Black Shadow logo

Price: £19.99

Black Shadow is the latest offering from those overworked guys at CRL's Zen Room. The game is a scrolling shoot-em-up which will probably come as no surprise to the many followers of this company's exploits. What is new is the fact that it's their first game for the Amiga.

Upon booting, you are presented with a rather flashy title screen bearing the CRL logo and, of course, the title of the game. After a short burst of 'classical type' music you are welcomed to this project by a nice man with a BBC announcer accent. This is much like the old 'This is Cinema' message used in picture houses all over the country and is a very nice touch indeed.

Another picture later you are, at last, presented with an options page allowing one or two player participation. A player may select one of thre characters to play the game with, but it doesn't really matter which one you choose and if you look closely at the male faces, you'll see both are the samy guy, but one has a beard. It's all a bit pointless. After setting your various preferences, you may begin play by selecting the 'tick' icon and pressing a button. Taking off from your launchpad, you are thrown straight into action, no messing.

Flying vertically up the screen with your character's portrait, score, etc., decorating the far left and right of the screen you may start blasting and earning lots of points. However, if you wish to go further than two inches up the screen, you must employ some method into your madness.

The first thing to do is take out the numerous rocket launchers which seem to be almost everywhere. These little orange nasties will throw row upon row of missiles in your direction, and if you don't do something about it quickly you may as well say your prayers.

To deal with these you need to use air-to-ground missiles, which can be accessed by pulling back on the stick/mouse while the button is held down. You may need two or three attempts at this, as judging the distance is quite difficult.

While trying all this, you have also to dodge lots of other alien ships which are sharing your airspace. These range from flashing globes and little 'Amiga Balls' to the more conventional type of baddy who flies in the classic alien spaceship. All in all you don't get much chance to look at an object before evasive action is required to avoid it.

As the landscape continues to scroll smoothly, but rather slowly, in a general downward direction, you will find that several of the buildings on the ground are in fact amazingly tall and therefore create yeat another hazard to be swiftly avoided. Split second timing is often needed to prevent transformation into a pancake and a very plain one at that.

Although there seems to be an awful lot to crash into, you do in fact only lose a ship after every three collisions, and will just see a nicely drawn explosion you can fly away from. When you lose a craft you are, unfortunately, chucked all the way back to the start of the current level no matter how far up you are. Another quirk is that in dual player mode, players must play as a team because when one guy loses all three lives, the game's over.

Getting back to the screen display, all the graphics in Black Shadow are hand drawn by artist Jon Law and some of the attention to detail, such as the glowing grates scattered about and the large metallic domes which open and close menacingly, is really effective.

Getting all the way to the end of a phase is in no way easy, but when this is eventually achieved your craft is welcomed with open arms by five or six rrocket launchers which try their damnedest to send you back. To complete the level you have to destroy the flashing light which occupies the centre of the runway. One well aimed missile and you're on to the next level, which has a different graphical layout, a few more nasties and a lot more buildings - but not before you're given a side-view close up of your ship and get a little nod from the pilot.

If you actually manage to hit the red light at the end of this level, consider yourself wonderful and rejoice because I can't seem to do it for the life of me and get sent all the way back to the start.

With pretty neat graphics and reasonable sound effects, this game will probably appeal most to the gamester who likes the 'tactical shoot-em' rather than just straight blasting. The initial difficulty may, however, put off most people. If it was slightly faster and had a bouncy soundtrack to blast with, this would almost certainly have been a Screen Star. Unfortunately it hasn't, so it ain't. Nice try, though.