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Battle Squadron logo Amiga Computing Supreme Award

WHEN it comes to vertical scrolling shoot-'em-ups, the words "veritable plethora" would adequately describe the number of them for The Machine That Does It Better. If we limit the search to really good ones, there's two that spring to mind. Battle Squadron isn't one of these two - it neatly sidesteps the competition and comes in number one by the fabled long chalk.

Now you might think these are mighty big words - indeed, most of them have more than five letters - but Battle Squadron doesn't deign to be the sequel to any other game, even though the same folks did Hybris, which is also in the top three.

Nor does it have a rather insipid tune licensed from somewhere else. Battle Squadron shows that there's plenty of new tricks in the old shoot-'em-up dog.

Style permeates this fabulous production. In homage to the age old tradition, Battle Squadron sports a plot of such horrific inconsequences that it would gag a gameshow host.

Yea, it is written that Commanders Mayer and Bergin were returning from a successful reconnaissance mission deep into the heart of the Barrax Empire. And lo, a great big huge ginormous flying thing did appear close by. And the good commanders saw it had very large guns and had "Barrax" written on its side and generally could be considered by all and sundry as a bummer.

And from this great big huge ginormous flying thing there appear a tractor beam, and we're not talking Massey-Fergusons here. And it did proceed to draw the commanders' ship towards it and the commanders were a wee bit worried. But in the last garbled message they did manage to say that it won't be much fun getting us out, so you'd better send something pretty zappy.

Back in the real world (now the coffee's worn off) your elegant little ship is moved about in the time honoured way via joystick, or mouse if you're feeling silly or are player two. Or both.

The play area is a full 256-line, 64-colour (or 32-colour and some extremely clever shading) scroller, with tiny strips shaved off the side to give it the perfect arcade aspect ratio. Your weapons can be upgraded through more than 25 levels to a degree that the only way the flying nasties can get to you is from the sides. They know the trick, and they use it.

There are some phenomenally cunning enemies that can turn well nigh invisible before trying to catch you unawares. There are also some incredibly stupid ones which have to rely on very thick armour and a very high rate of fire. Both work out equally nasty...

If you took an Amiga running Battle Squadron, put it in a large wooden box and put it in an arcade, it would complete on level terms with dedicated machines with really fast processors and more memory than you could shake a stick at.

The attract mode is very pleasantly noisy, and the fine in-game effects don't seem to suffer any when you have the equally fine tune running. These people really know how to make the Amiga sing.

Everyone went gaga over Xenon II and rightly so - it was the best available then. But now Battle Squadron is the best. Xenon II scored the perfect 100 per cent. How can we express that Battle Squadron is even better? Hmmm. I'll show you how...

Battle Squadron logo

ELECTRONIC ZOO >Price: £24.99 * Joystick, Mouse or Keyboard

Don't crises come up just at the wrong times? Just as you are enjoying a well-earned reset from defending Earth against alien oppression, an urgent message is sent from Galax Lunar HQ cancelling all leave. It seems that Earth's saviours against the Barrax Empire didn't make it home after their mission.

After commanders Mayers and Bergin had devastated the Barrax troops on Urania, the enemy sent an attack cruiser to kidnap and return them to Terrainia where they are even now held hostage. Rather than bend before the aggressors' demands, Galax Luna HQ has decided to launch a daring rescue mission. It has been decided that it would be more beneficial to send a couple of small attack fighters to sneak behind the alien defences and rescue the heroes, rather than sending a huge battle fleet, which stands the risk of alerting the Barrax troops.

You play the Squadron Commander chosen to head the mission in this follow-up to the frantic Hybris. The basic style of the game is similar to its predecessor, being a vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up with additional weapons, but instead of allowing you simply to zoom up the screen blasting everything in sight until you get to the end, the game presents a scrolling planet surface section with a series of craters leading to various underground caverns. The enemy craft from all these sections have to be taken on before the captured commanders can be freed.

You start off with the basic splat 'em laser weapons and a limited supply of devastating Nova Smart Bombs. These weapons can be replenished an improved as you go on by shooting carrier craft to reveal a coloured weapons pod, the weapon awarded depending on the colour of the pod.


One of the most impressive things about Battle Squadron is its superb appearance. The graphics are so well designed and smoothly animated that you could easily think that you are looking at a coin-op. The sprites and background have a strong combat atmosphere, with metallic tanks and ships moving around futuristic industrial landscapes on the surface and all manner of weird creatures underground. Sound is of an equally high standard, some parts of the tunes and the odd effect sounding very Japenese and extremely powerful too.


The action is very frantic and compulsive but, as is the way of many shoot-em-ups, once you've managed to smash your way through the alien defences once it's likely you won't return for a repeat attack. This is probably the reason for the number of scrolling blasts on the market and their success. Still, the going is tough, and it's doubtful that you'll complete it in that much of a hurry, so it should manage to keep its hold on your trigger finger for a while at least.


The genre of vertically-scrolling shoot-em-ups is like formularised pop music: it has to exist, because that's what the majority of young gamesplayers appear to be into. But it's still quite nice to see one that's as expertly done as Battle Squadron. It looks and sounds attractive, the gameplay is frantic, but when all is said and done, there isn't a great deal of depth to the game.

Still, this shouldn't put off blast fans, since this is designed specifically for them, and does the job beautifully. Battle Squadron is an excellent example of how to write a shoot-em-up.

Battle Squadron logo Xenon 2: Megablast logo Amiga Joker Hit

Für Action-Fans eine abgemachte Sache: Die Bitmap Brothers haben mit ihrem "Megablast" das Ballerspiel des Jahres abgeliefert. Aber halt! Wir haben ein brandneues Game entdeckt, das locker mithalten kann! Exklusiv für Euch: "Battle Squadron" vom Autor des Superhits "Hybris".

Wäre das Intro eines Spiels das ausschlaggebende Kriterium für dessen Bewertung, dann hätte Battle Squadron die besseren Karten: In bester Cinemaware-Tradition scrollt ein riesiges Raumschiff über den Screen - Schnitt - wir schalten um in die Kommandozentrale, wo die Besatzung in Großaufnahme zu bewundern ist (hoch, was für schöne Menschen!). Dazwischen erfahren wir die traurige Vorgeschichte: Seit Jahrhunderten liegt die Menschheit im Clinch mit dem macht hungrigen Barrax-Imperium, das gesamte Universum unterjochen will.

Anno Domini 2395 machten sich Commander J. Mayers und seine hübschen Kollegen I . Bergin auf, um Informationen über den Feind auszuspionieren. Die Action ging leider in die Hose. Die beiden wurden von den Barrax gefangen genommen, der letzte Funkspruch kam nur noch bruchstückhaft durch den Äther und berichtet von unsichtbaren Raumschiffen. Nun liegt es am Spieler eine Rettungsaktion einzuleiten und zu sehen, was es mit den unsichtbaren Gegnern auf sich hat.

Battle Squadron Xenon II verzichtet auf eine derart opulente Vorgeschichte. Nur wenige Zeilen im (ansonsten vorbildlichen) Anleitungsheft informieren den Spieler, daß es wieder gegen die üblen Xeniten geht, die diesmal fünf Bomben im Zeitgefüge angebracht werden.

Werden sie nicht entschärft, bleibt vom Universum nur noch so wenig übrig, daß man das ruhig den Barrax überlassen könnte. Vorspann gibt's auch keinen, dafür entschädigt die tolle Titelmusik von "Bomb the Bass" großartig umgesetzt von Altmeister David Whittaker.

Im eigentlichen Spiel tun sich dann jedoch allerlei Gemeinsamkeiten auf. Grundsätzlich bieten beide Programme vertikales Scrolling und jede menge Gegner zum Abknallen. Jedoch hat man sich hübsch wie drüben einiges einfallen lassen, um sich vom gewohnten Baller-Linerlei abzusetzen: Das hervorragendste Merkmal von Megablast ist sicherlich die Tatsache, daß der Spieler hier auch rückwärts zur Sache gehen kann, mit anderen Worten, stößt man mit dem Raumschiff an den unteren Bildschirmrand, wird rückwärts gescrollt!

Dem hält Battle Squadron die eingangs erwähnten "unsichtbaren Gegner" entgegen: Chamäleon-Sprites, die nur als Konturen vor dem Hintergrund zu erkennen sind - Wahnsinn! Außerdem wird der Bildausschnitt hier neben dem Vertikal-Scrolling zusätzlich noch horizontal bewegt, was richtiges Arcade-Feeling aufkommen läßt.

Auch zum Kapitel Extrawaffen ist einiges geboten: In Xenon II tauchen sporadisch Kapseln auf, wenn diese eingesammelt werden, gibt's ein feines Extra für den eigenen Fighter. Daneben lassen alle Feindleichen eine kleine durchsichtige Kugel zurück, die dann bare Minze bringt.

Etwa in der Mitte jedes Levels taucht ein Shop auf, wo ein grimmiger Außerirdischer die schönsten Extras bereithält: Je nach Kontostand erhält man dort Extraleben, Zusatzenergie, Smartbombs, Seitenlaser und vieles mehr. Wer ein Extra nicht mehr gebrauchen kann, hat auch die Möglichkeit, es zum halben Anschaffungspreis wieder zu verkaufen.

Battle Squadron hingegen begnügt sich mit dem bekannten Aufsammeln von Symbolen, die dann bis zu 25 verschiedene Zusatzwaffen (z.B. praktische Suchraketen) bringen. Besonders gefallen uns hier die Schützschilde (...).

Die Gegner greifen aus der Luft oder von Bodenstationen aus an. Viele dieser Stationen sind mit Glasröhren untereinander verbunden, in denen Panzer umherfahren, die dem Spieler das Leben ordentlich schwer machen können.

Doch alle diese Features sind nur zusätzliche Feinheiten, die wahre Stärke beider Programme liegt in die unnachahmlichen Mischung aus Spielbarkeit und optische Präsentation (...).

Während das Scrolling von Xenon II zwar ausgezeichnet ist, kann doch eine kleine Verlangsamung verzeichnet werden, sobald zu viele Sprites über den Schirm hübschen. Battle Squadron hingegen ist in dieser Hinsicht absolut perfekt, dafür garantieren sage und schreibe 60 Bilder pro Sekunde. Die Grafik ist zwar hochklassig und farbenfroh (72 Farben!), jedoch eher konventionell - die urzeitlichen Welten von Xenon aber muß man gesehen haben!

Besonders die schlußmonster sind eine Klasse für sich, das eher technisch angehauchte Battle Squadron setzt hier mehr auf überlange Level. - es stehen verschiedene Hintergrundgrafiken mit einer Gesamtlänge von 30 Minuten zur Verfügung! In Sachen Sound haben die Bitmap Brothers die Nase vorne, was da aus den Lautsprechern kommt, ist schlichtweg phantastisch. Hier kann der Konkurrent trotz Abwechslungsreichtum qualitativ nicht mithalten.

Beide Programme warten mit einen Zwei-Spieler Modus auf, aber nur in Battle Squadron darf man mit einem Kumpel gemeinsam über den Schirm jagen. Dafür erfreut Megablast den gestreßten Universum-Retter mit drei Continues - eine feine Sache, denn das Game ist ein harter Brocken.

Welchem Spiel nun die Krone des Action-Königs gebührt, kann und soll an dieser Stelle nicht geklärt werden. Erstens stand uns für Battle Squadron "nur" eine Vorabversion zur Verfügung, zweitens sind beide Games großartig - jedes auf seine ganz spezielle Weise.

Außerdem, was soll's: Wahre Baller-Freaks kommen ohnedies nicht umhin, sich beide Programme zuzulegen! (ml)

Battle Squadron logo

European Electronic Zoo
Price: £24.99

When arcades first had the nation in their grip, the sort of machines you expected to find were vertical scroller shoot 'em ups. Since then hydraulics have been added, along with sophisticated programming techniques, though it;s never been quite the same since.

So why, I wondered, would the programmers of Hybris decided to write a game using such an outdated style and then did a follow up the same way? Because it's fun...

Battle Squadron resembles Hybris in the visuals and gameplay. You start with a small laser and three smart bombs. Shoot aliens, collect pods, and enhance your weapons. The weapons range from a standard laser, through multiple firing to side and diagonal blasts, with increasing power levels.

Further on up the level Enter Here signs appear, allowing access to the planet's core, and ultimately the guardian. In the instructions you are advised to remain top-side until you've built up your ship's weapons. Sound advice, for once you're inside the planet the aliens seem to be a lot larger and tougher to kill. And just when you thought you'd trashed the guardian you realise it wasn't him at all, just something big that happened to be in the way.

Battle Squadron relies on one thing to make it a good game - fun. It's been a long time since my hand has actually ached from pounding the fire button, and my eyes hurt from constant monitor exposure.

The graphics are brightly coloured with a traditional array of aliens attacking, and a few modern ones to boot. A nice airy tune accompanies the pounding spot effects, complimenting the game perfectly. In no way a classic, Batttle Squadron is nevertheless a welcome relief from the constant battery of licences we seem to be receiving.

Battle Squadron logo

European Electronic Zoo, Amiga £24.99

Ever get the feeling that you've just made an incredibly stupid mistake and are completely doomed? Like volunteering to sell a 1,000 raffle tickets down your street? Or accepting promotion to Squadron Commander, Battle Group V?

Of course, it sounds like one of those powerful jobs where you sit aboard a flagship and send other, lowly people into battle. Now you've arrived at Galax Lunar HQ and all they've got for you is a pair of Delta II class cruisers. So what exactly does your 'promotion' mean? Well, there are lots of unbelievably dangerous missions that you can now accept. Suicide missions, in short, and one's just arrived for you!

Commander Berry Mayers and the extremely fanciable Commander Lori Bergin have just gone missing. They'd completed a spying mission on Urania, home planet of the Barrax Empire, when something interrupted their journey. Apparently their ship was boarded and towed to Terrainia, the most heavily defended planet in the known universe.

Battle Group V is to fly over the planet, and into its three underground bases - via entry points on the wraparound, vertically scrolling surface - destroying all the Barraxians before liberating the hostages. Unfortunately the Barraxians have developed many biological weapons, such as huge, laser-spitting mutant plants and enormous flies. Then there's the invisible fighters and homing missiles!

Fortunately, your ship does not have to stick with its fitted armament. When blasted, transport ships release upgrade capsules which float across the screen slowly changing colour. If you've got an Emerald Laser, collecting the capsule when it's green will upgrade it. Alternatively, you can collect another colour, switching to Magnetic Torps, an Anti-Particle Beam, or a Magma Wave. Including upgrades there are 25 different types of weapon which vary from being precise and hard-hitting, to weaker but covering a bigger area.

No less useful are Nova smart bombs. Hold down fire and rotate the joystick to activate this fearsome, swirling mass of energy. You start off armed with three, but more can be collected.

Phil King I love the graphics of this game, from the hideous organic levels to the superbly detailed purple bases. But what's best about Battle Squadron is the excellent simultaneous two-player mode which gives it an edge on most vertical scrollers - two players means twice the fun. As in that other classic two-player shoot-'em-up, Blood Money, there's usually a mad dash to get the extra weaponry icons! Another good feature is the option to change the game parameters; a neat touch in a very playable blast-'em-up.
Stuart Wynne Battle Squadron reminds me of another great Amiga shoot-'em-up, namely Sidewinder. There's the slight horizontal scroll, the excellent wrecked baddie graphics and even the relatively slow orange bullets. But Battle is clearly a great advance, the graphics are that much more varied and well drawn - undoubtedly the best touch is the superb, shimmering invisibility effect. The ability to upgrade your weapons is also good: staying on the surface to build up your firepower, for the underground sections adds a nice element of tactical play. I don't think this has quite got the attention to game detail as R-Type, but it's certainly an extremely playable, arcade-style spectacular.