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Is it level after level of alien zapping blood letting? Or is it the romantic tale of three domestic pets on a voyage across the wilderness? Witha name like Blastar, it's a straightforward enough choice, surely?

Just recently, here at our squat just outside Amiga Computing Towers, we've been inundated with shoot-'em-ups. I'm not too sure as to the reason behind this. Is it because every software house has suddenly become infested with dangerously deranged psychotic menaces for programmers? Or is it that we're now on the run in to the jolly Christmas festivities?

If this is the case, then they all want to unleash an orgy of destruction and mayhem on a blood hungry general public at this time of peace and good will.

Blastar could be described as one such product. However, when it first reared its shooting frenzy-type face in our wigwam at the back of the car park, we thought we'd been accidentally sent a mail order product by mistake.

Meet Blastar, (put on a poor American accent) with its unique 24-blade system, Blastar is the perfect Christmas gift, Blastar is the ideal companion wherever you wonder.
In the garden, you can weed, mow, plant, sink a pond and landscape it all with Blastar's interchangeable hads. In the home, Blastar's interchangeable heads. In the home, Blastar's your best buddy. Maybe it's a simple loft conversion you're after? Or maybe you've always wanted to alter the roof of your humble abode into something more elaborate?

Blastar comes equipped with a pioneering system that allows you to turn your two up, two down into the Taj Mahal or any other wonder of the world. Having problems with your seweage? Blastar comes complete with 40 metres of high tensile steel cable to flush out those awkward pieces that got stuck. Dog need de-warning? Blastar comes with 40 metres of high tensile steel cable.

Old Skip will howl out with joy when feeling the difference. If you're pushed for time and the kids are playing up, Blastar comes with its very own cat a nine tails - they'll never give you lip again! All this can be yours for $9.99, or for a further $5 Blastar Blastar is nothing of the sort, but anycomes with its very own combine harvester, milking machine and wife quietener.

Blastar is nothing of the sort, but any inquiries from interested readers should be directed towards Ronco. In Blastar you take on the unenviable role of have to plough your way through five galaxies, each one comprising of two sub-levels. To make matters worse, in true shoot-'em-up style there's a rather huge nasty at the end of each sub-level.

On each stage there are a set of targets to search out and destroy in order to complete the level. These vary between such things as strange alien organic defence systems, weird lavic generators and extra-terrestrial asteroids.

As you progress through the levels at various stages you will be rewarded with the option of docking. It's at these docking bays where you can enhance your armoury to give you a greater chance in the ensuing levels.

Blastar features some nice graphics, especially some of the backdrops of the alien environments which stretch and warp producing a very surreal effect. The multi-directional parallaxing is also handled very effectively.

The play in Blastar is fast, furious and full to the brim of different nasties. However, this is where it runs into its first problem. The control system just isn't up to the job. Your ship seems to struggle to turn in time, the net result being that you end up careering into enemy craft.

As the joystick doctor, I also diagnose that the controls seem to suffer from a deep rooted sensitivity psychosis bought on by a prolonged trauma, in what Freud termed as the programming stage. Or, in layman's terms the controls are crap and you can't destroy that amount of aliens in time. On the plus side however, it features a thumpering techno choon for you to blast away to.

Blaster's not a bad shoot-'em-up at all. It has every feature that all the classics have, but somehow it just misses the mark. It's a shame that the controls couldn't have been tweaked a little before release because this is where the main criticism lies.

I think most gamers will like the look of Blaster and immediately want to take to it, but I reckon just like myself you'll end up throwing your joystick down in frustration at the difficulty induced by slack control.

The Gamer Guide to an outer space-type "Game for a laugh"

Unknown to the planet of friendly Terrans, wacky Jeremy Beadle has arranged for a bunch of ruthless alien killers to attack their home.

What a set up! The aliens materialise out of a vortex and Jeremy pretends to be the man from the council - that false beard and hand fool everyone!

Meanwhile aboard the defence spaceship everyone is in on the joke except...

...unsuspecting alien killing ace Rock Clackerpipe. Our camera, secretly disguised as a man from the council, reveals Rock receiving a threat warning of the imminent danger. As Rock reels around in shock, a string of four-letter superlatives are edited out with bird noises for the benefit of any minors watching.

The audience roars with laughter as Rock initiates the defence system - little does he know we've switched his plasma bolts for instant custard.

Seeing what little effect the custard has had on the aliens, Rock sprints to the last line of defence - Blastar.

The audience screams with laughter as Rock exits the spaceship. But Rock has the last laugh. As he blasts off an alien missile hits the spaceship and destroys the audience. Jeremy Beadle rips off his false wig to reveal a pulsating insectoid-type head. I should call him by his full title though, B-del High Emperor of Boodle, second only to the mighty N-Ree Kelly...

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Shoot em ups, eh? We have certainly had them. We have had horizontally scrolling, vertically scrolling, four way scrolling, into the screen, viewed from above, side on, from behind, first person, third person perspectives. We have had the lot!

If anyone ever writes another shoot em up they will have to have an extra special trick up their sleeves. Super incredible playability, extra smooth parallax scrolling, unprecedentedly powerful power-ups, ore something else. Do not ask me what - if i knew I would have sold the idea to Sensible Software and I would be designing my own shoot-em-up now instead of telling you about this one.

A second superstar?
If the Bitmap Brothers had followed up their 1989 shoot em up superstar Xenon 2 - Megablast, they would have written something a lot like this. It is the logical next step in the Xenon saga. Xenon was a slow, but involving vertical scroller that allowed you to change between a land-borne craft, which looks a lot like your ship in Blastar, and a flying ship.

The landscape was a futuristic metal planet. Xenon 2 went one step further. The land craft was discarded for a spaceship that could be rigged with so many power-ups it really deserved the Megablast part of the title. The scenery was now organic, flailing tentacles ensnaring your ship. If, in Xenon 2, you took a wrong turn, you could pull back on the joystick and scroll backwards down the route you had taken. A kind of two-way scrolling shoot em up.

If the Bitmaps had not gone on to produce Gods, Magic Pockets and The Chaos Engine, but had produced Xenon 3 instead, do you not think they might have had a viewed from above four-way scrolling shoot em up? Especially one where you fly over a fetid organic landscape?

Enter Core Design. Enter Blastar, with the same dark and moody look, the same organic landscape, the same 'Entering Shop' section for buying power-ups. There is nothing I love more than a good shoot em up.

But there is nothing I hate more than an average one. And sadly, that is what Blastar is. The gameplay is average, the control method is unwieldy, the music is average, the sound effects are uninspiring, the aliens are unintelligent and difficult to see, the missions are dull, the intro animation is awful.

But Blastar does have one original twist, as part of some of the missions you have to 'enter the tunnels and destroy the guardians'. And the perspective shifts to a horizontally scrolling, Scramble-type shoot em up. This section is not average... it is awful. The worst parallax scrolling we have ever seen combine with pretty poor graphics to produce something which is crap!

Sadly, nowhere near it!
Does Blastar have anything going for it? The box illustration and logo are nice, and the instructions are printed on the back of a rather fine A2 poster of said artwork.

If you really need to play a viewed-from-above space shoot em up, turn to page 54 and see if Uridium 2 is any cop.

In der Zukunft nichts Neues

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Wer an Core Design denkt, der denkt an Action-Knaller wie etwa "Chuck Rock I" und "II" - nur an dieses herzlich hausbackene Ballerspiel sollte er tunlichst nicht denken!

Bereits die Vorgeschichte trieft vor Einfallsreichtum, erzählt sie doch das alte Märchen von den bösen Aliens, die sich auf sechs Inselplaneten eingenistet haben, um von dort aus die Erde zu erobern. Ihr denkt, das sei langweilig?

Dann laßt Euch mal das Gameplay auf der Zunge zergehen: Mit einem Raumer grast man die Fraufsicht-Gestirne (jedes besteht aus zwei Levels) ab, sammelt Power Ups, Extraleben, Bonuspunkte und Zusatzenergie ein, erledigt bei multidirektionalem Scrolling große und kleine Gegner, geht zwischen den Stages im Waffenshop einkaufen und... nix, und, das war es auch schon.

Okay, die diversen Techno- und Lavalandschaften sehen geheimnisvoll aus, und auch das Kanonenfutter für die insgesamt zehn verschiedenen Laser kann sich sehen lassen. Es gilt, pro Level eine bestimmte Anzahl von Bodenzielen zu zerstören, von allen Seiten greifen phantasievoll gestaltete Aliens an, und die Endmonster sind wahrhaft gewaltig.

Doch kann die hübsche Präsentation mit den teilweise animierten Hintergründen und der fetzigen Soundbegleitung halt nicht einen Moment darüber hinwegtäuschen, daß Blastar zu einer aussterbenden Gattung gehört - wer hat heute noch ernsthaft Interesse an einem "Cosmic Pirate"-Klon?

Wir jedenfalls nicht, schon gar nicht, wenn er mit einre mißratenen Rotationssteuerung und reichlich unfairen Angriffsformationen gekoppelt ist. Da auch das weiter hinten getestete "Blob" nicht gerade ein Hammer ist, sei Core Design hiermit doch dringend die Rückbesinning auf alter Tugenden ans Herz gelegt! (C. Borgmeier)

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The best shoot-'em-up on the Amiga. Not!

Think of a kit-car Ferrari replica. It's got that rich ruby-red paint job, the badge of a prancing horse on the bonnet, the bucket seats, the fat tyres and even that cute little chrome gate on the gear stick. But under this fantastic exterior lurks an old car, a chassis and engine from some other cheaper, older car. It looks like a Prince Of The Road, but in reality it's just never going to live up to your expectations.

Which brings me neatly round to Blastar, which at first seems to have all the prerequisites of a real stunner. It comes from Core, who have a proven track records for bringing out impressive games.

It looks great and sounds wonderful, boasting 800K of music and 200K of sound effects. It's even got a groovy intro sequence that's wonderfully filmic and shows the last few moments of your mothership as aliens attack Earth.

And then at the last hurdle, you play it and realise that all the flashy graphics and clever programming were in vain since it just isn't any fun.

Blastar's a multi-directionally scrolling shoot-'em-up that follows the typically flimsy plot line of you being Earth's last line of defence, and you having to blast your way through 12 stages to destroy the threat of slimy aliens paddlng in the Gulf of Mexico and polluting Convent Garden with their septic xenomorphic filth. You've got the idea, then? Fly round, shoot things, pick up power ups, kill things, use smart bombs, kill things, and so on.

The high point of this carnage is undoubtedly the amount of thought that's gone into making it look pretty. The scanner in the bottom corner pulses, some of the backgrounds throb and heave like real living tissue, and there are loads of odd creatures that float, run and slither their way towards you. You explode, they explode, everything explodes, but that's what the game's all about.

All the prerequisites of a real stunner

And the bad side? Well, that's what the rest of the review is about. For a start, the intro sequence is all very pretty and lovely and everything, but once you've seen it a couple of times, then that's it really. Unfortunately, it comes on disk one, as does the 'Start Game' part of the game, and the rest of it comes on disk two, so every time you start a game or get killed, you've got to swap a disk.

Wouldn't it have been a much better idea to put the last levels on the intro disk, and the start-up bit on the same disk as the first few levels? I think so.

Major problemo number two is that you've got absolutely no idea where you are. To get off each level, you've got to blow up several ground-based targets, but with the wrap-around playing area, it's very hard to orientate yourself. The scanner's only short-range and gives you no clues as to where the targets are, so you end up flying around at random until the scanner shows you're next to something, which means that for most of the time, you're looking at the scanner rather than the main screen.

This leads to the next problem because you end up getting hit all the time. I thought it might just be me, but everyone else had a go, and found that you get damaged in what seems to be an entirely arbitrary manner. Now if you get killed 'cos you're no good, then fair's fair, but it's another thing to get hit by stuff that keeps unavoidably smacking into you.

What are Core thinking of? Something that's keeping their mind off making proper games, that's for sure. I just hated this one.

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First up in this unique head-to-head challenge is Blastar from Core Design. It's a multi-directional shoot 'em up mixing in three different viewpoints for crucial parts of the game. At the start, there's a top-down view with your ship at the centre of a screen which rotates around you.

Then, there's a standard top-down non-scrolling view for some end-of-level guardians. Finally, there's the usual side-on scrolling view for the remaining bosses.

It's an odd mix which does confuse you initially. I've no idea why they chose to do it this way but it seems like an artificial means of extending gameplay. The primary rotational view leaves you little time to spot enemies as you've only got half a screen's worth of space to see them before they smash into your ship. Fortunately, there's a scanner which helps, but only just.

The coders have gone for a very alien backdrop which is similar to Xenon II. Although the background is well drawn, it ends up masking the ships attacking you making the ship's placement centre screen even more taxing. A bit more contrast between the background and enemies would have helped considerably.

After you've blown up the requisite number of alien generators the ship is immediately whisked off to face the mother alien. Again, it's hard to spot the difference between background and enemy sprite. Once the mother alien is beaten it's onto more of the same before blowing off the covers to tunnel sections. It's here that you get the side-on view. I enjoyed this bit more than the main game so it's a shame that these sections are so short.

When you've progressed three levels and killed more aliens than a violent xenophobe would manage in a week, you get to visit the shop. No, there's no Mars bars or cool drinks on offer here. Instead, you get to choose from the latest snap-on alien megadeath weapons or ship power ups, providing you've got the money to pay. Basically, the more aliens you kill the more cash you have to spend on better weapons to kill even more aliens. What can I tell you, it's a vicious circle. All in all, there's five levels of super violent alien blasting to keep you occupied (and that's not counting the sub-levels). Enough for even the most jaded sadistic killer.

Blastar's not a bad game, it's just that it's not that good either. There's little to be gained zooming around the screen blasting everything in sight. For one thing you won't last very long, for another you'll never see the ground-based installations that you're supposed to be blowing up. Caution is the name of the game here. Personally, I prefer the action to be a bit more frantic. I got to grips with the rotational thing but I still prefer a more traditional scroller.

Which is why Overkill gets my vote.