Review by ClessAlvein05
First review for a decent, FREEWARE PC shooter
In 1993, Apogee released an obscure DOS shooter in which the titular character travelled to the "Lava Planet," "Arctic Planet," and "Desert Planet" to battle the Kretons.
Graphics: Pretty standard EGA graphics that, while they severely lagged the 16-bit console games of the time, were not horrible by 1993 PC standards. There are even flashing red lights used in place of the purple color in the normal EGA set. There is only straight upward, forward movement--no catchy Mode 7 or diagonal/sideways/backward movement like some SNES/Genesis or even NES shooters--but at least there are some respectable triple=-multiple-scrolling backgrounds. Considering there were more than a few 256-color VGA games at the time, though, they could do a lot better. 6.5/10
Audio: I've always had a hard time faulting Bobby Prince for his efforts to stretch rudimentary AdLib synth to its limit, squeezing everything from hard rock guitar songs to somber "death songs" out of it, although some people may find his music repetitive, or too derivative of popular songs. His work is no different here, and there's even a music and sound test. Super Nova in the first level, Super Sonic at the end of gameplay, and a lot of other songs are pretty catchy.
The sounds are either PC speaker or very low-quality Sound Blaster, the latter of which was almost the best you could hope for with most PC games of the time. They are more than enough to get by; many sound a bit like they were borrowed from SNES shooters or sci-fi movies, which is probably more than a positive or negative. Overall, I'd put the audio against most 16-bit console shooters of the time. 8.5/10
Gameplay: The game has the frustrations that are characteristic of almost any other shooter: the power-down system for taking hits and dying, respawn points, differences in difficulty levels, and so on. A single hit will bring you down from the highest multi-directional shot to basic straight-line firepower, and a second hit will kill you on the spot, and perhaps more importantly when the bosses get close, it will bring you down to only a few screen-wide nukes. And you will NEED these for bosses that will inundate the screen with homing missiles and indestructible shots, so it's not just enough to make it through the last few levels alive; you better have high firepower and lots of nukes. Fortunately, you can pace yourself between levels with a save feature--an option not afforded to, well, almost any shooter. Anyone can beat Novice mode for any episode, but Hard mode will drive you crazy, particularly if you "hit the wall" once you reach a boss because you don't have enough power.
Fortunately, even though it's that much harder to battle enemies once you're back down to single shots, it is relatively easy to load up on powerups over the course of a level. You can also save hostages (which, along with your enemy kill percentage, count for bonuses at the end of the level,) weave around fast-moving walls in auto-scroll levels, fight both ground bases/walls and various sizes and speeds of large airborne artillery, have temporary rapid-fire, stationary or rotating shields to complement your various patterns of firepower, and use "H" powerups to take a break from the auto-scrolling and "hover" in place to destroy a small ship formation and anything else on the screen. This may get a little repetitive--there isn't much difference between the levels besides cosmetic changes in the music, enemies, and backgrounds--but you'll still have at least a little fun doing it. 7.6/10
Overall: There weren't really a lot of good PC answers out there to 16-bit shmups, but this was a pretty respectable showing from Apogee in their commitment to creating every sort of action game around. Bobby Prince's music shone as always, the graphics were unexceptional but not horrible, and the gameplay was fun if repetitive. Not an exceptional game, but deserving of more attention than it got. Now that it's freeware, once you get DosBox you have nothing to lose other than a little time and hard-drive space if you download this moderately strong seven.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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