by Costa Panayi
Vortex Software
Crash Issue 07, August 1984   (1984-07-26)   page(s) 14,15

Tornado Low Level (TLL) is from the same programmer who brought us Android and Android 2 and it bears a family likeness to the graphics of Android 2. Again, we have a rapidly scrolling series of three dimensional graphics which will move across the screen in any direction. The Tornado of the title is a swing wing jet fighter which you control in a mission to eradicate a series of evil dots on the landscape. In this respect all the missions can be seen as training, since the 'enemy' dots in question are spattered around the very buildings which make up the township around your base.

The total playing area is about 36 times the size of the screen display which consists of a square, offset so that to the right are the instruments. These include 'radar view some 4 times the screen area on which targets appear as white dots, an altimeter, fuel gauge, targets destroyed status and time.

The landscape is seen, as in Android 2 from a severe birds eye view perspective. Ground level is approximately one third of the way up the altimeter as features included are sea and cliffs, which means sea level is way below ground level. On the ground features include low and tall buildings, pylons and electric lines, trees, roads and bridges over rivers.

The game commences with a glimpse of the total playing area map, before cutting to the base with the Tornado ready at the end of the runway. Visually, height above the surface is indicated by the shadow of the aircraft which alters accurately depending on the terrain being flown over. Targets are destroyed quite simply by flying over them at virtually zero feet. There are five targets to destroy and when these have gone, more are provided in different positions.

Some targets are randomly placed, even in the water, which may mean underflying the bridge. If your fuel runs low it is possible to land and refuel, turn around and take off again.

Control keys: I/Q up/down, G/H bank left/right, X = take off or change wing mode, M = map (on the ground)
Joystick: ZX 2
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: very good
Graphics: mixed opinions from 'brilliant ' to 'fair, needed more detail'
Sound: average
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 3
Screens: continuously scrolling
Originality: very original

'TLL is a worthy successor to Android 2. One thing to be said is that it isn't actually as arcade exciting as Android Z but that isn't a drawback, because it offers another sort of excitement, not quite simulation, not quite arcade, but somewhere in between. Although it is possible to destroy targets when you are visibly some feet above the ground, you get far more points d you are tower still, so there is a self competitive element in the game. Another thing to watch out for is that there is a tower too tall to fly over. The graphics are remarkably clean looking with a strong use of colour to define buildings, cliffs etc., and full use of normal and bright to create shadows. The 3D effect of your shadow works extremely well, breaking up quite accurately if you are half over a building. I enjoyed TLL as a very playable game and to date I still find it addictive.'

'Watch out for the 2-part loader. First part tells you to disconnect all peripherals except for the Sinclair add-ons. First time round I ignored it (never unplugging the Kempston) and the program crashed. TLL is, in a word, brilliant. The 3D effect really works, it's just as if you're looking down on a real plane flying over a landscape. The graphics are not super-detailed but are very good. I found this game playable and addictive and after a while I found myself flying under bridges, power cables and manoeuvring around trees at low level. In my opinion, this one takes the biscuit.'

'The shadowing works very well in this game to create a sense of depth. This includes the use of normal and bright colours on cliffs, buildings and bridges as well as the shadow of your aircraft. The only inconsistency here is that the aircraft shadow doesn't get bigger or smaller as you go up or down. Flying under bridges and high power cables works very well, as does the effect of low flying behind cliffs, where the shape of your plane may disappear altogether. The only graphical crib is the lack of detail in the buildings, where maybe a few windows would have helped. Sound used is a fair roar or a beep, a nice touch is that on take off the engine note changes when you have achieved sufficient speed for take off. Perhaps a better white noise sound generation would have been better for engine sound. Instructions were not as clear as I would have liked and there appeared to be no real indication as to objectives, or how to go about them. I feel this game probably lacks a little in content, perhaps a few enemy aircraft would have made it more lively. Overall, quite good'

Use of Computer: 83%
Graphics: 79%
Playability: 85%
Getting Started: 70%
Addictive Qualities: 84%
Value For Money: 84%
Overall: 81%

Summary: General rating: Addictive and difficult, generally recommended.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 08, October 1984   page(s) 43,44,45,47

YS announces the last call for flight TLL. Your captains are Ross Holman and Dave Nicholls. We hope you have a smooth flight...

Imagine you're in a swing-wing fighter bomber on a training mission to seek out and destroy enemy targets around an air base. That's right, if you've ever fancied being a Tornado pilot, now's your chance to start training.

The aim of Tornado Low Level (TLL) is to swoop in low over the 'enemy targets' (seen to you as ground markers) and destroy them. Sounds pretty easy, eh? But think again, because your eyes and hands have to work overtime making sure you're on target, at the right height, and that you're not going to hit any of the many hazardous objects which have an annoying habit of getting in your way.

TLL doesn't go for the in-flight realism of Fighter Pilot, but rather it's a cross between an arcade game and a simulation. Whichever category it falls into there's no denying that it's graphically superb. Author Costa Panayi has carried on developing the graphic techniques he used in Android 2; now, with new heights of perfection, you'll find the area of land over which you fly is simulated in incredible detail.

An isometric perspective is used to depict the scenery - the player seeing only a part at any one time. We look down on a landscape of trees, buildings and cliffs which plunge into large areas of water... and the plane is superimposed over them. Clever use of colour - normal and bright - gives the buildings, walls and cliffs a feeling of width, depth and height. The view below scrolls continuously as you fly, wrapping around in all directions; cursor control has been used, presumably to alleviate attribute corruption problems and maintain speed.

And there's more, for not only can your plane bank in either direction, but it can also climb and dive. You don't so much fly over the landscape as through it. The best visual clue to your height is the shadow of your plane on the ground - which behaves very realistically, climbing walls and passing over roofs as you jet over them.

TLL is a slickly-presented piece of software; it's both nicely packaged and offers reasonable instruction options from loading. One minor irritation is that it only caters for keyboard and Interface 2 control, and violently objects to Kempstons and some other peripherals. Vortex reminds everyone to remove these, not on the cassette sleeve but (rather irritatingly) by interrupting loading and sticking up a suitable message.

The instructions are brief and to the point - you're given your mission and a rundown of the instruments. Start the game and for a few seconds you'll see a complete map of the playing area, showing the runway and five flashing blocks that indicate the positions of the targets. The view cuts to the main screen where a region of 22 by 23 cursors act as your window on to the world. Offset to the right are the instruments. Top right is the radar which actually shows a larger area than you'll see through the playing window; here any targets will appear as single pixels. The area currently under surveillance is depicted by a bright square and the whole region scrolls in unison with the main map. Below the radar is an altimeter which shows height above ground level, and completing the gadgetry line-up there's a fuel guage, 'targets destroyed' counter, and current and high scores.

Controlling the plane is simple - just up, down, left and right, plus another key that doubles as a take-off and swinging wings control. The 'M' key can be used to re-examine the map showing your targets, but only while you're sitting on the runway. Pressing a swing-wing key and 'P' together will abort the current game.

To begin with your plane sits at the end of the runway waiting for take-off. Power on and, as it starts to accelerate down the runway, you'll hear the roar of the engines (simulated by a fairly standard beep) which changes in pitch to indicate that you've reached take-off speed and it's time to leave terra firma. Once in the air, you'll delight in your new-found freedom - climbing, banking and diving; in fact, the plane will only line up on 45 degree bearings, though it animates through 16 phases in rotating through 360 degrees. The keyboard response is very good, allowing the fighter to turn in comically tight circles; it may not be realistic, but it's necessary if you want to avoid the obstacles. Pixel by pixel height adjustment allows you to skim at zero feet above the ground - if you dare!

For a while, I was quite happy to just get a feel for the controls and learn how to judge the height of buildings; then I got a bit more adventurous and swung the wings back. This makes things move much more quickly and, although the plane is just as manoeuvrable, your fuel tank runs dry in what seems like no time. The sensation of flying in three dimensions is even more incredible and the shadow thrown by your plane dramatically adds to the visual impact. This really is a very clever piece of programming - disappearing behind buildings, breaking up over trees and dropping down to. appear on the water surface as you go over cliffs.

Once you've marvelled at all these wonderful effects and discovered (the hard way) the height at which you can skim the rooftops or dive under the power cables, it's time to try a mission proper. Here's how my first sortie went.

Having first mentally noted the positions of most of the targets I set off down the runway - tally ho! Pulling back on the stick, I took off, made a sharp bank right over the pylons and saw an enemy target at one o'clock. I needed some practise at swooping in low, circling and lining up on target... finally, I got it right, and my great achievement was marked by an appropriate explosive sound effect. You really do have to be low to destroy them, and the lower you get the more points you score. The targets on level one stay in much the same place each time and gradually I discovered the best way of approaching each of them.

If you begin to run short of fuel - or can't find one of the targets - then you'll need to land; you automatically get refuelled and, of course, you can use 'M' to look at the map again. Landing is tricky and requires some practise. Rule one is never try and land (or take off for that matter) with the wings swept back or you'll crash for sure. Secondly, line your shadow up with the centre of the runway; because of the wrap-around effect, you'll re-appear before in the starting position if you carry on. Don't forget though that precious time is ticking away - so don't hang about, you've got five targets to destroy before you can return to base successfully.

As you get more proficient and progress to new levels, the targets are laid in more difficult positions - near trees or even on the water (which demands some rapid manipulation of the controls). By level four it starts to get really tough, and route planning is necessary if you're to get anywhere near the target. In one instance, you have to fly low over a large lake, zoom under a bridge, bank sharp left between the coast and a small island - and there, at close hand, is the objective. For later levels, targets are placed under pylons, closer to trees and houses, and even in narrow channels between cliffs; for some reason, it all gets easier after level eight or nine. Last thing, beware the objects that you can't fly over... a tower and some tall thin poles are strategically placed to catch the unwary.

TLL not only shows that British software leads the world in quality and innovation, it's also a salutory lesson on just what can be done on the not-so-humble Spectrum.

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash - Crashback Issue 17, June 1985   (1985-05-30)   page(s) 110

Use of Computer: 83%
Graphics: 79%
Playability: 85%
Getting Started: 70%
Addictive Qualities: 84%
Value for Money: 84%
Overall: 81%

TLL was one of the first games where you operated a plane but it wasn't a simulation. The idea behind the game was to fly low over the landscape and destroy the enemy targets, the lower you flew the more likely you were to destroy. At the beginning of the game you are given a quick glimpse of the whole of the playing area and the locations of the targets. The whole game is presented in 3D and you saw the action from slightly above your craft. Once you have destroyed the first six targets another six appear but in places that are harder to get to. At any time during the game you can land and refuel but you must have sufficient space on the runway to be able to stop the plane.

I was never really kean on TLL because I aIways thought there wasn't much to it. Today TLL seems just as boring. The graphics are good but the sound is poor. Playability-wise TLL is good but there isn't enough to the game to make me want to come back after a few goes. Undoubtedly some people like it (that has been proved with its success in the Hotline charts) but to me the graphics are the best things in the game.

I really enjoyed TLL and it still looks good today. It's not a very hard game to play and it only takes a few days to complete (once you've got used to the keys). It hasn't got the lasting appeal that most of today's games have so TLL becomes unplayable and a little monotonous after a few goes.The 3D effect was good but 3D games recently have had a far superior effect.

(Rob) As far as its ratings are concerned the one that would suffer the most would be its Addictive qualities which would go down by about 20 to 25%

(Ben) I wouldn't really quarrel with any of the ratings, except addictiveness and playability, these would go down by 5 and 4% respectively

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash - Run It Again Issue 51, April 1988   (1988-03-31)   page(s) 84

81% Issue 7

TLL involves navigating a landscape sprinkled with houses, pylons, cliffs and bridges in order to eliminate 'enemy dots'. This top-priority procedure (you don't know how dangerous enemy dots can be if you let them get out of hand) is carried out by swooping low over the ground (hence the title - Tornado Low Level).

You always run the risk of crumping your fighter against an obstacle, and once five of the dastardly dots have been wiped out a new mission begins - it's on the same landscape, but this time those devils are hiding below bridges and in the water and all sorts of underhand places.

TLL was seen as a masterpiece when it first appeared, and its appeal has hardly diminished since. The landscape is described in effective, clean washes of colour and the fighter is well-drawn, rotating smoothly. The whole thing handles really well and though destroying evil dots is a bit of an artificial exercise the dynamics of the game come together perfectly.

Perhaps more a simulation than an arcade game, TLL would, I'm sure, still do well at a budget price.

Overall: 76%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 30, September 1984   page(s) 37


WHY any self-respecting pilot should want to fly a jet fighter at high speed through a built-up area a mere 10 or so feet from the ground is difficult to understand but that is the premise behind TLL from Vortex Software.

You are the idiot who has opted for the mission, of course, and your aircraft is the Tornado. You have to take off from a runway and seek six enemy targets represented by small discs. Unfortunately for your health the only way to destroy the targets is to skim above them, thus putting you in the embarrassing situation of risking collision with trees or telegraph poles.

Vortex claims to have produced the best-ever graphics. Such claims should be disregarded on principle but the picture of the town in which the game takes place is beautifully detailed in quasi-3D perspective; the representations of the buildings solid and attractive; and the screen scrolling is absolutely smooth and flicker-free.

The Tornado is less impressive but casts a shadow on the ground which, while irritating at first, becomes very useful as a guide to your altitude and precise position.

There is the mandatory display of fuel gauge, altimeter, time elapsed and so on, as well as a map of the playing area and a small outline of your position and any targets or solid objects nearby.

Because the graphics are so highly-developed, the operating system for the Tornado is simple and cannot be described as a simulation. You cannot accelerate or decelerate except by changing the attitude of your swing wings, and take-off and landing is a matter of pressing the appropriate button at the proper time, although obtaining a good approach to the runway for landing is more difficult. Fuel is limited and there is usually only sufficient time to destroy two targets at most before being forced to land and refuel.

It all adds up to an exciting game, requiring fast reflexes and cool nerve, and if you think you are made of the right stuff, try flying under the telephone lines without panicking. TLL is no picnic.

Chris Bourne

Memory: 48K
Price: £5.95
Joystick: Sinclair

Gilbert Factor: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 34, August 1984   page(s) 36,38

MACHINE: Spectrum
PRICE: £5.95

Tornado Low Level and games like it are the reason why software pundits are beginning to say that British computer games are the best in the world.

It's only a pity that great Spectrum games like TLL and countless others won't sell abroad in any vast quantities because there simply aren't vast numbers of Spectrum owners.

TLL's manufacturers are claiming "the finest graphics yet to emerge from a Spectrum". That's an overstatement - but they are extremely good.

You are at the controls of the swing wing jet fighter. Your mission is to fly low over enemy targets and take them out.

For what is basically an air-attack flight simulation, TLL is surprisingly easy to play and get into.

There are only six keys to worry about. Your jet can bank left, right, move up and down and there is one key to operate the swing wings and another to view the battle map.

The immediate scenery is viewed through a window which takes up three quarters of the screen.

Enemy targets are represented as black dots on the surface - to eliminate them you fly a low pass, being careful not to collide with the ground or any buildings.

To make just one criticism of TLL, I would have preferred to be able to shoot up the enemy installations and I felt a bit cheated that my super-fast, swing-wing jet did not have any fire power on board.

That said, let me put TLL properly in perspective - this is the best flight game for the Spectrum. I rate it even higher than Fighter Pilot and Night Gunner.

Getting Started: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Value: 9/10
Playability: 9/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Personal Computer Games Issue 10, September 1984   page(s) 54,55

MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
CONTROL: Keys, Curs, Kemp, Sinc
FROM: Vortex Software, £5.95

This is the first game from Vortex since their blockbuster Android 2 and has been eagerly awaited, not least at PCG.

The action takes place in a small wrap-around landscape interspersed with lakes. On the ground are buildings, trees, electricity pylons, poles and walls The buildings though are unconvincing and are just red and white blobs.

Your Tornado starts on a runway and after fuelling can take off into the scrolling scenery in search of five enemy bases which you have to destroy. The fighter moves as in Zaxxon with left and right banking but you can explore the landscape in any direction.

At its flight ceiling the plane can avoid all but the tallest buildings and the poles. But to destroy the five bases you must descend to a very low level and fly directly over the disc that passes for a base.

The plane has two flight modes with the wings either forward for landing and slow or swept back for faster and higher scoring flight. There is smooth movement and an excellent shadow of your plane zooms over the ground as you fly.

You are shown a radar screen, altimeter, fuel gauge, time limit and the number of enemy bases remaining on the right of the display. The fuel can be replenished by landing on the runway again and the time limit's no problem.

Some nice touches are the lakes which are below the land level, so surface skimmers must beware of cliff walls. There is also a bridge to fly under which is great fun to have a go at.

On the second mission a base is placed in the water, which makes it a lot harder to get at. On later missions the awkward positioning of discs makes things even trickier.

There are no bullets and bombs in this game but once you get familiar with the controls it's a great program.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 4/10
Originality: 7/10
Lasting Interest: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Award: PCG Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair Programs Issue 24, October 1984   page(s) 28,29

Just when you thought it was possible to use your computer to do something other than fly around and bomb things Tornado Low Level screamed up to the top of the charts, and we are all back where we started.

Not quite back, of course. The graphics of the game are extremely good. Your plane flies over trees, houses, pylons and sea at different heights. Your height is apparent due to the distance your plane is from your shadow. This is a very good way of depicting three-dimensional scenes on screen, and has also been used by Psion in Match Point.

The game is also very difficult, for swooping low over your target at exactly the right point is not as easy as it appears at first sight. Hitting all targets before you run out of time or fuel is virtually impossible without hours of practice.

There is a tendency these days for manufacturers to rely heavily upon excellent graphics, which will make a game attractive in the shops, and to skimp upon other aspects of the game. Tornado has a very eye-catching screen display, but its plot shows little originality.

Tornado Low Level is produced for the 48K Spectrum by Vortex Software, 280 Brooklands Road, Manchester and costs £5.95.

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue October 1984   page(s) 47

Spectrum 48K
Vortex Software

A terrain hugging mission in which you control a swing-wing fighter bomber charged with obliterating enemy ground targets. Shadow graphics are what make this game. The screen picture shows an aerial view of the craft below you moving across the terrain. This is the viewpoint that, in reality, would probably be shared by defence aircraft carrying the look-down radar tat would aid in the destruction of a Tornado engaged in such a fool-hardy low-level penetration mission.

Nevertheless, this is a tough exercise in co-ordination and judgment, even though there are no ground defences or enemy aircraft to obstruct you in your mission. First, you must fuel up. Then you scoot off the runway - it is possible to land and refuel at any time so you can prolong the action for as long as you wish.

By pressing the fire-button it is possible to sweep your wings back for supersonic speed. When attacking targets, which appear as small circles with a central dot, all you have to do is descend to the right altitude, make a low pass directly over the target zone and it will be destroyed automatically. Not as easy as it sounds; you must watch out for power-pylons, trees, houses and other assorted ground clutter which traditionally do little to enhance the aerodynamic qualities of an aeroplane flown directly into them. Program options include advance warning radar and landscape map; there is also a keyboard or joystick option. The multi-screen wrap around landscape is vast. Challenging, but in view of the lack of defences, to be viewed more as an acrobatic exercise, Excellent graphics and it would make sense for Vortex to imporvise on this theme in future programs. Perhaps they should join the helicopter craze!

Overall: 4/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue December 1984   page(s) 153

Vortex Software
280 Brooklands Road
M23 8HD

Nice one Vortex!

A neat flying game, but not a flight simulator I hasten to add, where you control a little swingwing Tornado fighter plane. You see the plan on screen and the scenery, land, city and sea, is done in a sort of 3D perspective, this tends to be a bit "blocky" but is nonetheless effective.

A great effect is the plane's shadow which appears relative to the plane's height and is your main frame of reference when estimating your height above ground.

Your mission, Biggles, is to destroy targets by flying low over them, not low enough = failure, too low = disaster!

I didn't really find that the joystick made the game appreciably easier, and the keys were easy to use for effective control. It's not easy, in fact quite frequently I found myself going round and round the target until I finally got lined up and then failed to get low enough in time, so I ended going round and round again!

A competent game which would be flyers will love, but somehow for me it seemed to be lacking something. Perhaps if you could have shot or bombed the targets it would have helped.

Hypermania I have not got!

Presentation: 80%
Zapability: 82%
Overall: 4/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Top 50 Spectrum Software Classics   page(s) 38

A masterpiece of 3D graphics programming in which you fly a swing-wing Tornado fighter a few feet from the ground to eliminate a series of targets.

The graphics are solidly drawn houses, trees and telegraph lines. The Tornado casts a show which even climbs the walls of buildings. You can fly under bridges and phone lines with nary a flicker on the screen.

It is not the most difficult of games, but the large wraparound playing area and superb graphics give it the edge over most rivals, and make it a real pleasure to play.

Position 36/50

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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