DataStorm - Visionary Design Technologies


Reviewed by Steven Frew

There was an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" where the Enterprise was pretty much screwed royally by a few billion microscopic beasties that invaded their computers. If there was a moral to the episode, it was that danger lies not only in giant enemy spaceships or asteroids, but in little things too.

Now while I'll take any opportunity to distance myself from all things "Star Trek", I can identify with those sentiments, because I've played Datastorm. As menacing as enormous bosses can be, there's a whole lot more action to be had when the enemy are as small and plentiful as they are in this game.

Yes, yes. It's basically a right rip off of Defender, but I have to say, at the risk of alienating myself with the die-hard retro fraternity, it's BETTER. In fact, it's MUCH BETTER. Hats off to Defender: it's a brilliant game, but it lacks Datastorm's "panic" value. In later stages, when the screen is chock full of stuff, there are times when your eyes can't decide which way to look, your brain becomes deadlocked, and you find you're hitting "smart-bomb" more than "fire". Defender never left me walking away, edgy, feeling like the rest of the world was going at half the speed it used to. This, in my opinion, is the defining quality of a shoot-em-up.

The game is split into "waves", and the waves are grouped into four. At the start of each group, you have eight escape pods on the ground, and you must pick them up and take them through a (thankfully large) warpgate. Take too long, and the alien landers will try to grab them. If they reach the top of the screen, the humans in the pod are mutated (sound familiar yet?). If you don't rescue at least one pod per wave, you enter the shoot-em-up equivalent of "Entrance To Hades". You get a menagerie of bonuses (bonii?) for rescuing all eight, but this Good Samaritan business detracts from the meat'n'veg of the game (blasting stuff), so if you're anything like me, you'll rescue one, and fry the other seven before the aliens can give you any grief. Then the fun starts ...

The enemies aren't just boring blobs that fire at you. No, sir. You've got about thirty different types, many of which do some particularly annoying things, so it pays to get acquainted. Here's just a few ...

SATURN: Shoot it, and it splits into four DRONES. Leave the DRONES floating around long enough, and they release a BAITER, which is super fast, and can fire bullets too rapidly for my liking.

WALL: A hard-to-see wall of dots that moves across the playfield. One quick up'n'down strafe it all it takes, but more often than not, you're too busy to organise such an assault.

BIPOD: If these things reach the warpgate, they'll destroy all the pods you rescued.

TORNADO: Surrounded by a giant swarm of BLITTERS, and it's gunning for your blood! If you don't shoot all the BLITTERS first, destroying the TORNADO will make all the BLITTERS turn into super-speedy MUTANTS that try their damnedest to fly right into you.

EGG: These bounce around the place. Leave it too long, and it splits into two. Leave them too long, and they'll split into four, etc, etc.

GRAVITRON: Shoot it and it releases four PULSARS which move in a psuedo-random fashion, but seem to be able to read your mind. Possibly the most annoying of them all.

After about eight waves, you've seen all there is to be seen, but that's when it starts to get REALLY good. By the late-teens, you'll wonder just how much more the game can throw at you ... but it just keeps coming, faster and faster, until you'll find yourself dying every eight seconds (exhausting that twenty-life supply you built up). The high-score table maintains a place for "The Immortal", so presumably there is an end in sight, but I've yet to reach the thirties.

The game wouldn't be anywhere as good as it is without the power-ups. Nothing spectacular here, just single, double and triple laser, and an autofire power-up, which is necessary if you want to get past level ten, but unnecessary if your joystick features an autofire switch already. As boring as it seems, triple laser with autofire must rank among my top three favourite shooter power-ups. There's nothing like tearing into a screenful of sprites with it, and watching those fantastically-retro pixellated explosions shower the screen.

There are bosses: every four waves a giant (well, compared to the rest of the enemies) UFO warps in and starts throwing homing missiles at you. At alternating four-wave intervals, you meet the two screen-high bosses (a robotic squid and a steel-plated skull). These might sound a bit naff, but they work brilliantly, particularly the skull, which heralds it's arrival with a demonic chord that you'll never quite get used to, and takes about a million hits before it dies. The bosses aren't exclusive to the main action: they just pop in whenever they feel like it, which is usually while you're up to your neck in crap.

Sound is restricted to spot-effects against a moody murmur of space-noise, but it's very effective, since just about every action triggers a sound. In later stages, it's a cacophony of destruction.

To sum up in one word, this game is SUPERB.

Score : 9/10


Yes, I know, it all looks very dated. Just play the bloody thing.


Here's me about to crash head-first into a Tornado.


Later on, you'll meet this chap. WATCH as the eyes seem to follow you around the room!


Lose all your humans, and this is what you'll get.


It DOES get more hectic than this, but you'll never manage to hit ALT-PRNTSCRN in time.


Well, this is our second Amiga review, and surprisingly, I did not make it =P Cheers to Steven Frew for covering this one up. Steve, in case you didn't know, is the author of the Slutte! Bionic Commando emulator! Looks like he liked this Amiga beast of old. Personally, I have not tried this one out ("Akira, you blasphemer!" I hear some people say), but I'll make sure I'll boot up my Amiga and give it a try. Steven wants to note that this game works only in WinUAE, in case you are not the lucky owner of an Amiga (Nyehehehe!). I'm off to try this game on the real thing!

- Akira


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie