Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Mega Cartridge: £19.95
The pace of Sega cartridge releases continues with one of the latest, Secret Command (at least, that is what it says on the packaging, although the game itself insists on Secret Commando, which we feel is the more likely) - an Ikari Warriors clone with some oddly named main characters.
The players step into the shoes ot Ashura and his buddy Bishamon (from Japan no doubt) with two players playing simultaneously, laying waste to all that stands in their way. Snipers, infantrymen, rocketlauncher- and flamethrower-wielding soldiers, tanks and a host of other heavily armed enemies charge down the screen in an attempt to shift the players from their mortal coil. To get the bad guys out of the way both players are provided with an M-60 machine gun (unlimited ammo of course) and bow-launched arrows with explosive war heads (shades of Rambo).
Barracks either side of the pathway can be blown open to reveal power-up items. Collect these to receive extra arrow-bombs, a stinger bomb (for the player who needs that extra bit of destructive power) or a special secret item which, as the instructions (torturously translated from Japanese) point out, 'will surely increase your power'. Destroy a specified number of enemy infantrymen and extra items appear to improve your range and power of fire.
Not everything is easy to kill. Tanks prove tough customers, requiring several hits before exploding, and the enemy equipped with flamethrowers can prove hot opponents. Reach the end of each level and destroy a barricade to progress to later scenes. At this point, a small force of enemy soldiers (and the odd tank) makes an appearance at this point, so some frantic fire button bashing is needed to survive through to the next level.
A second player can enter the game at any time before round three. After that, any player still in the game is on his own. The warriors fight their way through jungles, forests, deserts, a mountain region, a town, through to the final objective - the enemy fortress protected by most of the opposing army.
Secret Command(o) is graphically very pleasant; the scenery in each level is attractive, varied and has made great use of colour - why then does the game use pathetic yellow sprites when the enemy gets blown away? The rest of the game is fine, it's playable, enjoyable for shoot-'em-up addicts, and the twin-player option with its partnership aspect is great fun. There's no doubt that the game is addictive, challenging and the difficulty level is about right (although it does seems a bit harsh not allowing another player on after the second round as the later levels aren't exactly a pushover). It won't appeal to everyone's tastes, but if you are looking for a bit of carnage on your Sega, then Secret Command is well worth considering.