Flying Shark

by Dominic Robinson, Drew Northcott, Gavin Wade, John Cumming, David John Rowe
Firebird Software Ltd
Crash Issue 49, Feb 1988   page(s) 20

Producer: Firebird
Retail Price: £7.95
Author: Dominic Robinson and John Cumming of Graftgold

In Firebird's latest Taito coin-op conversion, the player gets the chance to take to the skies in the Flying Shark, a World War II biplane, and fly a solo mission into enemy territory.

The action is played over a vertically scrolling backdrop, with squadrons of enemy fighters flying into attack from the top of the screen. The ground is littered with gun emplacements, and tanks and ships attempt to blast you out of the sky with a volley of well-aimed shots.

The Flying Shark is equipped with a double-barrelled gun and an unlimited supply of ammunition to blast the enemy. The firepower is increased when the floating symbol dropped occasionally by the last aeroplane in a squadron is collected. To supplement the guns are a limited supply of smart bombs which destroy everything on screen.

There are five levels to conquer, with further levels including confrontations above the high seas against missile-spitting battle ships and patrol boats.

The player starts off with a fleet of three planes, and extra ones are earned at 50,000 and 150,000 points, and for every 150,000 points thereafter.


Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: extremely detailed monochrome objects with smoothly-scrolling background.
Sound: effective gunshot and explosion noises
Options: definable keys

Flying Shark is certainly a fast shoot-'em-up, and boats plenty of action - but I did find the small playing area and the monochromatic graphics a little off-putting. Another annoying point is the fact that the attack patterns never vary from game to game, though to be fair there's far too many to memorise. Still, if you like shoot-'em-ups, give Flying Shark a go.
BEN [82%]

Authors Cumming and Robinson must have rattled this one off at a fair pace! It seems like only yesterday that these two were coming out with 'original' games at Hewson. They may have lost their originality at Firebird, but they've still come out with a superbly playable and terribly addictive game. The action is fast and the graphics attractive, and the only thing lacking is a decent tune. The Graftgold/Firebird combination seems to have worked.
PAUL [85%]

I've never seen the arcade game, but if this conversion is anything to go by, the coin-op must be something special. Firebird have put together a marvellous game, which looks and plays very much like 1942, with the objective being to advance as far forward as possible and shoot every object that moves. One minor annoyance is that plane is the same colour as the surroundings, but nevertheless that niggle doesn't stop Flying Shark being one of the best arcade conversions I've ever played.
DAVE [87%]

Presentation: 81%
Graphics: 80%
Playability: 85%
Addictive Qualities: 89%
Overall: 85%

Summary: General Rating: Another great shoot-'em-up from the Robinson/Cumming partnership.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 27, Mar 1988   page(s) 67

Reviewer: Mike Gerrard

By jove I enjoyed that. In fact I enjoyed it so much my joystick's all hot and sticky. I'll have to let it cool down before I dare go back and do it again. Do what? Why, play Flying Shark of course - what did you think I was talking about?

I'll gather my wits while I write this review. One... two... three. Right, that's my wits gathered in, now on with the comments. Flying Shark is Firebird's coin-op conversion of Taito's arcade favourite, which I haven't seen 'cos I stay here writing reviews while everyone else goes down the arcades to check out what's happening. Trouble is, they never come back and with games like this around I can see why.

It's a vertical scrolling shoot-'em-up in the style of earlier raves of mine like Slap Fight and Moon Strike where the action's non-stop. You're a lone fighter pilot and you have to blast your way through five levels of enemy forces, with a quick breather when you touch down on the runways in-between levels. That's if you make it that far, of course. The first level is mainly over jungle, with tanks and gun emplacements on the ground, and planes buzzing round in the air like manic mozzies. Your fire-power's pretty hot, however, and I do like these games where you can belt your way to a decent score right from the off rather than being wiped out in the first ten seconds. Or maybe it's just the way I jiggle my joystick.

At the end of the first level there's a massive tank which took me about a dozen games and a lot of joystick-jiggling to get past. I was then confronted with action over the oceans where the planes and gun-boats and battle ships soon converted my Flying Shark into the sea-bound variety.

On your side, you've got three lives, with each life having three smart bombs. These wipe out all the enemy on the screen when used, as smart bombs should. There are bonus bombs to be earned in the shape of letter B's that you might sometimes find under a wiped-out tank or elsewhere, and you can also increase your fire-power by flying into one of the circling S's that appear occasionally. The first of these gives you a double-barrel blast, then a triple-blast, and so on... though I've never picked up more than two before being deaded. If you manage to wipe out all the enemy on the screen while your '1-Up' symbol flashes, you can also gain bonus points, and you've got to make it to 50,000 before you get your first extra plane.

The graphics are great, very smooth, and it's almost worth crashing into an enemy plane just to see the way you both twirl down to the ground. Well, it's worth doing once. Programming's by Dominic Robinson, and the music by Steve Turner is so terrifically fabby-groovy-cool it seems a shame to start the game sometimes. You can use joysticks in profusion or the redefinable keyboard in one or two-player mode. A neat little touch is the way the high-score table remembers your initials so you don't have to retype them each and every time. And that's the end of the news. This is Mike Gerrard, Your Sinclair, with a sticky joystick.

Graphics: 9/10
Playability: 9/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Summary: Flying Shark has to be one of the most addictive shoot 'em ups ever. It certainly made my joystick sticky!

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 70, Jan 1988   page(s) 18,19

Label: Firebird
Author: Dominic Robinson, John Cumming
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tamara Howard

I approached Flying Shark with a certain amount of trepidation. It's been a long time coming and it suffered a change of programmer halfway through. Usually things don't look hopeful in this situation.

Except that in this case the replacement programmers just happen to be two of the best programmers currently working on the Spectrum: Dominic Robinson (Uridium and Zynaps) and Steve Turner (Quazatron and Ranarama).

No surprise than that Flying Shark is a truly wonderful conversion.

Those who have played the coin-op will doubtless be muttering in the corner, protesting that it's too hard a game, things move around far too quickly and how on earth could anyone do anything like that on the Spectrum. How indeed? Well, Firebird has managed it!

For those of you who don't know, Flying Shark is a sophisticated top-to-bottom scrolling shoot-'em-up a la Lightforce, involving a little biplane and the most incredible amount of enemy fighters, tanks and ships.

You just keep going and shooting, picking up bonuses and improving your fire-power, all the better to shoot more things. So what makes it so special?

It's brilliantly done, that's what.

The coin-op is fast and furious action all the way. Things just keep hurtling themselves towards you, and it's a case of constant pressure on the Fire button. The Spectrum conversion is extraordinarily accurate and keeps up the same pressure, with the waves coming at you in the same patterns, and bonuses appearing in the same places. The quality of scrolling - in particular - is very fine.

To collect a bonus you first have to shoot out the planes in a special wave. In the original, these were always red, but in the conversion they're yellow - hardly a serious detraction from the original. Your bonus, and extra weapon, new smart bomb, extra thousand points must them be picked up. Extra weapons are tricky things. They jig about the screen, flying off the edge and re-emerging, and it's perfectly possible to miss them altogether. Everything else, thankfully, stays still.

Off-screen movement is an interesting extra. The coin-op sort of scrolled horizontally a bit too, as well as the serious vertical scrolling bits. So you get an extra playing area to each side as well. Although you can't actually see what's going on at the sides, it is possible to move right off the screen, and then reappear in glowing triumph, having just mangled a coupla tanks.

Tanks? Yup, tanks. As well as the planes, there are tanks and ships to contend with too.

Which brings us on (rather neatly I thought) to the question of space. Obviously, you're up in the air, and the tanks are down on the ground. And the feeling of the space between the two is brilliantly done. Subtle shadows beneath the treetops give an impression of depth, and the way things move underneath each other creates a real feeling of height.

Only one gripe. Everything is monochrome - that's perfectly understandable. But does it have to be yellow? It does pall after a while. Couldn't we have had the levels in different colours? But I liked the red flashing screen as the smart bombs exploded and I'm also a fan of the Steve Turner music which sounds like an old New Order track!

I can't tell you how much I love Flying Shark. Well I'm doing it now, but it's just great. It'll keep you hanging on the edge of your seat.

If you're looking for originality, it's not going to do a lot for you. But if you want a fast, difficult faithful conversion, go for it.

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Overall: 10/10

Summary: Marvellous conversion that loses none of the speed, difficulty or excitement of the original. An absolute Classic treat.

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment) Issue 5, Feb 1988   page(s) 42

Is it a Firebird? No, it's a bi-plane...

Bi-planes are not exactly state-of-the-art aerial fighting machines and certainly not the obvious choice for combat against the overwhelming odds found in Firebird's second coin-op conversion Flying Shark.

It's a vertically scrolling shoot-em up in which you must fly your trusty if ancient biplane through five levels of continual bombardment from other aeroplanes as well as tanks and boats. Every so often some beefier opponents will loom up behind you and you must destroy these before they reach the top of the screen, otherwise they go into "berserker' mode and really give you what-for.

The enemy attack in waves and as you're only armed with a front firing gun, their sheer numbers can prove overwhelming. Never give up hope though because extra firepower is available if you manage to shoot a wave of aeroplanes and catch the resulting flashing square. Manage this twice and your firepower is increased threefold making your job slightly easier. You also have three smart bombs (initially) but you have to go easy on these if you want to survive to the end of the level.

Alternatively, at the end of a wave, you may be lucky enough to grab an extra thousand points, or even a bonus life to add to the three you start off with.

Take some elements from Moonstrike, throw in a bit of 1942, add a pinch of Lightforce and you'll have some idea of Flying Shark - incredibly frustrating, playable and addictive.

Reviewer: Andy Smith

C64/128, £8.95cs, £12.95dk, Imminent
Spec, £7.95cs, Out Now
Ams, £8.95cs, £14.95dk, Dec/Jan 88

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 70/100
1 hour: 80/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 70/100
1 month: 50/100
1 year: 30/100

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Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 6/10
IQ Factor: 4/10
Fun Factor: 8/10
Ace Rating: 893/1000

Summary: Playability with teeth!

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 76, Feb 1988   page(s) 35

MACHINES: Spectrum/CBM 64/Amstrad/Atari ST
SUPPLIER: Firebird
PRICE: Spectrum (£7.95)/CBM/Amstrad cass and Disk (£8.95/£12.95)/Atari ST (£19.95)

Taito's Flying Shark may be hot from the arcades but Firebird's conversion is really only lukewarm. Somehow it just fails to come alive. The shark has lost its bite.

However, if you've never played the coin-op, you won't know what you're missing.

Now it's own up time. I've never been the greatest Spectrum fan. The games have always suffered when compared to those on the Commodore 64. But I found Flying Shark much more playable on the Speccie than the 64. I was able to get much further into the game. Strange but true.

In both games you, as the lone pilot, take off from an aircraft carrier, armed with an endless supply of bullets and a few bombs to battle through five levels of planes, tanks, gun emplacements patrol and battleships.

You need quick reactions to blast those pesky pilots out of the air. Hitting the space bar enables you to drop smart bombs which can wipe out a whole screen of opposition. But you only have a limited supply, although you can pick up fresh supplies.

This game is all about scoring. By blasting the yellow squadron Out of the sky you get 1000 points. Destroying the red planes you get extra firepower if you can pick up the symbol.

Wiping out the blue planes gives you the chance of an extra life.

And that's basically the game. It's ever onwards into the wide blue yonder. Finger on the fire button.

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Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 6/10
Value: 8/10
Playability: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 3, Feb 1988   page(s) 54,55

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.95
Commodore 64 Cassette: £8.95, Diskette: £12.95


Firebird's conversion of the arcade hit has a first Telecom Soft appearance by Dominic Robinson (ex-Hewson), as the Graftgold programmer who did the Spectrum conversion, while Catalyst Coders took care of it for the Commodore. The packaging confuses by its (excellent David Rowe) picture of a World War II Kittyhawk aeroplane, when the game involves World War I bi-planes. Never mind, the story tells of a one-man fight through hell and licensing deals from Taito arcade machines.

This is a respectable rendition of the original vertically scrolling Taito coin-op, which basically pits a single player against hordes of other fighter planes, tanks, guns and seaborne craft killing everything that flies or scrolls along the ground towards you.

Flying low over enemy territory (which could be Japan, but is probably a fantasy land!), the objective is to get through all five levels of increasing difficulty, learning the strategies required to survive.

Extra weaponry is collected - a la Nemesis - as the game progresses and dependent on the amount of enemies shot - doubled firepower and a wider field of fire are two earlier additions. Destroying an entire squadron of yellow planes earns 1000 bonus points, destroying the red squadron provides extra fire power through a collectible symbol, and blue squadrons give an additional plane.

Little more than an out-and-out scrolling shoot-'em-up - maybe what Elite's 1942 should have resembled last Christmas - Flying Shark does not attempt to innovate over past shoot-'em-ups, but represents some of the best around. And it is a good conversion, if a little tricky to get to grips with.

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Overall: 83%

Summary: As you would expect from Dominic Robinson, the Spectrum Flying Shark, is a fine and very playable conversion. Although the playing area is monochromatic, the drawing is so highly detailed, using effective shading to highlight the different terrain, that it wins out. A problem with other mono scrolling shoot-'em-ups, that of the bullets blending with the background so they become hard to see, is overcome in Flying Shark by making them large and so simple to spot. It is also more playable than the Commodore version, with more fair levels of difficulty.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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