£9.95 cass/£14.95 disk
Reviewer: Jonathan Davies
If US Gold was foolhardy enough to tackle OutRun, Activision must have been utterly crackers when it bought the licence to this one. With more hydraulics than a fleet of JCBs, and extraordinarily fast graphics, Afterburner is another one for the "Gosh! Wot, on the Speccy? Gerraway!" brigade. However as we all know, if it's got the right name on the box, just about any old dross can be made to sell like, well, like very fast.
Not that Afterburners is any old dross, of course. Certainly not. But while it packs quite a punch graphically, there seems to be a gaping void where the gameplay should have been inserted. Just like the coin-op version, in fact.
Hokay, for those of you who haven't seen it in the arcades and missed the Megapreview a couple of issues ago, the game goes like this. Launch your F-14 Tomcat from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, zoom along at Mach 96 and shoot the marauding hordes of Russi... sorry, enemy aircraft who scoot around taking pot-shots at you, stopping for refuelling occasionally.
Nothing frighteningly original there, I know, but where Afterburner excels is in the graphics. Even on the Speccy conversion, the speed at which sprites are wanged around the screen is phenomenal, especially considering that as your F-14 banks, the ground and all the clobber littered about on it bank too, so all the sprites have to be rotated around. The mathematics behind it doesn't bear thinking about. But then what maths does?
As you can probably imagine, colour pretty well goes out of the window once again, making me wonder where the Spectrum got its name.
Well fast it may be. So fast that you'll often be wiped out without knowing what's hit you. The trouble is, though, that there's very little to do. Your guns fire automatically, missiles lock on as soon as your sights pass over the target, so all you have to do really is dodge enemy fire and launch the odd missile now and then. This may be fine for some people, but after a few minutes I was pounding my fists on the keyboard, demanding to see the manager.
While I can't help but quake at the sheer power of the graphics routines, hum along to the 128K tunes and snigger as yet another Comm er, baddy goes down in flames, the thing that amazes me most about Afterburner is that it's totally devoid of any addictive qualities whatsoever. Not many, anyway. I suppose that some of you might want to keep going to see all the various levels and refueling sequences, but it's not really worth playing just for the shooty bits.
Buy it for the speed, graphics, free stickers and posters if you must, but be aware that they're covering up a serious lack of content. Damning perhaps, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.
It's damp and it's dark
But it's always quite merry
When you're locked down the cellar
With PILLAR & PELLEY!
Reviewer: Rich Pelley
Let's face it, the only reason you're reading this review is because you've got nothing better to read - not because you've never heard of Afterburner and want to know what it's about. I mean, everyone's heard of Afterburner! I even had an in depth discussion with my Gran about it once! But seeing as the more I write the more I get paid, let's have a quick recap.
On first play, you'll probably think "wow' and go around annoying your family by telling them how good this new game you've just got is, and then wondering why from then on every time you enter a room everyone else suddenly leaves. The graphics, if a little lacking in any colour whatsoever, chugg along at a cracking rate, and your plane dips and dives, turns and rolls as you fly into the screen very effectively. Hoards of baddies zoom at you, you fire your machine gun at them, then lock on and despatch a missile or 2. There's then a convincing explosion and a 128K explosion-type-noise (or 48K beep).
But this is just about all that you can do - for level after level. It's very easy too as there's nothing you can crash into (not even other planes - you can only be hit down by enemy missiles which are for the most part easy to avoid), and your machine guns and missiles fire and lock on automatically. You've got absolutely tonnes of lives too, so games tend to be pretty lengthy. Okay, so there are loads of levels (which load in a few at a time), including various (automatic) re-fuelling sequences, and a natty bit where you have to fly though a big canyon, but the gameplay does remain very samey throughout. It is however very addictive and cheap, so by all means scoop it up now if you didn't before.
THE COMPLETE YS GUIDE TO SHOOT-'EM-UPS PART 1
Where'd we all be without shoot-'em-ups, eh, Spec-chums? Well, we'd all have much smaller games collections, that's for sure! Join MATT BIELBY for an epic blast through nearly a decade of firepowered Spec-fun...
Blimey! The complete guide to shoot-'em-ups, eh? A bit of a mammoth task you might be thinking (and you'd be blooming right! It's taken me absolutely ages!). It's so blinking gigantic in fact that we've had to split it in two to save the whole ish from being packed to the gills with ancient shooty-shooty games and very little else!
So how's it all going to work? Well, this issue we spotlight those hundreds of games where you control a little spaceship, aeroplane or what have you, while next time round we'll be wibbling on for ages about those blasters where you command a man, creature or robot - things like Operation Wolf, Gryzor, Robocop (the list is endless, I'm sorry to say). Yes, I know it's a bit of an arbitrary way to divide the whole subject up in two, but it's the best I could come up.
Anyway, if you 're all ready, let's arm the missiles, oil the cannons, buckle our seatbelts and go kick some alien ass! (Or something.)
SO WHAT EXACTLY MAKES A SHOOT-'EM-UP A SHOOT-'EM-UP?
Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, it's a game where simple reaction times count for (almost) everything, and the actual shooting of various baddies constitutes the major part of the gameplay. It's just about the oldest form of computer game going (Space Invaders was pure shoot-'em-up, for instance), short of mad Victorian chappies crouching down inside big wooden cabinets and pretending to be chess machines. It's one of the most enduring forms too - hardly an issue of YS goes by when we don't review at least a couple of newies, and it's the rare arcade-style game (sports sims and puzzlers excepted) that doesn't include at least a small shoot-'em-up element in there somewhere as part of the gameplay.
But back to the case in hand. What we're talking about here are the pure shoot-'em-ups - games where the wiping out of waves of aliens or other baddies is everything (though let's be fair, the violence in most of these is very abstract and minimal). They easily divide into four major types, depending on how you view the action. And you can read all about them over the page.
THE FIRST EVER SHOOT-'EM-UP
Goodness knows - Space Invaders is the obvious answer, but most of the other early arcade games were shoot-'em-ups too - Defender, Asteroids, Galaxian and the rest. To find out what made it onto the Speccy first, well, we'll have to look back in the vaults and see what we come up with, shan't we?
Right, here we are with the very first issue of Your Spectrum (later to evolve into Your Sinclair), cover date January 1984. Flick to the review section and we have two Space invaders-type games, both from long-forgotten Anirog Software - Galactic Abductor and Missile Defence. The second issue (Feb 84. believe it or not) brings us such delights as Xark (Contrast Software), a Defender-type game and Alien Swoop (a Galaxians rip-off), while in issue three had Bug Byte's Cavern Fighter (a tunnel-based jobbie, like an early version of R-Type).
Hmm. Let's go back a bit further, shall we? All the early computer games mags were listings based (ie had lots of crap Basic games printed out line by line over oodles of pages, as if Program Pitstop had run rampant over the whole mag!) so we might find something in there. Believe it or not find something in there. Believe it or not, I have the very first issue of the very first computer games mag in the country sitting right here on my desk, cover-dated November 1981. There's only one Sinclair game in here (for a ZX80 or 81 - a Speccy forerunner - and taking up a whole 2K!). It's called City Bomb, and it's a sort of shoot-'em-up. Apparently you're in a plane at the top of the screen and have to bomb the city beneath you, flattening out a landing strip so you can put down safely. Thrilling stuff, eh? As for commercially available stuff, it's all lost a bit too far back in the mists of time to be sure. Still, shoot-'em-ups started emerging for the Speccy pretty soon after the machine came out, certainly by the end of '82. Throughout 83 people like Quicksilva and Bug Byte were churning out Space Invaders, Asteroids and Scramble clones advertised as 'being in 100% machine code and in colour' too, so perhaps it was one of those. Exciting stuff, eh?
In the great YS Guide To... tradition, for a one-off-only special occasion we've adapted our normal rating system to accommodate the shoot-'em-up theme. Here's how they work...
Are there oodles of inventive, nasty and extremely difficult-to-kill baddies all over the place (including the biggest, meanest muthas ever at the end of each level) or do you end up fighting a fleet of Trebor Mints?
Are there oodles and oodles of well-thought-out and spectacular weapons available to pick up and use, or do you have to make do with the same crap little peashooter throughout the game?
Unusually, the lower the score the better here. Basically, is this exactly the same as every other shoot-'em-up ever (in which case it'll get a high score for being chronically unoriginal) or does it have something innovative and special about it to set it apart from the crowd?
Does everything make a degree of sense in Speccyvision, or is it all a jumbled mass of pixels, with bullets, missiles and even little spaceships winking in and out of view willy-nilly?
A prime example of the sort of arcade conversion everyone said 'can't be done on the Speccy' and guess what? Yes, everyone was right! Still, that doesn't mean Activision didn't make a very brave try. Indeed, the speed with which they've got the various pretty large sprites (massive in the case of the F14 Tomcat you control) whanging around all over the screen is pretty impressive, to say the least. The only problem is - there isn't really much of a game hiding underneath the flash (and I know plenty of people will disagree with me, but I found pretty much the same thing to be the case with Space Harrier, Galaxy Force and all those other into the screen jobbies), a fault of Sega (the coin-op people) rather than the people who worked on the Speccy version.
The scenario, as you all probably know, is your slightly oudated 'shoot down all those nasty Russian planes' jobbie. There are some neat touches (the inflight refueling sequences spring to mind) but with automatically firing guns, automatically locking missiles and so on it's really just a case of dodging enemy fire (try a constantly circling movement around the screen) and launching the odd missile. Sorry, but for me this 'unconvertible' game turned out to be exactly that.
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