There's plenty more fish in the sea

Darius + logo

SOME companies are renowned for their shoot-'em-ups. Some are admired for their graphics. Some companies are even celebrated because of their artwork they use on the packaging. Then there is The Edge. To some people, The Edge's ability to produce a game which excels in all three departments mentioned above is akin to the ability of a small lettuce to write a dissertation on quantum physics.

Darius is a sideways scrolling shoot-'em-up that Taito produced in 1987. It performed quite modestly in the arcades and isn't really a household name. Darius+ is a conversion of that coin-op by The Edge, the plus sign signifying that the version running on your Amiga is significantly better than the arcade original. Unfortunately for all concerened, it isn't. That's not to say the game reaches the depths of certain of The Edge's recent releases, but the artwork on the box depicting a submarine is an inadvertent giveaway. Half way through loading there is an intermission in which the person responsible for the music demonstrates his knowledge of samplers and arrangement. Then it is time to press the space bar and continue loading.

The game arrives with a serviceable fanfare, and in the blink of an eye the first of the 28 levels begins scrolling towards your ship from right to left. The initial problem is one of firepower. The enemy has it, and you do not. A secondary problem is the size of the playing area. The screen has been reduced and the playing area is made even smaller by virtue of the scrolling scenery. A parallax effect is created by having a very dull blue background slowly moving by. Pulsing stars put in periodic appearances and, if collected, add firepower to the current control centre. There is only one firepower centre to start with - your ship - but by collecting the other type of pulsing star, a droid and two cannons can be added and the upgraded.

Unfortunately there is a slight coordination problem here. Pressing F1-F4 signifies where the next power-up will have an effect, but there isn't that much spare time for keyboard pressing unless you have a joystick with sticky feet. Incidentally, an auto-fire joystick is essential. Further key pressing is needed to send the droid out and about in true R-Type fashion. Another press on the spacebar recalls it, while fingering the left and right cursor keys will manoeuvre it behind and in front of your ship.

After a few practices, and probably a couple of lives, you will encounter the end-of-level fish, which loads in especially to fight you. To defeat this mother of all fish it is necessary to eliminate its appendages one by one. Should you not possess the free swimming droid, which can be sent out to do just this job then it is most likely that you will die. Should you have some other form of particularly virulent firepower, your chances improve to marginal. If and when the fish is removed, a branching network of choices spreads out in front of you. These are the remaining 27 levels.

Darius+ is an entirely adequate product. The scrolling is slow, but this does not make things easier because the playing area is so small and your ship is so large. This combination makes the game rather too difficult.

Darius + logo

Notorische Spielhallenbesucher werden sich bestimmt erinnern: Vor gut zwei Jahren war der Taito-Automat beliebter Treffpunkt für Baller-Fans. Jetzt hat "The Edge" kurzerhand ein Plus hinter den Namen geschrieben und die Alien-Hatz für den Amiga herausgebracht.

Diesmal greifen die bösen Außerirdischen aus den Tiefen eines unbekannten Ozeans an, folgerichtig gilt es, allerlei Meeresgetier vom Screen zu pusten.

Um der Sache ein bißchen Pep zu geben, kann nach jedem durchspielten Level zwischen verschiedenen Möglichkeiten gewählt werden, wie es weitergehen soll. Nach Level A stehen zwei Wege zur Auswahl, danach schon vier, und immer so weiter, bis alle 28 Zonen durchspielt sind.

Das eigentliche Game präsentiert sich als horizontal scrollende Raumschiff-Action mit reichlich Gegnern und Extrawaffen. Die Grafik ist schön bunt, besonders die mächtigen Schlußgegner wissen zu beeindrucken. Nur: Die Joystickbewegungen werden ziemlich träge umgesetzt, was zur Folge hat, daß die fünf Leben schnell verbraucht sind.

Da hilft es wenig, daß ein Schutzschilld so manchen Treffer wegsteckt, ehe die Anzeige in Richtung "Danger" absackt. Eine gelungene Musikbegleitung und entsprechende Effekte trösten sich darüber hinweg, daß das Scrolling nicht ganz ruckfrei und zudem etwas langsam ist.

Dennoch kommt der Spaß hier nicht zu kurz, Darius+ ist allemal ein ordentliches Actionspiel, das schon durch die Level-Auswahl nicht so schnell langweilig wird. Passionierte "Feuerfinger" sollten die Wasser-Schlacht getrost einmal genauer beäugen! (ur)

Darius + logo

The Edge
Price: £24.99

Yet another in the queue of crimbo arcade conversions, although this time it appeared that The Edge had bitten off a little more than they could chew. The major feature of the arcade version of Darius was its three screens, an obviously impossible feature on the Amiga. Some of the graphics were extremely large and complicated, and the background scrolled at a very high speed. How could they possibly attempt a conversion?
The solution has been to rewrite the game almost completely. It's ended up not so much like Darius but more like Xenon II kicked on its side, which is not a bad thing.

With its underwater setting, Darius + requires you to indiscriminately blast everything in sight. It is not surprising that you do not actually see any fish. You do however find submarines (which look like space craft), missile pods (which look like space craft) and lots more spacey objects.

Every now and then pods bob onto the screen. The first few increase your ship's initial rate of fire until it is equipped with a flame gun. With further additions you can obtain other add-ons. These include homing missiles, torpedoes, large pods that float by your ship, and different weapons for them.

At the end of the level things really start to hot up. The guardians are huge. On top of that they need to be shot when they are in special locations and these take time to find. Featuring the best graphics in the game, the guardians also provide the biggest problems. If your ship is not well equipped you are not going to stand a chance as some nasties need to be shot in the hairiest of conditions. If you do die, instead of going back to the main level to build your weapons up, you are automatically stuck with the guardian again. Luckily they appear to be easier to kill the further you get into the game.

If I were to judge this game solely on the basis of whether or not it is a successful conversion, I would not rate it highly. As an example of a rewritten game, however, Darius + is superb. The graphics are large, well-coloured, and it has competent sound and a total of twenty-eight levels to provide a multitude of varied blasting action. Darius + is a must for anyone who appreciates a good shoot 'em up.