One of the most original and visually stunning coin-ops of recent times, Gottlieb's excellent Exterminator, reaches the Amiga this month thanks to multi-talented development house, The Assembly Line. The game features an on-screen pair of hands which have to visit seven houses in a street, each with five rooms, and destroy all the rabid rats, spiders, killer bees, flies, toy tanks, and rampaging walnuts(!) that reside therein. This is done by crushing, shooting or stamping the bugs to death as they fly or skitter towards you. There are even killer tomatoes on the loose ready to slime you into submission.
The game starts with the local rat-catcher pulling up outside one of the houses in the infested street (which looks surprisingly like Brookside Close). Out of the van comes a giant hand which flies into the house - then it's straight into action.
As the game's essentially a shoot 'em up, it's fairly easy to get the hang of things - just kill everything in sight and you'll do fine! Each house contains five bug-infested rooms, such as a basement, kitchen, nursery, attic and living room. To make progress you must travel through each room destroying enough bugs to turn the white tiles on the floor blue. Each bug that's killed changes one tile directly below where the kill was made. Complete a line of tiles and the game moves on to the next room and so on.
As well as contending with tank fire, stinging bees and assorted other killer bugs, there's an annoying wasp which attaches itself to your hand and which will sting you if you don't shake it off. A juice bottle is also flying around and will zap you if it's not taken out. At the top of the screen is a juice meter - each time you're stung by the wasp, shot by the juice bottle, bit by an exploding mine or tanks missile you lose some juice. The juice meter can be tanked up by grabbing the mines before they explode, catching the juice bottle or crushing a roaming dodecahedron.
Throughout the game are special warp modes. These are hidden in various rooms. The first appears in the kitchen of the first house. A fridge door is open in the back of the room and if you can fire shots into the freezer while it remains open you can skip to the next house. It's a good idea to pause the game in each room and take a careful look round for anything that looks out of the ordinary.
There's also a bonus round in each house. The first two involve shooting rats in the basement as they run along shelving. It's quite difficult to actually shoot anything because it's hard to gauge where the bullets will land. This is a fairly annoying aspect of the game - it's really pot luck if you manage to snag a bug at all. Later bonus rounds involve crushing cans, nuts, rats and tomatoes as they roll towards you.
The game can be played by one or two players, each player controlling one hand. The two player option is best as you can compete with a friend to clear each room. At times the action is fairly frantic, especially when the dragonflies start dropping mines and the tanks pepper the air with bullets. After all seven houses have been turned into bug-free zones, there's the Ultimate Challenge. The action moves outdoors and the player's confronted with half-a-dozen waves of insects. Each wave is made up of 13 bugs and it takes some skill to defeat this lot.
The game's graphics are outstanding and mimic the coin-op effectively. Sonicwise, the in-game tune is a little repetitive and fairly annoying after you've been playing for a while. However, the sampled sound effects more than compensate and add to the overall feel of the game.
For 1mb owners there's the option of additional music for different sequences - for instance, a military tune plays whenever the tanks are on the attack.
All things considered, Exterminator is a cracking shoot 'em up which goes to prove that new games can be original.