Banshee logo AGA Amiga Computing Gold Award

Core Design's new addition to the shoot-'em-up genre gives Daniel Whitehead something to wail about.

INTRODUCTION

It's hardly a brand new concept, but once again lone fighter meets invasion force and big explosions ensue. But wait, this shoot-'em-up is a bit special. It's A1200 only. And it's ace.

STORYLINE

It is 1999 and the world remains in a perpetual twilight world of stunted technology. No microwaves, videos or colour tellies, and aeroplanes are still of the propellor driven variety. Pretty freaky.

But it gets worse. Into this environment comes the wonderfully named Blardax Maldrear and his Styx republic. With a name like that he can only be after one thing. And he is. World domination!

Only one man stands in his way. His name? The equally tricky Sven Svardensvart and his oh-so-super Banshee fighter. Apparently Blardax also did unspeakable things to Sven's dad, for some trifling reasons, thus giving our hero ample opportunity to look stern and mumble things about this being personal.

So we've got an evil empire, a stony-faced hero and a one-of-a-kind fighter. And it's personal. Let us, as they say shoot them up.


 

FLASHBACK

Take your pick. I mean, you don't seriously expect me to list every single vertical shoot-'em-up ever do you? Of the masses to choose from, Banshee is most obviously reminiscent of that creaky old arcade machine 1942.

In fact, it bloomin' well is 1942, right down to the loop-the-loops you can pull off in times of stress. Mind you, Core make no attempt to hide this debt to the past, so we'll let them off for being ironic and post modern, or something.

Stylewise though, Banshee takes its cue from stuff like The Chaos Engine and Xenon 2, with its subtle colouring and ladies of atmosphere. But Banshee is light years ahead of anything else in this genre. As it uses all these games as starting blocks and then runs straight off the race track and invents its own race.

Expect every other shoot-'em-up for the next decade to be compared to this in future Flashbacks.


 

ADDITIONAL INFO

Banshee features nasty things. There's no point hiding the facts. You can shoot innocent fishermen and polar bears, and worst of all, women pushing prams get it as well.
Well, the women do and the prams just roll away in a belated nod to morality and decency. Needless to say this will be used as further ammunition in the fight to convict computer games of causing all known social ills, from teenagers not being nice to their parents any more to hoardes of drug-addled monsters rampaging through out previously perfect country.

Absolute drivel, of course, but that won't deter the righteous out there from blaming Banshee for whatever's bothering them at the time.

So here's my reaction to the more gruesome moments of Banshee. I laughed. Ca you believe it? Yes, I laughed at innocent people being blown to bits by missiles. Except, reality check, I didn't really, did I? No, I laughed at an amusingly-drawn sprite being hit by a computer generated missile resulting in a ketchup scenario.

I don't laugh at the scenes from Rwanda and Bosnia on the news. Banshee, Mortal Kombat, Cannon Fodder et al are, and here's a newsflash, not real.
It's the people who think they are that are dangerous. The person who thinks the little polar bears on level three are real and still shoots them - that's the person who's a menace to society, not the game.

Banshee, like any other game, will not turn sweet little children into slavering killers. And if anyone disagrees, I'll fly over their house in my big plane and shoot them. Except, this being the real world, I won't. Let's get some perspective people.


 

SOUND

As befits the beefiest of all shoot-'em-ups, the sound effects come bellowing out at you with a ferocity akin to a herd of rampaging buffalo.
The constant thunder of the guns unfortunately drowns out the other little touches worth mentioning. When the Banshee (or Banshees in two-player mode) swoop about, you're rewarded with appropriate screaming engine sounds and the various mutilated enemies all scream and yowl in suitably anguished ways.

No surprise, but the meaty sound adds punch to an already hefty game.

75%

 

GRAPHICS

Oh, but this is nice. The graphics capture perfectly the weird sort of Blade Runner meets Biggles vibe that the story promises. Lots of subtle shades of grey and brown create an atmosphere not a million miles from The Chaos Engine, which also had a sci-fit meets bygone era theme.

Each level is absolutely gargantuan, stuffed with varied and well-animated enemies intent on hammering your head in. At times the screen is just full of bullets, missiles, planes, helicopters and soldiers and the game doesn't even bat an eyelid.

As smooth as a freshly shaved snake, if you don't mind me saying so. There are oodles of neat graphical touches to look out for, all of them pretty gruesome.
Soldiers spurt blood, fishermen fly out of their boats in agony and cranes collapse onto the people below. It looks a treat. Big saucy levels, constant hassle from about three million different baddies and crisp animation. Yummy.

70%

 

OPINION89%

Well I do like this game and the weirdest bit is, I've never been fan of shoot-'em-ups! They usually bore me to bits, but Banshee has that elusive quality that drags you in. Each level reveals new challenges which are genuinely demanding, and the learning curve is just right. You get plenty of power ups at the start and then things slowly but surely start to get more and more frenetic, until you're literally gasping for breath.

Get another player involved for even more fun, as the game gives you two power ups each time and you can collect the ones that match your plane's colour. This means that both players build up their ships at the same rate and over the top armageddon scenarios are always around the corner.

There are some bad points, it has to be said. The sheer volume of enemies can be literally overwhelming at times, and single players are going to have an almighty struggle on their hands to finish it. It's also highly aggravating to lose a life and have your hard-earned power ups swiped from you, often placing you up the creek minus the paddle situation.

Niggles aside, this is an intense and extremely satisfying game that should tempt any games fan with an ounce of adrenalin in their veins. The Harvey Keitel of shoot-'em-ups.



Banshee logo AGA Amiga Format Gold

A Banshee is a wailing spirit portending death. So is this game a scream?

Picture the scene - an idyllic Friday afternoon in the office, Glenn Campbell crooning about the time he went to Phoenix, AF editorial staff arguing about the merits of pop group Oasis and who is the finest supermodel - when suddenly, the peace is shattered.

What unseemly rocket is this? What could possible necessitate the need for the sound of guns, bombs, tanks, planes, ships, soldiers and submarines on a day so full of the joys of Summer? And surely such mindless violence should at least be held over to a Monday morning?

But no, it could not, for this noise is Banshee, a blast-'em-to-kingdom-come affair which harbours no serious thoughts of plot or narrative development. You simply shoot things. Anything. Everything. Suffice to say, it's 1999 (I was er, dreaming when I wrote this) and bad folk have taken over the world. Only you and your Banshee biplane can save it (and your mate, if you're playing in the rather excellent simultaneous two-player mode).

Banshee has many influences, the most obvious being the 1942 coin-op, but in the wonderful animation you can spot elements of both Desert Strike and Cannon Fodder. Strangely, the looks are not immediately appealing but that's because you don't get a great deal of time to look at the scenery. The attention to detail is stunning though, particularly on the soldiers when they emit a blood curdling 'aaaarggh' after being set alight; and when you blow their parachutes out of the sky and watch them crumple to the ground.

Set over four levels, this vertically scrolling shoot-em-up has wide and varied terrain. Even though four levels sound a tad paltry, you are treated to a fair few changes of scenery over any one level.

And you cannot simply plough through this, guns blazing and dodging the bullets, because you often have to fly through a bridge or around a particularly tall church. You don't get far without collecting pick-ups either - both offensive and defensive.

Banshee should challenge even the most seriously committed fans of the genre. Every so often, baddies appear that take a heck of a gunning down, and that's before you encounter the devil's own end-of-level bosses.

Fortunately, the screen scrolls right and left too (about half a screen each way), so sometimes you can manoeuvre your way past the swine with the minimum of damage, but with so many foe to tackle you can't hide for long.

This is a classic shoot-'em-up. Sure, we've seen this sort of thing many times before and inevitably the gameplay can seem a little repetitive, but rarely do they look or play quite as well as this. Banshee breaks no boundaries, it blows them out of the sky.



Banshee logo AGA A1200 Speziell

Allerorten wird gehüpft und gerauft, nur die Ballerfreaks müssen stempeln gehen? Jetzt ist es vorbei mit der Arbeitslosigkeit, denn Core Design spendiert den AGA-Knallfröschen endlich wieder furiose Vertikal-Action!

So manche hatte beim Erwerb seines 1200ers davon geträumt, wie gute alte Ballerware à la "Xenon II", "Battle Squadron" oder "SWIV" wohl erst in 32-Bit Qualität aussehen wurde - doch lange herrschte Ruhe auf dem vertical scrollenden Schlachtfeld. Vorbei, denn in England hat man nun Kanonenfutter aus dem Zylinder gezaubert, das sogar Festplatten und Zusatz-RAM unterstützt.

Nach dem Spielstart künden erst mal Standbilder von einer Zivilisation, die der unseren technisch etwas fünfzig Jahre hinterherhinkt und gerade mal den Propeller entdeckt hat. Derart antiquiertes Kriegsgerät lockt fiese Aliens an, die hier leichte Beute wittern - doch da haben sie die Rechnung ohne den bzw. die Spieler gemacht! In seinem Flieger knattert man über Meere, Länder, Städte und sogar durch den Weltraum, um angreifende Flugzeuge, Zeppeline, Hub schrauber und Bodentruppen mit dem Bord-MG zu beharken (sooo weit scheint es mit der Technologie der Außerirdischen also auch nicht her zu sein...).

Manche Ziele hinterlassen nach Abschuß Sammel-Icons, die bei jedem weiteren Treffer Aussehen und Bedeutung ändern; etwa Seiten- und Diagonalschuß, Zielsuchraketen, frische Schildenergie oder Zusatzleben. Und für ganz brenzlige Situationen gibt es limitierte Fluchtloopings samt vorübergehender Unverwundbarkeit.

Soweit also keine bahnbrechenden Neuheiten, denn eine Highscoreliste und diche Zwischengegner gehören ja ebenso zum Genre wie der Duo-Modus und die dümmliche Vorgeschichte. Doch sind die sechs Levels hier ungewöhnlich lang und die darin enthaltenen Angriffsformationen ebenso fair wie abwechslungsreich.

Das Spieltempo variiert, insgesamt zockt sich Banshee aber nicht so hektisch wie mancher Konkurrent. Auch dar man nach Verlust eines Lebens sofort weiterfliegen, doch wird dann der Extrawaffen-Ausbau um eine Stufe zurückgesetzt. Ob das Probleme macht? Freilich, aber die hiesigen Endgegner sind derart imposant, daß sich jede Mühe lohnt!

Dazu kommen realistische Nebel- oder Regeneffekte, wobei der Grafikstil ganz allgemein stark an "Chaos Engine" erinnert; sowohl bei den feinen Animationen als auch bei der Liebe zum Detail. Nur hätten sich die Bitmaps wohl nicht dazu hinreißen lassen, Geschmacksverirrungen wie brennende Soldaten, die aus einem getroffenen LKW flüchten, einzubauen...

Aber das zu beurteilen ist Sache der BPS, wir beurteilen jetzt lieber noch den Sound. Und der ist gut, selbst wenn es Musik nur im Titelscreen gibt. Noch besser sind die Steuerung (Stick oder Pad), der wohldosierte Schwierigkeitsgrad und das taktisch angehauchte Extrawaffensystem. Und damit ist Banshee ein Highlight des Genres, dessen CD-Version später sogar mit zusätzlichen Full Motion-Videosequenzen aufwarten wird. (rl)



Banshee logo AGA

Banshee n. a female spirit whose wailing warns of impending death. Apparently.

Suzie from Core Design brought Banshee down to the AP office the other day. Steve M and I plugged in joysticks and blasted our way through until we got to the Actic zone, and we both simultaneously spotted a polar bear making its way peaceably across the frozen wastes.

Seconds later, we had poured hundreds of rounds, a few bombs and a couple of missiles into it, and this noble beast of the tundra was lying on its back in a pool of blood, the vivid crimson standing out on the pure white of the snow. Even though it was her game, Suzie looked shocked. "Ahh, you did not have to do that", she cried, tears brimming in her eyes. We looked at her. That is where you are wrong, we both thought. We had to do it. We HAD to. Banshee made us do it.

BEAN
Banshee is all about shooting things. Shooting anything, in fact. We have seen this sort of thing a million times before, of course, from most SEUCK games to the excellent arcade blaster 1942, but it is rare for one to look this good. Yeah, I know, we are always going on about how gameplay is far more important than graphics, and it is true, but when you are looking at a genre of games as limiting as the vertically scrolling shoot-em-up, it is attention to detail that counts, and this one is dripping with tiny animations that you only notice after you have played a level a few times. The detail in it is incredible, but I will hold off wowing about it for a few paragraphs.

The game, then. Well, it is four levels and it is all about getting rid of some invading alien nasties. Since the baddies are siding with the alien scum, there is no need to feel guilty about killing them, so that is all right then. Four levels might not sound like much, but they are massive and variable and in many cases you are getting three or more scenery changes without a disk change, so hoorah for that.

A second player can join in at any time, so you always let the best player battle through the first few bits. Blasting certain objects (you soon find out which ones) release power-ups which you can change by shooting them. Usually you get the option of an offensive power-up, a defensive one and some points, so it is up to you whether you repair your shield or go for more firepower. This means that at the same point in two separate games, a single player could have no extra weapons, or two players could be fully armed.

SIDHE
Bearing in mind this wide range of possibilities, the programmers have done a pretty job of balancing the game out, although there are still some points (especially in two-player games) when you outgun the baddies totally.

You cannot just rely on getting bigger guns, though, because power-ups tend to come in clumps during heavy action, so there is a good chance of missing them as they drift off the screen. The game's area is about one-and-a-half screens wide, which looks great and works well, as it means that you can sometimes skirt round hot spots like battleships or buildings.

The standard shoot-em-up technique of wiggling around the screen with the fire button tapped down won't always work either, as there are things like towers and bridges to avoid, and even rock slides to dodge. And that is before you take all of the baddies into account.


Ahh, you did not have to do that, she cried

FAIRIES
And there are hundreds of them, from foot soldiers to motorcycles to gangster limos and tanks. The air is full of planes, balloons, parachutists and helicopters, the sea are chocka with boats and subs, and the land is crawling with hostiles, and each and every one of them is drawn in loving detail. There is none of this generic baddy nonsense here, no way. The snow levels have skidoos, skiers and soldiers in little furry parkas, while all the troops are in desert camouflage in the, um, desert and plain old khakis for that all-important around-town combat.

The detail of the thing.. Well, where do you start? If you shoot up a phone box, blood drains out of it. If you nail a parachutist, his 'chute crumples and he splats on the ground. The tarpaulin at the back of trucks is lifted to reveal troops, and then the interior is lit by their gun flashes.

Eskimos furtively look around before detonating their igloos, but only if you do not blow them away first. Train carriages marked 'Danger' go off with such a whump that the screen whites out, and you actually see soldiers popping up from behind walls rather than just appearing. The graphic artists worked overtime on this one.

There also seem to be two levels of weather over the action, so from time to time you find yourself flying through drifting fog, driving rain or blustery snow. Having two levels means that the rain or snow can fall in two directions, which gives a realistic effect that also looks jolly nice.

PUNCH
Banshee is hard enough to be challenging, but you always get that extra bit further. The relentless blasting is all a bit one track, but throwing tall buildings into your path forces you to think a little, so it is not entirely mindless. Mostly mindless, but not quite entirely.

The only things I do not like are the end-of-level bosses, but that is really a problem with me as there is nothing I hate more than battling through a level only to meet a swift and seemingly pointless death at the hands of a rock-hard boss monster. And of course, the entire thing looks beautiful. Or did I already mention that a couple of times?



Banshee logo AGA CU Amiga Screen Star

To the bunkers with you! Core have recreated the shoot 'em up, and Tony Dillon's gone machine gun mad!

Aaargh! It's interesting to note that with all the technological breakthroughs in the last ten years, the one thing that many gamesplayers love is a blast from the past, and Core Design's latest offering is a tasty morsel to fill that appetite. One of the most influential shoot 'em ups ever has to have been the wonderful Bally Midway coin op 1942, an airborne tale of death and destruction over land and sea.

This was then followed up with the less successful 1943, and then by the more popular than ever Flying Shark. The formula was always the same - you piloted a poorly armed bi-plane over enemy territory blasting airbound targets and ground based opposition alike, powering up your weapons as you went along, without scruples or morals, with the eventual aim of killing everything that ever lived. In these politically correct times, of course, such a game could never exist happily, could it?

Core obviously don't think so, as Banshee clearly proves. The two designers and creators of the game, Danish duo Soren and Jacob are happy to admit that they have borrowed many ideas from the classic coin ops mentioned above, but have added enough of their own flavour to make it original.

Still, there's some plot to keep you lot happy. The year is 1999, and no world wars have ever taken place. Mankind has evolved and developed along a completely different thread, and now we have finally reached a state of war. Unfortunately, technology is still quite primitive (this is where the bi-plane comes in), and not many people are actually that skilled at fighting. Enter you, ace pilot extraordinaire to save the day, or not as the case may be.

Set over four levels with increasing difficulty, Banshee starts out over the familiar 1942 landscape of sea and beaches, but soon evolves into towns and cities, deserts, snow scapes, swamps and eventually a hi tech warzone where everything is thrown at you.

Of course you are attacked every step of the way, and every so often you have to fight a bad guy who is not only much larger than you, but also takes considerably more hits than you to destroy. Killing some enemies leaves behind floating icons that can be collected and used to increase your weapons capabilities from a simple forward firing cannon to eight-way missiles, homing bullets and smart bombs. But you didn't really need me to tell you any of that, did you?

The game looks fantastic, and considering it's A1200 only, so it should. No expense has been spared on the graphics, with over 3,000 frames of animation in all, covering everything from planes exploding to little men racing across the screen with their heads on fire because you have just blown up the truck they were driving in. Entering a secret code gets you info the really slick stuff, however, and I'm not going to spoil the surprise and tell you what sort of thing happens there!

One idea that has been quite up really lifted from 1942 is the barrel roll. When things get too difficult, hitting the space bar (or the second fire button if you're playing with a joypad), your plane races to the top of the screen, where it performs a mammoth loop, which takes it back to the bottom of the screen.

While it is doing this, it is completely invincible, although it can still damage other craft by smashing into them while it is doing this. A very handy tool to have, I think you'll agree. However, you are limited to the number of rolls you can actually perform and although can collect more in the shape of power ups, you still need to use them very sparingly indeed.

Banshee is a very difficult game. There are always plenty of horrible ways to die, and you won't be able to let your concentration lapse for a moment. Not that you would really want to, as it is fiendishly addictive. With alt the playability of a classic game of old, Banshee is one AGA title that no self-respecting 1200 owner should be without.



Banshee CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Computing Gold Award

Fancy being a super hero? Then take the part of Sven Svardensvart and save the Styx Empire from bad guy Blardax Maldrear. With only your trusty flying machine, the 'Banshee', you have to stop Maldrear from taking over the world.

Courtesy of Core Dsign, you can not get this shoot-'em-up of the century for the CD32. Scoring a deserved 89% (AMC76) for the A1200 version, it has now been ported over for all CD32 blood fest fans to get their mitts on.

It's a vertical shoot-'em-up and although there is nothing particularly new about it, this is a prime example of the genre. The scenario changes frequently, flying across different terrains and meeting increasingly challenging enemies. As ace pilot of this power-propped plane, you must blast the enemies and avoid their bullets.

And OK, so maybe it's not the most politically correct of games but after all that is all it is... a game. However, if you're the type who finds blasting people to bits a little sick, whether in a comical style or not, then steer clear - though you'd be missing out on one brilliant title.

The two-player mode is a nice touch and you get the choice whether to split the power-ups or not - ideal if your friend is the bonus-hogging type! The three levels of difficulty also add to the challenge.

Graphically it is amazing. It's viewed from a top-down perspective with the ground below constantly changing to many different landscapes. One minute you're flying across the deep blue ocean, the next the Arctic Wastes. Most of the time you are rather pre-occupied with blasting baddies but when you do actually spot all the little details, you realise how wonderful the graphics really are.

This is a terrific title loaded with atmosphere, packed full of objectives to complete and millions of baddies to kill. Sound effects add realism and all the bombing going off left, right and centre makes for a real feast of pure shoot-'em-up heaven.

80%


Banshee CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Format Gold

There are a few things in life more satisfying than the vertically-scrolling top-down shoot-em-up, but I cannot think of any at the moment. So Banshee (Core Design, 0332 297797, £29.99) it is then. This game's hero has one of the finest names around - Sven Svardensvart, and it is he who must save the world from the equally exceptionally-monikered Blardax Maldrear, using only a bi-plane which emits a most pleasant drone.

But these details are trifling. Banshee is simply about blowing things away over four massive levels and tackling the odd horrible boss. The graphics are as pretty as a picture - there are some very sweet rotating ray-traced enemies - but you are so busy shooting folk you do not get a great deal of time to admire the surroundings, although the excellent two-player mode offers a little more respite. Banshee is one of the loveliest and most playable shoot-em-ups around.



Banshee CD32 logo CD32

Nach dem Action-Rolli "Heimdall 2" hat Core Design nun auch diese Vertikal-Ballerei auf Schillerscheibe gepackt - und wieder muß man die Unterschiede zur Diskversion mit der Lupe suchen...

Wer sich an die angekündigten Full Motion Videosequenzen gefreut hatte, durfte daher ziemlich enttauscht sein, denn weder grafisch noch akustisch hat sich gegenüber dem 1200er Banshee irgend etwas geändert. Schlecht ist das Game deswegen freilich noch lange nicht.

Die Vorgeschichte erfährt man aus dem lahmen Intro, einer kleinen Diashow ohne Sprachausgabe. Mit einer einmotorigen Propellermaschine, die er Banshee (Todesfee) nennt, zieht ein gewisser Sven Svardensvart in den Kampf gegen die Invasionsstreitkräfte des Alien-Diktators Blardax Maldrear.

Und hier hat er es dabei trotz der nun drei Schwierigkeitsgrade kaum leichter als anno Disk, denn das Paßwort-system hat die Konvertierung leider nicht überlebt.

Immerhin gibt es Continues und einen tollen Duomodus, was die vier umfangreichen Levels wenn schon nicht einfacher, dann doch zumindest unterhaltsamer macht. Das gilt vor allem dann, wenn die beiden Piloten im Optionsmenü nicht fein säuberlich nach Flugzeugfarbe getrennte Boni wählen, sondern sich um die Extraleben, Bomben, Raketen oder Streuschüsse streiten.

Mit dem Pad fliegt es sich ganz hervorragend, so daß man auf die alternative Maussteuerung getrost verzichten kann. Natürlich ist das Gameplay teilweise schon sehr brutal, aber man sollte sich eben ganz auf das butterweiche Scrolling, die tollen Grafikeffekte, die knackigen Sound-FX und die abwechslungsreichen Gegner konzentrieren.

Kurzum: die Todesfee ist auch in ungetunter Form ein heißer Tip für Flinkfinger mit CD-Hangar! (st)



Banshee CD32 logo CD32

Core/¨30

Amiga version: 89%, AP39.
"It has got no in-game music," gloated Cam in his original review, prompting flutters of worry that the CD version would spawn a clunky audio track. But - hurrah! - that is not the case. Banshee remains silent, apart from the oddly drumlike thunder of your guns, explosions aplenty, and the irate moans of the dying.

There are purportedly two extra levels in there, but, er, I did not get to seem them. Banshee is a stunningly tough game, with your plane under constant attack from all angles.

It is also a hugely clever one, from the power-ups you shoot to rotate through their effects, knocking them back up the screen as you do so (an idea pinched from the gorgeous SNES game Pop 'n' Twinbee but far superior because instead of confusing coloured bells the power-ups are easily recognisable icons) to the way enemy bullets thump your plane backwards in a that-hurts manner. The game is brimming with spectacular touches like collapsing hangars revealing airships, or plummeting troop transports spewing hopelessly optimistic burning parachutists, or painfully inept hot-air balloonists chucking bombs, or (by far the best) the most dangerous monster turning out to be a lone soldier crouched behind a packing case with a machine-gun.

How you admire his stupid bravery, even as you strafe him with four-way fire. It is still a great game, even though the amount of movement on the screen does sometimes cause your eyes to go a wee bit funny.



Banshee CD32 logo CD32 CU Amiga Screen Star

Guns and death come to the CD32 like never before as Core Design muster all the firepower they can manage for Banshee. Tony Dillon works off his pent-up aggression.

Imagine a planet that has never had any world wars. One where technology hadn't really evolved at any speed, simply because it didn't need to. A world where peace rules, and the most threatening thing that could ever happen would be for someone to invent the Microwave Oven.

Now into this world bring an alien invader, one who has more technology than you could ever imagine. One who sees this other Earth as an easy target. Once you've managed to get this picture into your head, then introduce the element of the one man army. A man whose father was murdered by the invading force many years ago for refusing to invent the Microwave Oven. The only man with the know-how to put together a flying combat machine - otherwise known as an airplane, and take on the might of the invading force.

There you have the plot to one of the best shoot 'em ups ever seen on the Amiga.

STOP AND STARE
Designed and coded by the two new Danish faces at Core Design (Soren Hannibal and Jacob Andersen), Banshee is a return to the classic values of computer games. Almost everyone who has stopped and spent half a day playing it, which is basically everyone in the office, has remarked at how similar Banshee is to the classic arcade game 1942. This is no bad thing though, as that game was so playable and addictive that you couldn't wish for a better role model.

If you haven't collected your free bus pass, then you might not know what 1942 actually is. Essentially, it's a vertically scrolling shoot 'em up. Set in the air, with a bi-plane, or pair of bi-planes in two player mode, fighting everything that the world has to throw against them.

Much like Banshee where attacks can come from all directions, both from the air and the ground, from man and machine, and you have to try and avoid it all. There aren't many things that can't be obliterated by your incessant firepower, but then again there aren't many things that won't fire back at you given half the chance.

When you begin the game, you have a rather weedy little plane, with a single pathetic cannon to defend yourself. In the tradition of all the great shoot 'em ups, though, power ups are never far away. Simply destroy a couple of waves of attacking enemies, and a small tile will appear before you, slowly drifting towards the bottom of the screen. Shoot this a couple of times to change it to the weapon you want most, and then collect it. In no time at all, you'll be firing powerful shells in up to eight directions, while letting loose bombs and homing missiles, and generally wiping out everything in sight with the minimum of effort.

BLUMMIN' HARD
That isn't to say that Banshee is particularly easy. Far from it. This is probably one of the toughest shoot 'em ups I have ever come across. There is just so much going on at any one time that you're going to find it hard to get to the end of even the first (long) level, let alone anywhere near the end of the fourth and final one. There can be over twenty objects firing at you at any one time, which allows very little room to manoeuvre.

This is the real reason why Banshee is so addictive. It really is a test of skill rather than a test of luck. If you're fast with a joypad and your visual reflexes are good enough, then theoretically you should be able to get through the game, as there's not a single point, on any level, where you die through bad design. Mind you, you'd have to be pretty damn good to do it.

Banshee looks superb, the graphics are incredibly detailed and include some gory touches such as bloodied soldiers running in panic from destroyed tanks, it sounds great and plays great, Let's face it, Banshee is blummin' great!