I bet you are looking at the screenshots and thinking this is Zaxxon right? I will say this from the start though, it might be isometric and your craft may have delta wings but this sure isn't a clone of Zaxxon. Now that we've got that out of the way I can get on with the review.
I owned this game, it was one of the earliest games I bought. I like Zaxxon and so I thought I would buy this. The first thing you will notice is the controls, they are fine until an explosion occurs or you are hit, at which point your craft is pulled to the left or the right and you lose altitude control for a couple of seconds. The game is already incredibly hard to play even compared to Zaxxon in the arcade, this realistic reaction to the handling of your craft following a nuclear explosion behind you or a collision with enemies is what puts many people off.
So the purpose of the game? You must shoot down all the cruise missiles which fly past in the opposite direction, failing to do so will mean the missile reaches your home land and detonates causing much damage. At the same time there are other enemies, like what looks like a bouncing bomb, which follow you around. The first level is pretty open but then you get fiendish walls with gaps to fly through also, these are very hard to negotiate should a cruise missile on the other side of the screen fly by you and affect your handling when it detonates over your home land! The object is to reach their home land.
The graphics, as you can see above are incredibly well done. The isometric playing area and all the sprites have a quality feel to them and the scrolling is silky smooth. The graphics also kind of show epic proportions nicely, your small [but well drawn] craft is dwarfed by the gigantic walls, it really does make it feel like you are flying through 100 foot fortress walls indeed due to the scale of the graphics proportional to each other. Colour is also well used too, very classy look.
Another feature is the sound, this is the earliest game I know of to use the SID chip filter to produce some very atmospheric sounds. The moment you run the game you are asked to move the joystick so the filter is set correctly. How can I describe the sounds and atmosphere they give you, I would say think of dystopian eighties movies like Escape From New York and you get the idea. The explosions are great too, with the filter being used to great effect. Sadly there is no music.
In conclusion then, without a review you would probably download it thinking this is a classy Zaxxon copy with more natural graphics, however this is not quite what the game is. The affect on the controls due to the cruise missile explosions is unfair and unnecessary to the game in my opinion, and this increases difficulty to the point of frustration. Also the first level which lasts maybe 5 minutes is not how the rest of the game is, the remaining levels are very much like Zaga Mission which is excessive for a shoot 'em up. A missed opportunity I feel, the talent is clearly there to see, just some minor tweaks in game design and play controls would make a massive difference.
Unfortunately all available emulator tape images of this game appear nuked so it is not possible to know how the last few levels play as they are full of corrupted graphics data.
|GRAPHICS - 9/10|
|Some of the best graphics in its time. Great scale, excellent use of the C64's colours and hardware scrolling. Definition of the sprites is good for the time.|
|SOUND - 7/10|
|Sound effects are incredible, using the SID filter to great effect. There is no music at all though on the title or during loading. |
|PLAYABILITY - 6/10|
|Initially you will start playing it thinking this is a Zaxxon clone, but that is only the first level, even then it has far fewer enemies on the screen. Hard as nails though, would make Chuck Norris and Vin Diesel weep like little girls before cuddling together!|
|OVERALL - 7/10|
|I feel that this game was a missed opportunity for the talents of the people who created it. You will play it because it looks great but futility will set in quickly due to controls being affected. With tweeks to difficulty and controls this could have been an all time classic. Now it's just a foot note.|