, there isn't.) So if you see a low mark here you can bet your bottom dollar these pathetic little puffs of smoke couldn't even burst their way out of a paper bag.
Shop 'Til They Drop: You're going to get pretty bored blasting everything with the same weapon, aren't you (no matter how big it is)? So don't you think it'd be rather a nice idea if along the way we could collect some rocket-powered grenades, ground-to-air missiles, mortars and flame throwers, eh? (Yes, it would.)
Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: Do you have to keep blasting your firepower at the same boring bunch of bandits and the occasional bush all the time, or are there big ones, small ones, fat ones, thin ones (and a few helicopters, fighter jets, tanks, boats and so on thrown in for good measure)?
    
Operation Wolf & Operation Thunderbolt
Ocean

Arguably the real biggies, this pair more or less cleaned up over the last couple of Christmases, and it's not too difficult to see why. (Why? Reader's voice) Well, for a start they were based on two of the most successful coin-ops of recent times, and, for another start, the gameplay (an update of that old shooting gallery idea where you have to pop off anyone and everything that appears on the screen - except for the few good guys thrown in as red herrings) can be picked up in a jiffy by just about anyone. And for a third and final start, the Spectrum versions were particularly well-presented and playable. They're both in lousy monochrome, it's true (though the big sprites mean there's little danger of anything getting lost on-screen) and pretty repetitive (but then with this sort of game you pretty much know what you're getting from word go anyway), but mighty playable all the same.
    And the difference between them? Well, Operation Wolf is the original and can easily be identified by the fact that there's an easy-to-see cursor floating about in the middle of the screen so you can tell where you're shooting. Op Thunderbolt, on the other hand, has the happy addition of a two-player option but suffers from the funny little quirk that you have to pick up your cursor as an extra add-on weapon, meaning that for half the game you're just guessing where the bullets are going by simply seeing who's failing over and dying and who isn't. Some people actually claim to prefer this, but I can't for the life of me see why - you pays yer money and you takes yer choice basically.
    
94° Macho Factor: 92 Explosiveness: 94
Shop 'Til They Drop: 54 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 89

    

Robocop
Ocean

Well, what can you say about the biggest-selling Speccy game ever? It was number one for an infeasible (and record-breaking) length of time, and is still riding high in the charts even as I write, a good year and a half after it first came out. Astounding.
    So why did it do so well? Can it really be that good? Well, not really. There's nothing actually wrong with the game itself, but honestly (and I'm writing this for the mere handful of people who've never seen it) it's pretty standard stuff, isn't it? Most of the levels are your familiar monochrome sideways-scrolling stuff, with a few platforms, baddies leaning out of windows and so on thrown in for good measure. Graphics are crisp, gameplay fast and frantic (as should be expected) but there's nothing particularly innovative about any of it. Basically, it's just like a souped-up Rolling Thunder or something, and, as such, slightly disappointing (but only because its reputation is so strong).
    Thankfully we do get a bit of variety thrown in here and there to spice things up a bit though. For instance, Level Two is an Operation Wolf style blaster based on the famous bit in the film where Robo has to shoot a villain through his hostage's skirt (if you remember that), while Level Four is a sort of puzzle thing with a photofit machine, where your task is to try and identify the chief baddy. Robocop is just about as ideal a subject for a film licence conversion as you could possibly hope for (lots of nice violence, you see, and a good strong central character) and the computer game has obviously rode to success on the coat tails of the film and (especially) the video's popularity. It's nice to see that Ocean managed to come up with something that captured the flavour of the movie, but personally I reckon they've done even better lately, with both Batman and The Untouchables - more characterful efforts than this one. Still, there's no arguing with those sales figures, is there?
    
83° Macho Factor: 93 Explosiveness: 70
Shop 'Til They Drop: 72 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 70

    

Ikari Warriors
Elite

This is more or less the sequel to Commando, your archetypal vertically-scrolling walk-around-the-jungle-a-bit-and-blow-people-to-pieces jobbie, packed to the brim with action. Ikari Warriors is made up of largely monochrome backdrops with big, cartoony sprites (more or less the norm with this sort of thing), but the scrolling's smooth, there's a two-player option and an agreeable pace to the action. Ambush an enemy tank and you get to cause some extra damage for a bit (but don't try and cross a river in one though - it'll sink!).
    So what's wrong with it? Well, not too much, I have to admit - the graphics are only occasionally on the ropey side, and I suppose they could have thrown in a bit more variety (difficult with this sort of shoot-'em-up), but, well, that's about it. It's what a shooty-shooty game should be all about.
    
87° Macho Factor: 84 Explosiveness: 73
Shop 'Til They Drop: 72 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 70

    

Green Beret
Imagine

Another oldie, and just about the classic horizontally-scrolling blaster, Green Beret is an extremely playable Rambo retread, divided into four different sections. Armed initially with only a knife, Bert (our hero) soon collects flame throwers, grenades, rocket launchers and so on as he bounces along shooting people (for such a Rambo type he's a very rubbery little chappy, this one). It's very fast, pretty tricky and has a nice platform-and-ladders element to give it variety too - a bit of a winner all round really.
    
88° Macho Factor: 78 Explosiveness: 86
Shop 'Til They Drop: 76 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 88

    

Rolling Thunder
US Gold

Another US Gold Megagame from '88, this was a largely monochrome scrolling coin-op conversion with the action mainly taking place on two levels - the ground and an overhead catwalk affair. The whole concept is very James Bond-ish - you play a Rolling Thunder Undercover Police agent on a mission to penetrate the underground fortress of arch-villain Geldra, rescue some hostages and kill him. (All in a day's work really.) There are five basic levels, though for some spooky reason you have to go through the whole lot twice (with extra traps and baddies added the second time) before you reach Geldra at the end game. The sprites are fairly small and skinny (but well animated), controls are neat (though jumping onto platforms can be tricky), and the whole thing is pretty bloomin' hard. I didn't like it that much when I first saw it, but I've warmed to it since. It's certainly made this sort of platform shoot-'em-up pretty easy to describe - you just say the game is "Rolling Thunder-ish".
    
74° Macho Factor: 73 Explosiveness: 70
Shop 'Til They Drop: 71 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 73

    

Dan Dare I, II & III
Virgin

What a completely skillo trio of games! Half shoot-'em-up, half arcade adventure, each flip-screen extravaganza set new standards graphically for its time, and turned out to be very playable indeed. Dan Dare III is perhaps a little easy to complete, but the graphics are easily amongst the best ever seen on the Speccy, with the little jet-pack-equipped Dan and giant Mekon sprites being especially faithful to the comic originals (not so sure about the other baddies though!). And the bouncing bombs and so on are amongst the most spectacular and fun-to-use weapons ever too!
    Dan Dare II ('88), which features a similar sort of gameplay (only this time Dan rides around on a little jet bike) is only marginally less colourful, just as lovingly crafted and perhaps even more involving to play. Lots of traps to avoid, loads of extra weapons and energy to collect, and oodles of baddies to dodge - it's all a bit wizard really. Dan Dare II even offers you an extra-special option to let you play the Mekon, taking on a computer-controlled Dan (though this is an incredibly difficult way to play the game)! Even the original Dan Dare was a pretty playable and graphically impressive little concoction (for the time, at least). Dan Dare - what a hero!
    
87° Macho Factor: 86 Explosiveness: 94
Shop 'Til They Drop: 92 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 87

    

Commando
Elite

The big arcade hit of '85 became the big Christmas hit on the Speccy the same year, and it's a fair measure of its popularity that people still say "that looks a bit Commando-ish". Today the game seems simple in the extreme. It's a big vertical scroller with tiny sprites wandering up a yellow field littered with walls, trucks and lumps of rock to hide behind. And that's about it - there are unlimited bullets and lots of grenades to use, and everything is very faithful to the simple but addictive (and very influential) original. If you don't mind all that yellow it still holds up pretty well.
    
72° Macho Factor: 69 Explosiveness: 73
Shop 'Til They Drop: 76 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 81

    

Army Moves & Navy Moves
Dinamic

There's one thing you have to say about Dinamic games - they're hard. Ridiculously, frustratingly hard. Army Moves is all about driving a little jeep and shooting things, then driving a little helicopter and shooting things, then running around a swamp on foot shooting some more things - and it's hard. Navy Moves (the sequel) is about driving a little rubber dinghy and shooting things, then scuba-diving along and shooting things, then running around a platform-and-laddery submarine shooting things. And it's hard too. Nine out of ten people give up before they get past the third screen, but the tenth person (who's made of sterner stuff than the rest of us) perseveres, and usually comes out of it saying it's the greatest game he (or she's) played in months. Which sort are you?
    
74° Macho Factor: 86 Explosiveness: 79
Shop 'Til They Drop: 74 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 73

    

Light Gun Games
Sinclair Magnum Light Phaser & Cheetah Light Gun

It makes sense really - light gun games just have to be shoot-'em-ups, don't they? There's no two ways about it. No Clay Pigeon Shooting Simulator yet to the best of our knowledge (we're still waiting), but we did get a light gun version of Operation Wolf which is the next best thing (except that it was marred by a horrible white bar flashing across the screen each time you fired, of course). Other delights given away originally with the Sinclair Magnum Light Phaser included Missile Ground Zero (a light gun version of that ancient arcade hit Missile Command, Solar Invasion (a space shoot-'em-up), Rookie (a shooting gallery game along the lines of what you've probably played at the fair), Bullseye (darts, of course) and Robot Attack (a primitive platform game).
    The rival Cheetah weapon had a selection of CodeMasters goodies on show - Jungle Warfare (an Operation Wolf clone), Supercar Trans Am and Advanced Pinball Simulator (two odd games that weren't really shoot-'em-ups at all), F16 Fighting Falcon (an Afterburner clone), Bronx Street Cop and Billy The Kid. These last two are typical shooting gallery/Operation Wolf type games and work very well indeed - simple, yes, but they do exactly what they say they'll do and are about as pure shoot-'em-up as shoot-'em-ups ever get. Worth rather more than mere novelty value, I'd say.
    
77° Macho Factor: 70 Explosiveness: 86
Shop 'Til They Drop: 77 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 73

    
Forgotten Worlds
US Gold

A bit important historically because at the time it came out (mid '89) it was the first really classy Speccy conversion US Gold had done for ages, this fast and flashy Capcom original converted well to our rubber-keyed chum, though perhaps not quite as well as everybody thought it would. I still got the feeling I was slightly out of control half the time and found the 'unusual' control system demanded more getting used to than I was capable of. Still, it's all rather impressive - you play one of two jetpack-equipped chappies (in two-player mode, would you believe) blatting across a crumbling post-apocalyptic landscape, passing all sorts of neat industrial-style stuff along the way - twisted tubing, spinning cog wheels and a bizarre dance of set-squares, protractors and so on. Handy weapon shops crop up along the way ("a quarter-pound of your best four-way lasers please, my good woman") and the whole thing has a very professional feel to it. My only problem is that I often felt a bit out of control, wacked about like a pinball on a giant table. Still, a sterling effort, and deservedly popular.
    
82° Macho Factor: 83 Explosiveness: 81
Shop 'Til They Drop: 80 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 88

    

Bionic Commando
Go!

This game isn't purely a shoot-'em-up I suppose - like many arcade conversions it has strong elements of a number of genres - but it's close enough to count. What we have here is either a shoot-'em-up with an unusually large platform-and-ladders element to it, or a very fast-playing platformer - the choice is yours. I'm not going to go overboard talking about games like this, but one or two of them can't really be ignored - they're shoot-'em-ups as much as they're anything else, and besides (in this case anyway) they're just too good.
    So how's it all work? Well, a bit like the recent Batman: The Movie game actually (which was obviously slightly modelled on this). You play our little hero running around a series of trees, battlements and towers, leaping from platform to platform, swinging on your giant bionic arm (Bat-rope style) to the higher platforms and generally acting the goat. Oh yes, and you shoot lots of people too. Detailed and colourful graphics, a choice of routes to take, a neat gimmick (the bionic arm) and bags of baddies help make a varied and interesting game that's actually a good deal better than 99.9% Of straight shoot-'em-ups anyway. A bit of a stonker really.
    
80° Macho Factor: 79 Explosiveness: 81
Shop 'Til They Drop: 90 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 84

    

Rambo & Rambo III
Ocean

These could hardly be anything other than shoot-'em-ups, could they? The first (from early '86, and based on the film Rambo - First Blood Part Two, explaining the sudden jump to Rambo III for what was only the second game) is very much a Commando clone, but with a bit more of a thinking element to it. Rambo starts slower than the Elite game, and has a bigger, more empty playing area, so the same level of excitement just isn't quite there. Rambo III on the other hand (a Christmas '88 release) is very different - an impressive three parter, each section featuring some very different gameplay. The first is a four-way overhead scroller (like a cross between Commando and Gauntlet) with you, as Sly, dashing around a Russian fort collecting weapons, avoiding infrared security beams, looking for door keys and shooting guards. Part Two is another overhead scroller, but set outside this time, and featuring grenades, more guards and a bit more action. Finally, the third part is a pretty nifty Operation Wolf clone with you in charge of a tank making a bid for freedom against what looks like the entire Russian army. Nice graphics, a fair amount of variety, lots of action - what more could you ask for? (It's better than the film anyway.)
    
80° Macho Factor: 86 Explosiveness: 82
Shop 'Til They Drop: 88 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 82

    

Gauntlet
US Gold

Calling this a shoot-'em-up seems to be stretching the point somewhat, but then what is it? Well, okay, I guess it's sort of a fantasy role-playing game (you get to choose between four suitably Tolkienesque characters at the beginning), and it's very much an arcade adventure (lots of collecting of potions and so on), but when you actually get down to playing it (especially in the very amusing two-player mode) what does 90% of the gameplay turn out to involve? Yes, it's solid shoot-'em-up action all the way!
    The overhead viewpoint, millions of rooms, thousands of simply drawn but menacing baddies and oodles of collectable bits and pieces all add up to one of the most imitated games ever - whether in direct rivals (like Elite's Dandy, which actually came out before it if I remember right) or in more recent things like Xybots and Crackdown, which share the tiny sprites, lots of maze-like rooms and thousands of baddies gameplay. A Megagame then and now, and an all-round classic.
    
83° Macho Factor: 78 Explosiveness: 88
Shop 'Til They Drop: 83 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 82

    

Cabal
Ocean

"Like a kiddies' version of Operation Wolf," they said about Cabal, a copycat coin-op follow-up to the original which probably ended up in more arcades than the (dauntingly oversized) Operation Thunderbolt cabinet - or at least, it seemed that way to me. Yes, the game is certainty more cartoony, but for me that Bionic Commando-type look and the generous splashings of colour added to the game, and made it an equal to its more famous cousins. Cabal plays a bit differently too - it's a flip-screen jobbie for a start, with a whole screen's worth of nasties to be blasted to oblivion before you move onto the next one, rather than the constantly-panning camera effect of Operation Wolf. It's just as effective and earned itself a worthy YS Megagame last Christmas. (Oh, and watch out for Midnight Resistance too, in a very similar vein and looking like the bee's knees.)
    
86° Macho Factor: 80 Explosiveness: 81
Shop 'Til They Drop: 82 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 79

    

The Untouchables
Ocean

Almost like a giant mega-compilation of different sorts of shoot-'em-up, The Untouchables features six multiload levels, each one depicting a different scene from the film. Level One has hundreds of little gangster figures jumping around an eight-way scrolling warehouse scene - the area is quite large (say three screens tall by eight wide) and scrolls around at quite a lick. Level Two is more your Operation Wolf/Cabal lookalike, with your character rolling around the bottom of the screen trying to pick off the baddies (who are hiding behind a couple of trucks). A couple of the other levels (such as the shoot out in the alleyway) are quite Operation Wolf-ish too, but then there's the vertically scrolling railway scene too, and the... But you get the idea (there's a lot to it). The game's all in crystal-clear monochrome and, though each section is perhaps a bit too short to get your teeth into, as both a technical achievement and a film conversion it's no mean feat.
    
83° Macho Factor: 75 Explosiveness: 79
Shop 'Til They Drop: 78 Rebel Death Scumbag Factor: 76

    

SHORTS

    Alien Syndrome/ACE Colourful but rather empty-feeling two-player blaster in the Gauntlet mould, though with much more detailed and three-dimensional sprites. (They're still tiny though.) Your job is to run around a massive lab complex collecting weapons, shooting squishy, sausage-like aliens, and rescuing trapped scientists. (All in a day's work really), though it has to be said the whole shenanakins are about three times as exciting in two-player mode.)
    Road Blasters/US Gold For some reason there was a rash of these gun-equipped car jobbies in the first half of last year, and to be honest none of them were much cop. US Gold put you up against mines, roadside bunkers and oodles of enemy cars in its effort (pretty much as you'd expect), though the fixed cannon means you have to point your car directly at anything you want to hit - not the easiest of tasks. Pretty simple, pretty uninspiring really. Ho hum.
    Obliterator/Psygnosis Giant, highly mappable runaround that looks better than it plays. You have to lollop along the corridors of a dying spaceship looking for spare parts with which to fix your shuttle (and thus escape) while taking on oodles of impressive-looking but hardly-animated-at-all aliens. An unusual icon-controlled control system works well, but generally it's pretty repetitive stuff.
    Chicago 30s/US Gold An interesting little item, predating The Untouchables by a good six months, this little run-around, jump-on-crates, dodge-cars gangster epic is brilliantly presented (everything takes place on a cinema screen framed by curtains, and as you lose lives members of the audience walk out of the cinema in disgust until there are none left!) but ultimately it's pretty thin and samey. A bit of an oddity really.
    Xybots/Domark One of the first of Domark's Tengen conversions (and the first good one, ho, ho), Xybots is one of those unpretentious two-player runaround jobbies, almost like Gauntlet, but viewed very differently - the top half of the screen contains a map and the bottom divides into two windows through which each player sees his view of the action. No spectacular graphics (3D monochrome with very small windows) but it's very playable nonetheless.
    After The War/Dinamic Another Dinamic shoot-'em-up with massive sprites and typically detailed graphics (in mono this time though), the main difference being that it's less difficult to complete. Notable for some particularly violent action featuring ceiling-crawling robots, ED 209 lookalikes (from Robocop) and the biggest handgun this side of Aliens. Rather snazzy, all in all.
    Moonwalker/US Gold Not a great game by any means (but then, not half as bad as it could have been), this is included mainly because it shows how even the most ludicrously inappropriate licence can be made to work - by simply turning it into a shoot-'em-up! A multi-level, multiload extravaganza, it features a remarkable degree of violence for squeaky-clean Michael, with eight-way scrolling Gauntletesque levels where you look down at the action, and horizontal scrollers slightly more in the Operation Wolf mode. Weird.
    Predator/Activision Great graphics and a nice pre-game animation sequence, but this combined beat-'em-up/shoot-'em-up can be very tricky to get to grips with. You play a neat Arnie sprite, yomping around a horizontally-scrolling jungle, wasting oodles of enemy soldiers and confronting the occasional giant space alien, as in the film. The only problem is sometimes you seem to do well, other times you die almost immediately, and there's zilch you can do about it. An odd experience.
    Platoon/Ocean Now this is really odd - a largely shoot-'em-up conversion of a film which (unlike say Robocop) doesn't really lend itself to this treatment. In six multiload sections, incorporating many different types of gameplay (for instance, Level Three with the Vietcong tunnels is a split-screen jobbie with a map to find your way about!), you get to encounter almost every possible Vietnam scenario, from jungle firefights to napalm attacks. Unfortunately it all tends to glorify what the film seemed to condemn, and as such is a bit of a disappointment, especially since the dark graphics often make it fairly tricky to work out just what's going on.
    The Real Ghostbusters/Activision The YS crew's Saturday morning TV treat (though, of course, it's not as good as Trap Door, The Real Ghostbusters hit the Speccy in the summer of '89. Okay, so the game (a two-player, four-way scrolling blaster using brassy, multicoloured sprites and lumbered with a particularly unweidly control system) didn't exactly set the world alight, but at least it was (arguably) some improvement on the best-selling, but primitive, original.
    Nemesis The Warlock/Martech Based on the famous 2000AD character (of course), Nemesis was a platform-and-ladders shoot-'em-up (with a bit of slash-'em-up thrown in), drawn in particularly glorious monochrome. It was also a Megagame (surely the only time in Martech's history, ho, ho) and captured the feeling of the original strip very well, from the gothic-style screen surrounds to the very accurate little sprites themselves. A bit of a corker in fact.
    Prohibition/Infogrames Set in 1930s Chicago, this Operation Wolf lookalike from the days before they were actually called 'Operation Wolf lookalikes' still plays fairly well. It's largely monochrome, and the scrolling's fairly jerky, but things are kept moving at quite a brisk pace, and it holds a genuine feeling of tension you don't really get in Op Wolf, as you search around each building against the clock, looking for the gunman who's after your blood. Simple but entertaining, and a bit of a winner.
    
SO YOU WANNA WRITE A SHOOT-'EM-UP?

It's easy peasy pie, really it is. All you have to do is bear firmly in mind the essential main ingredients, and not worry too much about missing out the non-essential stuff. Like so...
    Our Hero Only one thing needed here really - gigantic cable-like muscles that'd put Arnie himself to shame. Everything else (brain and so on) is optional - we're not exactly talking strategy games here after all.
    His Weapon Don't believe what they tell you - bigger really is better. Ideally it should be about six feet long, covered in loads of nobbly projections, and fired menacingly from the hip.
    The Name Of The Game Obviously something big and butch is needed, but sadly all the good ones (Commando, Platoon, Green Beret) have already gone. Try an obscure regiment (Royal Catering Corps Sim anyone?), or that old stand-by, the totally meaningless word (GryZor, Turrican - you name it).
    Scenery Yellow's great - bung in some green bushes to hide behind and you're away. The other alternative is the floor-and-catwlk combination. It's workmanlike, and the same doorway crops up every few feet like they do in Hanna Barbera cartoons - but nobody'll ever notice.
    The Baddies No effort at all here. For your common cannon fodder a repeat of the main character in another colour will do, while for the end-of-level jobs tanks and lorries work best (cinch to draw, see).
    Collision Detection Ha ha ha. Ho ho ho.
    

Many thanks to Softy Nonowt for allowing me to pinch the bulk of this article's text from his archive



YS Cross-references
R
pAfter The War/DinamicYS48
71
C
pAfter The War (in The Ultimate Collection)YS72
70
R
pAlien Syndrome/ACEYS35
8
 
pArmy Moves/DinamicYS18
FUT
R
pArmy Moves/ImagineYS19
8
 
pArmy Moves/SummitYS51
40
 
pArmy Moves (in 4-Most Warzone)YS70
 
 
pBionic Commando/Go!YS29
FUT
R
pBionic Commando/Go!YS31
9
 
pBionic Commando (in The Crash Collection Vol 1)YS45
 
 
pBionic Commando (in Coin-op Hits)YS49
 
 
pBionic Commando (in Multimix III)YS69
 
 
pCabal/OceanYS45
NEWS
R
pCabal/OceanYS47
93
 
pCabal/Hit SquadYS70
81
 
pChicago 30s/Topo SoftYS40
FUT
R
pChicago 30s/US GoldYS41
69
 
pCommando/EliteYS1
PRE
R
pCommando/EliteYS2
9
 
pCommando/EncoreYS37
6
 
pCommando (in Frank Bruno's Big Box)YS38
 
r
pCommando/EliteYS91
78
R
pDan Dare/VirginYS11
9
 
pDan Dare (in Now Games IV)YS19
 
G
 Dan Dare (in The 50 Best Speccy Games Ever!)YS94
No.49
 
pDan Dare II/VirginYS26
FUT
R
pDan Dare II/VirginYS27
9
 
pDan Dare II/VirginYS28
NEWS
 
pDan Dare III/VirginYS44
NEWS
 
pDan Dare III/VirginYS49
PRE
R
pDan Dare III/VirginYS50
89
 
pForgotten Worlds/US GoldYS39
FUT
R
pForgotten Worlds/US GoldYS43
86
C
pForgotten Worlds (in Platinum)YS62
88
r
pForgotten Worlds/Kixx YS68
83
 
pGauntlet/US GoldYS10
NEWS
P
pGauntlet/US GoldYS13
PRE
R
pGauntlet/US GoldYS14
9
 
pGauntlet/KixxYS35
8
C
pGauntlet (in History In The Making)YS38
UNR
r
pGauntlet/Kixx YS38
9
G
pGauntlet (in The YS Official Top 100 Part 3)YS72
No.38
 
pGauntlet (in Multimixx IV (Gauntlet Compilation))YS76
 
 
pGreen Beret/ImagineYS5
NEWS
R
pGreen Beret/ImagineYS6
9
 
pGreen Beret/Hit SquadYS47
83
G
pGreen Beret (in The YS Official Top 100 Part 1)YS70
No.92
 
pIkari Warriors/EliteYS13
FUT
 
pIkari Warriors/EliteYS27
NEWS
R
pIkari Warriors/EliteYS29
8
C
pIkari Warriors (in Fists 'n' Throttles)YS38
6
 
pIkari Warriors/EliteYS38
NEWS
 
pIkari Warriors/EncoreYS53
57
 
pMoonwalker/US GoldYS47
FUT
 
pMoonwalker/US GoldYS48
PRE
R
pMoonwalker/US GoldYS49
75
 
pNavy Moves/DinamicYS39
PRE
R
pNavy Moves/DinamicYS42
81
 
pNavy Moves/Hit SquadYS78
60
 
pNemesis The Warlock/MartechYS16
PRE
R
pNemesis The Warlock/MartechYS19
9
 
pObliterator/Melbourne HouseYS39
FUT
 
pObliterator/PsygnosisYS40
6
 
pOperation Thunderbolt/OceanYS46
FUT
 
pOperation Thunderbolt/OceanYS47
PRE
R
pOperation Thunderbolt/OceanYS48
93
 
pOperation Thunderbolt/Hit SquadYS73
90
P
pOperation Wolf/OceanYS31
PRE
R
pOperation Wolf/OceanYS36
9
C
pOperation Wolf (in The Biz)YS51
90
 
pOperation Wolf/Hit SquadYS63
87
G
pOperation Wolf (in The YS Official Top 100 Part 2)YS71
No.58
 
pPlatoon/OceanYS19
NEWS
 
pPlatoon/OceanYS25
FUT
 
pPlatoon/OceanYS26
PRE
R
pPlatoon/OceanYS28
7
C
pPlatoon (in The In Crowd)YS40
UNR
 
pPredator/ActivisionYS21
NEWS
 
pPredator/ActivisionYS27
FUT
R
pPredator/ActivisionYS28
7
C
pPredator (in The In Crowd)YS40
UNR
G
pPredator (in The YS Complete Guide To Film And TV Licences)YS60
66
R
pProhibition/InfogramesYS21
7
P
pRambo/OceanYR21
PRE
R
pRambo/OceanYS3
8
 
pRambo/Hit SquadYS46
80
G
pRambo (in The YS Complete Guide To Film And TV Licences)YS60
78
 
pRambo III/OceanYS34
FUT
R
pRambo III/OceanYS37
8
 
pRambo III/Hit SquadYS64
65
 
pRoad Blasters/US GoldYS25
NEWS
R
pRoad Blasters/US GoldYS34
8
 
pRoad Blasters (in Coin-op Hits)YS49
 
 
pRobocop/OceanYS34
FUT
P
pRobocop/OceanYS36
PRE
R
pRobocop/OceanYS39
8
 
pRobocop/OceanYS45
NEWS
C
pRobocop (in Hollywood Collection)YS60
85
G
pRobocop (in The YS Official Top 100 Part 1)YS70
No.94
 
pRobocop/Hit SquadYS75
93
G
 Robocop (in The 50 Best Speccy Games Ever!)YS94
No.40
 
pRolling Thunder/US GoldYS25
FUT
R
pRolling Thunder/US GoldYS27
9
C
pRolling Thunder (in World Beaters Giants)YS38
UNR
 
pThe Real Ghostbusters/ActivisionYS40
PRE
R
pThe Real Ghostbusters/ActivisionYS42
62
 
pThe Real Ghostbusters/Hit SquadYS65
80
 
pThe Untouchables/OceanYS35
NEWS
 
pThe Untouchables/OceanYS46
FUT
R
pThe Untouchables/OceanYS47
94
 
pThe Untouchables/Hit SquadYS69
92
 
pXybots/DomarkYS42
PRE
R
pXybots/DomarkYS44
80
C
pXybots (in TNT)YS58
78
r
pXybots/Hit Squad YS71
92
Some info from Sinclair Infoseek+SPOT*ON

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