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This could probably be called a real "pacemaker"

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Electronic Zoo * £25.99 * ½ meg * Joystick * Out now

Cardiax T there are definite downsides to this job. One of them is trying to pad out a six hundred word review of a shoot 'em up when you know full well that everyone in the entire universe knows exactly what the scenario is. Allow me to reproduce the Industry Standard Shoot-'Em-Up Scenario Creator, free with Amiga Gamer... The year is (insert four number here, the first one must be higher than 2). The human race is being threatened by the evil (insert name of alien race here, word must have ratio of one vowel to every four consonants to be realistic). You must pilot the new breed of starship (insert name of starship here, must start with an X or Z or sound like a Fifties Ford car), designed to be (insert hyperbole here). But things go tragically wrong, as you and your fleet fly into the night (hum dramatic music here and make some gratuitous comment about wives weeping as they depart), they are ambushed by the (insert alien name here), and you are the only one left (waffle for a paragraph about how only you can do it and that no-one else is strong enough to face the challenge). Conclude with something along the lines of "Have you the skill, with and reflexes to do the job?".

That's about it really. Any names you think of or any little nuances can be incorporated into that little template. Brilliant, isn't it? But, fair play to ' em, the Zoo have included a wee novella in the manual to pad it out a bit. Actually, it is the manual. It's reasonable, but hardly original. Electronic Zoo claim this is the fastest two-way scrolling shoot-' em-up game to date. They're not wrong, it does scroll brilliantly fast – the only problem is that most of the time you'd rather just sit there and fire and not have to worry about flying into things.
The majority of the aliens, you see, have very static patterns moving in a formation about a fixed point, so the last thing you want to be doing is racing back and forth like the proverbial yo-yo.

But if you like needless speed then this could be the thing for you. The gameplay is simplistic – most levels are played against the clock, giving you a set length of time to defeat a series of aliens, or you don't make it on to the next level – and as you defeat each one, the ship is powered up to the next level of firepower. If you die, you lose one level of power-up. Graphically it is very simple, but if it had to be so it could cope with the rate of scrolling without going up in smoke. There are very few sprites onscreen at once, There's only one basic landscaping at top and bottom, and nothing in between to give you any idea of speed when you move off the edge of the landscape.
This is often crucial as you may have to move off, turn around and come back on to attack, but if you don't know how fast you are going then it may all go tragically wrong.
The sound relies all too heavily on one Uzi sample for the gun, but the tune is ace, and sounds like a chill-out room at a rave. What more could you want after a heavy blasting session?

Playability isn't as bad as you might think. It's good fun and quite a challenge, but it just doesn't add up to all it should This is probably because they couldn't animate the sprites as fast as the ship. It will provide a new twist for shoot-' em-up fans, but only the real addicts. Ah well, not a bad try lads.

Amiga Computing, Issue 45, February 1992, p.9 (Gamer)

G G G * *
Scrolls lightning fast but there isn't much to scroll.
G G G* *
Uzi samples and rave tune between games.
G G G * *
Nice twist but it doesn't work too well.
G G * * *
Not brilliant, but a minor diversion.

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Cardiax C onsider the following piece of text and see whether you think you'd want to hear the rest of this gripping space drama: "The shuttle drifted towards Halfway with the grace of a pregnant duck. Strips of navigation lights winked blue and green along the sides of the craft as the pilot aimed the vessel towards the empty bay. The retros blasted briefly – soundless rockets firing into space, slowing the approach of the freighter".
Not exactly, awe-inspiring prose is it? That piece is from the beginning of the novella which Electronic Zoo have padded their manual out with. However, as bad as that cliche ridden story is, five minutes spent wading through its tetchy grammar is far preferable to the same amount of time spent playing their latest 'game' Cardiaxx.
You see, the Zoo have bunged a 'story' in their manual so that you don't need any instructions to play; the joystick moves your spaceship around and fire unleashes a bullet. Why gloss things up? Cardiaxx is a shoot-em-up not a prospective Pullitzer prize winner.

Would it win any prizes?
There is nothing more satisfying than sitting down for half-an-hour, with a well written blaster and destroying zillions of alien sprites. However, mindless blasting games, more than any other kind of computer game have got to be playable; rob them of this vital ingredient and what you've got is a waste of a perfectly good floppy disk.
It is essentially a Defender clone, Cardiaxx could be up there with the best. You can't go far wrong with some swift direction changing, high fire-power, spaceship antics. Well it seems you can here.
This game verges on the unplayable. The craft you're meant to destroy alien ships with has the most frustrating inertia ever installed on a ship. One tiny nudge of the joystick and your craft goes hurtling across the screen, straight through alien, bouncing off walls and inevitably killing you. Tap the joystick in the other direction to reduce speed and you end up doing exactly the same only in the opposite direction. It is possible, with the lightest of nudges to move slowly, but these take so much concentration that you end up going slowly into the nearest wall. To top it all, the aliens have been placed in the most difficult-to-hit places imaginable. Here it's like being dropped bott first into a cage of starving, rabid Pitbulls.

It can't be that bad... can it?
From a technical point of view Cardiaxx is fine. The graphics are relatively colourful, the sound's chunky and it all scrolls around smoothly. The trouble is all these good aspects never gel together as a game. It's as if someone set out to design a smooth scrolling routine and as an afterthought decided to bung a few sprites in.
The levels are arranged so that you have to shoot entire attack waves to progress further. The next attack wave might be to the left or right of your position and so you have to go over old ground. To aid you, a sampled voice instructs you that there are aliens to the left or the right and you thus travel in either direction where you shoot at said aliens.
After 10 minutes of this game you'll have had more than enough. The difficulty with the spaceship control is it ups the already considerable difficult to near unplayable levels. The disparate elements are not brought together at any stage. The Defender style of the gameplay Cardiaxx tries to emulate never materialises. And much like the game itself, it feels just like the ship: you're going back and forth, getting nowhere, incredibly fast!
Andy Hutchinson

Amiga Format, Issue 31, February 1992, p.80

Electronic Zoo * £25.99
  • An insipid, boring shoot-em-up with no playability. Good sounds though!
  • Derivative, solid but staid graphics.
  • Utterly and completely non-existent gameplay.
  • The last word in duff blasting games.
Verdict: 37%

Die volle Härte!

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Wer erinnert sich noch an "Uridium"? Vermutlich, jeder der einen 64er samt Joystick besessen hat, schließlich ist das Teil ein Baller-Klassiker! Electronic Zoo hat nun für eine Neu-auflage gesorgt: schneller, schöner, aber leider fast unspielbar...

Cardiax Worum geht es? Worum es immer geht: Zum 2847sten Mal bedrohen Außerirdische die Menschheit, rette sich wer kann – Witwen, Waisen und Joker-Redakteure zuerst.

Wir klettern also in unseren Raumjäger und... Überraschung! Genau wie bei der (inoffiziellen) Vorlage düst man durch eine Raumstation, die nicht bloß von links nach rechts scrollt, sondern, sofern man seinen Flieger wendet, auch umgekehrt. Der Feindflug im "Defender"-Stil gerät jedoch bald zum puren Streß, Cardiaxx ist höllisch schnell und teuflisch schwer! Die Feindformationen (Walker, Technoschlangen, Raumschiffe, etc.) sind einerseits zwar ziemlich einfallslos, anderseits tauchen sie in einem solchen Irrsinntempo auf, daß an Ausweichmanöver kaum zu denken ist. Wer hier überleben will, braucht viel Glück und ein gutes Gedächtnis, denn obwohl das Raumschiff ein paar Kollisionen übersteht, sind drei Leben einfach viel zu wenig – besonders, da man auch noch gegen ein Zeitlimit kämpfen muß. Die besseren Waffen und die großen Endgegner werden daher bestenfalls ausgebuffte Ballerprofis zu sehen bekommen; die letzten der insgesamt sieben Level kennen vermutlich überhaupt nur die Programmierer...

Schade um die etwas blasse, aber makellos scrollende Hintergrundgrafik, schade um die Massen von völlig ruckfrei animierten Sprites, schade um den tollen Heavy-Metal-Gametrack und die ordentliche Steuerung. Tja, schade. (rl)

Amiga Joker, February 1992, p.36

Amiga Joker
Grafik: 66%
Sound: 68%
Handhabung: 34%
Spielidee: 50%
Dauerspaß: 38%
Preis/Leistung: 39%

Red. Urteil: 41%
Für Experten
Preis: ca. 89,- DM
Hersteller: Electronic Zoo
Genre: Action

Spezialität: Die Highscoreliste wird nicht gespeichert, dafür gibt es ein kleines Intro.

Cardiax logo

Publisher: Electronic Zoo
Author: Eclipse Design
Price: £25.99
Release: Out now

Cardiax "Life in the fast lane", claims the box. Myself, I live life more in the bus lane, but in the interests of higher living I thought I might as well give this a go. It's a horizontally-scrolling shoot-'em-up which owes more to Defender than it does to R-Type, at least in as much as the action scrolls in two directions. You hurtle at high speed through a sparse landscape until an arrow points you in the direction of a cluster of aliens. Shoot them and you win a power-up, then another arrow points you at the next lot. Lose all your energy or run out of time and the game's up. The other revolutionary feature of the game is that you can choose to have the score information take up about a quarter of the screen – novel, if pointless.

So, to the action. Frankly, this is a bit of a chore to play. Your spaceship is so sensitive to joystick movements that the slightest touch sends it flying off uncontrollably into enemies and walls. Being unable to fly your ship through unobstructed passageways simply because the game deems you not to have got that far yet is annoying and illogical, and the background graphics are too featureless to give an impression of progress. If there's a mitigating factor it's the sound, which comprises a solid and arcade-like rock soundtrack and some pleasingly illegible speech, but if you're looking for gameplay you should be looking someplace else. I'd like to say that the makers of this game should be arrested (Cardiaxx – arrested – geddit?), but it's not quite that bad. Then again, it's not that good either. Its heart's in the right place, but its playability hasn't turned up to the party.

Amiga Power, Issue 9, January 1992, p.96

Frustrating and limited gameplay makes it a bad deal for your £26. For obsessive speed junkies only.


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Cardiax W hilst everyone wants their shoot 'em ups to be fast, Cardiaxx goes from the sublime to the Cor Blimey! It is obvious from the minimal gameplay that Electronic Zoo have seen how fast the Amiga can scroll and based a game around it. The result is a frenetic and relatively playable blast which, sadly, doesn't contain enough meat to keep the player interested. A variant on the Armalyte theme, Cardiaxx pits the player against the might of the Cardiaxx empire within a two-way-scrolling play area. Within this area a series of alien attack waves and guardians appear and these must be taken out before the ever-decreasing time-limit expires. And that, dear reader, is Cardiaxx.

The game is split into four areas, within which the player must exercise their trigger finger and reflexes, whilst leaving their brain in neutral. These levels, despite the addition of bas-relief or organic backdrops, are pretty much alike with the player destroying one wave of Cardiaxx fighters before using their on-screen indicators to locate the next. I have a feeling that Electronic Zoo were hoping that the nail-biting speed of the game would trick the player into ignoring the lack of variety, but it actually has the opposite effect. Providing that the player survives the almost inevitable energy-sapping collisions with the enemy, they eventually reach a pair of guardians (who remain the same throughout the game – whatever happened to variety?) and who block access to the next level. Following a short space-bound sequence, the next level is then entered.

Like so many games from the shoot'em up genre, Cardiaxx is intially very playable, and the urge to have another crack is akin to all those 8-bit games we so fondly remember. However, once the first level has been beaten and the ensuing space scene passed, the repetitive levels erode any further interest. If larger space bases or extra background detail was added, perhaps this would have helped, but I suspect that this would have slowed it down considerably. As a budget release, I would have no hesitation recommending Cardiaxx as it is perfectly suited for the odd blast whenever the need to do some damage arises.
Unfortunately, as it stands, twenty-six quid is too much to pay for such limited carnage.
Steve Merrett

CU Amiga, January 1992, p.86

FAST'N'FURIOUS Creating a good balance between speed and longevity within the limitations of the shoot 'em up is extremely tricky. With Cardiaxx, it is only the lack of variety that causes the problems and, to date, only a few blasters have bridged the gap. The C64 was choc-a-bloc with top-notch shoot 'em ups, with Andrew Braybrook's Uridium and Cyberdyne Systems' Armalyte regarded as true classics. Thus, with the Amiga's faster processing speed and far superior capabilities surely we should be up to our necks in speedy blasters? Nope. The problem apparently lies with shifting backdrops and numerous sprites at speed, as even the Amiga has problems doing that. Thus, it is far easier to slow the games down and concentrate on the game's look rather than opt for a sparse but fast game. However, this is by no means a bad thing as past hits such as Z-Out and Denaris prove.

Thinner in content than Paul Daniel's scalp...