by Steven Frew
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.
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. 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.
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 ...
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
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
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.
If these things reach the warpgate, they'll destroy all the
pods you rescued.
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.
These bounce around the place. Leave it too long, and it splits
into two. Leave them too long, and they'll split into four,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
sum up in one word, this game is SUPERB.