Flash Gordon, Mandrake The Magician, Lothar and The Phantom are the square jawed heroes from the golden age of comics now enjoying a revival in the Saturday morning cartoon show. Flash Gordon's old enemy Ming The Merciless is the chief baddie: he's kidnapped the fab four's kids and is holding them in the depths of his fortress. Ming's message is clear: the foursome must stay out of his plans to take over the world. If they don't, the kids die! - isn't comic strip life simple...
You control gun toting Flash as he attempts to penetrate Ming's fortress against stiff opposition. He is not alone though: a press of the keyboard buttons and his pals come to his aid. Lothar and The Phantom are very useful opening doors, Mandrake can create optical illusions and their cute pet, Zuffy, generally gets in the way.
That's basically it! Guide Flash around the fortress and keep out of trouble! The game's initially very playable and the backdrops are quite colourful, though for the main part the sprites are monochrome. Defenders Of The Earth may appeal to fans of the cartoon series.
Graphics are really good with plenty of colour splashed about, and some of the screen effects are excellent too - with multi-coloured writing filling up the Spectrum's border. Add good tunes and effects - and you end up with a game which is fun for a few goes but soon wears thin with the lack of things to do. All your time is spent blasting away the same monsters each go and following the same paths. Little brain work is involved, except at the start when you have to choose which doors to get your mates to open for you, but after the first go you know exactly what to, killing all fun. Defenders of the Earth will keep fans of the cartoon happy awhile, but they'll soon be looking elsewhere for more playability.
According to my back issue collection, Rich Pelley reviewed this one as a full pricer a mere 10 issues ago, and according to the name tag my Mum's sewed onto the back of my shirt, that seems to be me.
Apparently, I reckoned it was quite good, with excellent graphics and fast-moving gameplay, but perhaps a tad too tricky for its own good. And that's exactly what I think now, because it really hasn't aged at all in the last 10 months as we haven't had too many games like this in recently. In fact it could have easily been released as a full-pricer now (if it hadn't been already) without hardly a complaint (apart of course from that complaint of it being too hard). (Get on with it. Ed)
The plot involves some goodies, the Defenders of the Earth (Flash Gordon plus 3 chums), and a baddy, Ming the Merciless, who has abducted and threatened to kill the Defenders' children to deter them from interfering with his plans to take over the world. You take on the role of Flash, who has to single-handedly make his way through the flip-screen dungeons where the children are being held.
The baddies come at you from both sides and require some jumping, ducking and running away to avoid or hit, although this is rather difficult as they move faster than you. You can only spend about 6 seconds on each screen before the intruder alarm goes off and your energy frantically starts draining - so games have to be played fast and are usually pretty short too. Other hazards include pits and rivers which have to be jumped over, and large monsters which take lots of hits and lives to destroy. All in all, it's not particularly easy.
And the fact that it's 'not particularly easy' is the biggest problem because although it's initially a very addictive game, you'll probably get bored very quickly and give up out of sheer frustration. A better add-on weapon system would have enhanced things enormously - super-laser, machine guns, grenades and stuff lying about would be far more use than the pathetic gun re-charger which is all that's on offer, and would allow you to progress much further into the game and enjoy it a lot more. You can call the help of one of the other 3 Defenders when necessary (to open a door something), although to honest this doesn't really add much to the game. This could have been an ideal opportunity for a few sub-games of something to break up the frantic speed of things a bit.
So, it's technically very impressive but a bit hard with not enough to do because, despite the different scenery, the gameplay doesn't change at all. Much the same sort of thing as I said about it last time in fact, so it can have the same mark as well.
Whilst swinging your pants on a Saturday morning you'll no doubt have caught a glimpse of Defenders Of The Earth on telly, I certainly have - probably 'cos watching pointless cartoons is about the only thing to do which doesn't involve getting out of bed. Anyway, ever seen it? Good, innit? But before you've had time to reduce yourself to the menial age of six, re-name yourself Trev and shriek "A-ducking and a-diving, a-wheeling and a-dealing - we're flippin' crazy", Defenders Of The Earth appears on the Speccy. Blimey!
In case you haven't caught on yet, Defenders Of The Earth the game, that is, is a conversion of the over-popular cartoon of the same name. Our heroes take the form of Flash-pants Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, Lothar The Phantom and pet Zuffy, who all, er... defend the Earth from the nasty, mean, evil and generally not-very-nice-at-all Ming the Merciless who's intent on causing maximum mischief, the scamp. This time, though, Ming's gone completely hatstand and decided to take over the entire world, kidnapping the Defenders kids into the bargain and threatening to kill them if anyone interferes. Cripes!
An extremely cunning plan is devised, dash in, grab the kids, deal with Ming, and dash out again. This is where you come iin, taking on the role of Flash who's been volunteered by the others to do the dirty work whilst they stay home in bed.
Luckily, though, should you get into any real trouble such as a locked door or an impassable chasm, then at the touch of a button one of your chums will be teleported along to help, do their bit, and then beetle off back home again. Funny how everyone else disappears when there's work to be done, eh, folks?
All this might seem terribly inspiring but actually has little to do with the game whatsoever. Basically, we're looking at your standard up-screen and shoot-and-shoot-things alike, where you simply just run about and shoot things all day.
Well, what do I reckon, then? On the plus side, it's quite fast and action-packed - you're not really on one screen for more than a few seconds before hurling yourself onto the next. Graphics are good too - lots of colour and smooth animation. A nice touch is the way you walk behind some of the scenery rather than in front of it - very effective. Should you be so sure, you could even sing along to the theme tune (a decent enough little ditty) which is played at the beginning, but personally I think that I'll skip that bit (I don't know the words). And I'm afraid that's your lot so far as good things go.
Actual games are rather on the short side because the thing is so ruddy hard - and the fact that the game doesn't help either. And another thing, there are no extra lives or weapons to collect. What this means is that you're stuck with the measly pop gun which you're given at the start, with no opportunities to upgrade at all. Sazzen krazzen frazzen. And as for the bit about summoning your friends - simply sellotape the "Call Help" key down and help'll be at hand every time you need it.
Overall I liked what was there, but there simply wasn't enough. All the levels (multiload by the way) are remarkably similar to each other and the whole thing gets slightly too boring all too quickly. Not too bad, but unfortunately still a bit of a turkey. Merry Christmas!
The only thing in the universe that's meaner than a ferret up an elephant's bottom is Ming the Merciless. And the only thing in the universe that can hurt him more than a spiky sea urchin dropped down the front of his trousers are the Defenders of the Earth.
Get the idea? Well Ming's got a stonker of a brainwave to keep the Defenders of the Earth out of his hair. You see, he's kidnapped the children of the super do goodies, that's Flash's son and the children of Msndrske, Lothar and the Phantom, and locked them all in a cell in the darker and colder than a plain chocolate choc ice of a dungeon within his fortress.
So the team of professional baby sitters must penetrate Ming's fortress, avoiding detection by Ming's security system, and rescue their kids before the Social Services learn of the whole episode and take them all away for good.
You are Flash (are you really?) and you must work your way through Ming's fortress, from flip screen to flip screen, armed with only a handgun and the ability to call other members of team down to perform certain set tasks. For example, if a door needs opening then a quick dab on the space bar will have Dynak-X send the best member of the team (even including Zuffy) to perform the task while Flash tries to provide covering fire without losing any of the shields that he begins the game with. No shields, no Flash, no problem 'cos the game is fast with whole battalions of basket kicking nasties running onto the screen from left and rlght.
Although the action's all there and the colour is very well done, the game is not the hottest around because of the initial levels of difficulty involved, but it should still provide excitement for the shoot 'em up monsters out there and the odd several thousand Defenders fans.
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
Although individual characters and areas are monochrome, different colours are used for them so there's a reasonable a spread of colour - but no scrolling. There's little detail in the characters and less still in some background features. Though there are few of them, sounds are effective and music's good (if wibbly wobbly).
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