Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
In the grand tradition of games like P-47, Aerial Attack takes you up in the air with a bang...
Just when you thought it was safe to hop back into the cockpit of your Tomcat and blast the hell out of all comers, along comes Aerial Attack. The reason for all this flying metal mayhem is explained in the usual text prologue. Apparently the world is under threat from an evil military force called the NAC. They've got a laser called EO (which probably stands for Ecologically ’Orrible) that can burn a hole in the ozone layer over any country they like, and their not afraid to use it either. 'Cos they're evil, that's why. In the true spirit of perestroika the Freedom Fighter, an aircraft "belonging to no specific nation", is sent to explain to NAC why they must stop, using a reasoned argument and a whole load of bullets. But just a minute... If the NAC and the Freedom Fighter are of "no specific nation", then why is the NAC Battleship called the Vinsk, and why is your plane an American fighter? Flmm? Obviously the recent warming of East/West relations has taken its toll in the games design business too.
With more vwhoosh than the Enterprise Initiative, FF takes to the air...
FF counters the bombs with a small flock of geese...
Who whip out spanners and dimantle the enemy planes!
You have a truly wicked arsenal of weapons at your disposal, like these giant explosive cake decorations... BLAM!
Over the stripy hills, FF spots bogeys at 12 o'clock... pass the hanky, No. 1...
Ack ack ack ack ack ack... BOOM! Another bogey bites the dust. (Eur!)
Avoiding laser beams and fighters, FF goes straight for the turret. Ack ack...
As is the nature of these things, especially in computer game land, when you wax one of the enemy (in one of their many ships, planes, subs and choppers) you get a free gift of a new power up weapon. These come in all sorts of interesting and deadly flavours (wot, like Death Raspberry or summink?) and they give you an edge over your enemies. Some are simple, like rapid fire and fast move, others are a lot more complex like one which shoots big fireballs out in all directions at once, one which fires scatter bombs out the front of your plane, or the fancy arrowhead shield which lets you blow things up just by flying into them. The more enemies you get the more punch your weapons have and so the more enemies you pop, and so on.
From the title screen you get to select the hardness level, from a choice of easy, normal and hard. Easy level is slower and gives you more time to sort the enemies out from the background. Normal is a touch faster and hard is, er, hard in fact. You'll have to have a tough joystick to blast your way through on the hard level! There are all kinds of different enemies, simple planes that just whizz by, what look like cruise missiles (a touch of overkill on behalf of old NAC there) which follow you up the screen, big bombers which cruise along popping off shots at you, ground based gun emplacements, and subs which pop up, shoot and sink again. As well as all this going on, you've got to bomb and shoot a convoy of ships, working your way back to the big one, the Vinsk, which you have to sink. Sounds easy, but in practice it’ll take you the rest of your life. All 5 mins of it, in fact.
The game is all seen from the side, with you in your plane scrolling from left to right and your baddies whizzing in from the right and even up from under you. The only exception to this format is one section where you are flying down a trench with the fighters coming towards you, Afterburner style. The mission briefing screen gives you a nice piccy of the inside of your plane, with all the blinking control lights, joystick and Heads Up Display, but that's the last you see of complex controls once you get into the game, as the only thing that really matters then is your finger on the fire button, and how quickly you can pull it.
The backgrounds are all parallax scrolling, giving you a nice smooth 3D effect, and the background graphics are all very pretty indeed. You begin the game flying over the sea, with odd sleepy islands, pretty unspoilt beaches and massive heavily armed destroyers passing peacefully underneath. Then you're up in the clouds, above them in fact, in front of a brilliant orange and red sunset. Planes zoom out of the clouds beneath you, and you can dip down beneath them yourself. (Although this isn't a good idea as you'll probably get nuked without even seeing what hit you.) In another section you're flying in an underground cavern with laser guns fixed on the floor and ceiling above and below you, and endless flying formations of enemy fighters trying to plaster you over the cave walls. The trench section is nicely done, and makes a nice change actually, and uses a nice stripy effect which cycles the colours to simulate movement along it. The planes come from above and you have to take a pop at them.
As plane games go this isn't at all bad. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Jaleco's P-47, Aerial Attack is a real blast. Fans of the Sega card game Transbot will like it a lot, too, as the gameplay is somewhat similar to that, but with more variation in the levels and less emphasis on sheer gritty endurance. The graphics are great, the animation triff and there is a marked absence of flicker, with the exception being when it is actually used as a special effect! When you have the force shield around your ship, the ship and the shield alternate on the screen very quickly, giving a nice shimmery electric effect around the ship, giving a real feeling that any enemies that touch you will end up as an order of french toast. (Quite right too!) There's no waiting around between levels, and the whole aim of the game is to pump as much action your way as humanly (or computerly) possible. Control is responsive, and although you start a bit slow and sluggish (a bit like moving through thick porridge) you eventually get a speed up pod, and that puts a bit more steam in your stride. The overall sound of the game is good too, with a neat selection of tunes for different stages of the game which in spite of being a bit repetitious don't get too annoying. No samples, no frills or extras of any form in the thing, but then again it is just a straight down the line shoot'em up, and who can argue with that. Well, we could, but we won't.
All things considered, a fresh and crispy game with lots of features to recommend it to the Sega Master owner with a yen for the odd weekly dose of airborne mass destruction. (BOOM!)
▲ Fast, colourful, good if a little jerky in the animation department. Lots of different enemies.
▼ Sometimes it's hard to see a bullet against the backdrop until it fries your face.
▲ The music is well written and varied, with some good loud sound effects too.
▼ The tunes may start to get on your wick after a while. Just turn them down for a bit.
▲ A small strategy element is to be had in choosing which power up icons to grab and which to avoid.
▼ It's not very deep, just blast anything that moves. And anything that doesn't too, for good measure.
▼ Once the thrill of blasting everything wears off, there's not much left.
▲ Can be pretty addictive, allowing you to get tanatalisingly close then blasting you to atoms.
▼ Once the thrill of blasting everything... wait a minute, is there an echo in here?
An all round good blast'em up, with classic good looks and a nice line in sensless violence. Only skilled players get to the top though!