Shoot 'Em Ups

Reviewed by Jim Short


Issue 27

May/Jun 87

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Various/ US Gold
2 cassettes 9.95

disk 14.95

1/2 players

1/2 joysticks






SHOOT 'EM UPS is the title of the latest 4 game compilation from US Gold, but it might well have been called 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly' for it is a pretty mixed batch quality-wise.

First the good, and they don't come any better than DROPZONE. Super sound, dazzling rainbow colour graphics, slick animation and warpspeed scrolling combine to make this DEFENDER clone a mega-game in every sense of the word. It's worth loading this one just to view the title screen and high score table which are better than most GAMES currently on the market!

DROPZONE proves once and for all that the graphic capabilities of Atari 8-bit computers are second to none (the Crappydore version doesn't come close). An undoubted classic - possibly the best Atari game ever. If you don't have it in your collection then you don't have a collection. It's as simple as that.

Also in the 'Good' category is FORT APOCALYPSE. Quite popular with the compilation brigade as it also figures in English Software's latest 'Hits' release. In a cross between Choplifter and Scramble you must brave the Kralthan defenses and fly your jet-copter into the depths of the dreaded Fort Apocalypse to rescue all the prisoners held captive there. Enemy robocopters, tanks, SPM's and missile drones are easily dealt with (easily?!?), but the hyper chambers and RFE shafts are a different kettle of jellied eels (or even fish). They bring a strategic element to the game and you'll soon realise that this isn't just a game of brute force and ignorance. Just one of the many superior programs which made Synapse the premier Atari software company only a few short years ago. Whatever happened to them, I wonder?

Bad is an apt way to describe Sega's SUPER ZAXXON. As a follow-up to the enormously popular ZAXXON it took the Zaxxon theme to new heights in the arcades, but the Atari version is poor in comparison with the original. Both games feature scrolling action in simulated 3-D as you guide your spaceship against the might of the awesome Zaxxon space fortress. In SUPER ZAXXON the robot guarding the second and final fortress has been replaced by a dragon (no mother-in-law jokes please!), which requires six hits in it's gaping mouth to destroy it. Sadly all the other changes are not for the better. The graphics in SUPER ZAXXON have been condensed so that everything appears on a much smaller scale. It's a big strain on the eyesight and the realistic effect of the ship tilting and diving over the fortress is all but lost. The colours are real dullsville but, worse than that even, the Atari version is inferior to certain other computer versions of the game. Sacrilege!! The next time Sega release a decent Atari game it will be their first since the original Zaxxon.

Finally it's the ugly one. BLUE MAX 2001 was a very belated follow-up to the classic BLUE MAX, a 3-D World War I bi-plane shoot 'em up which borrowed the basic Zaxxon idea and then improved on it a thousandfold. If Synapse released a better game I've yet to see it. Perhaps too much was expected of it's successor? Anyway, it turned out a disappointment.

The action is set in the year 2001 with Max Chatsworth IX, direct descendant of the legendary 'Blue Max', piloting an octagonal polo-mint (if you want to call it a space-age hovership that's your business .... it looks like an octagonal polo-mint to me!) against the evil Furxx empire who have taken over the earthbase, Gamma IV.

Control of the polo-mint is via the diagonals, making it a nightmare to fly, far less operate the bombs and lasers, with any degree of accuracy. If you fancy shooting down a few enemy spacecraft, forget it. It's easier to get a laugh out of Ted Rogers on 3-2-1!!

BLUE MAX 2001 was almost the last game released by Synapse. What a pity they couldn't finish on a higher note.

Compilations like this are a great idea as they help introduce new Atari owners to some of the older games they may have missed out on. If US Gold had substituted SUPER ZAXXON and BLUE MAX 2001 with their original counterparts (ZAXXON and BLUE MAX) this package would have been unbeatable.