In case you're wondering, by the way, the reason we're giving a budget game a full page review is because (a) it's also an original CD32 game, (b) because it seemed too good not to get more space, and (c) because we felt like it. Okay? Anyway, on with the review.
It seems that due to recent staff changes, we're so old that we all remember Lunar Lander, the ancient Atari game based (quite unsurprisingly) on landing on the moon without crashing, exploding or otherwise scratching the paintwork. The basis of the game was that Newtonian physics were alive and well and that gravity can be a real pain in the bum sometimes, and both these features went on to appear in the fabulous Thrust and the classic Atari ST game Oids.
The thing is, the game's world like Hollywood - it hates to see a good idea go to waste, and would much rather repackage it, redesign it and put some bigger explosions in it. Which brings us neatly onto Fly Harder.
We're back firmly in 'Good guy/bad alien' territory, with the evil empire of Thargoid exploiting the planet's resources by fitting eight giant reactors in caves and buildings. Not the most credible story line, which is why we tend not to waste much time on them in our reviews. Your mission is to fly into these heavily guarded complexes and overload the reactors by dropping energy pods on them. Simple.
Well, no, not in ay meaningful sense of the word, for many things conspire against you. The most obvious thing is gravity, which constantly tries to splat you against the hard, unforgiving floors of the caves. Thankfully, your ship's got a powerful engine and a limited supply of fuel to keep it going.
Secondly, there's all manner of Thargoid gunners and flying things that get in your way, shoot at you and generally try and make sure your day is less than a nice one. Fortunately, your ship can take a fair old bashing before it blows up (shown by an energy bar at the top of the screen) and also gradually repairs itself, giving you a potentially long life span. To fight back, you've got a weedy gun for starters and various power-ups to pick up. Hurrah for high energy particle beam weapons!
The game just sneers and laughs at you
Finally, the energy pods that you pick up have an apparent mass greater than the ship. This means that once you've picked up a globe in your tractor beam, fired up the thrusters and shot off somewhere, you're going to stop a lot quicker than the globe is. It's all about inertia, you see, so while you may stop short of a wall, the globe will carry on and smash into it.
This turns the gameplay into a series of delicate manoeuvres, a sort of finesse-'em-up if you will, and it's this light-touch approach that makes the game so compulsive. Unfortunately, it also makes it practically impossible to play for the first hour or so, when the game just sneers and laughs at you as you blunder uncontrollably into force shields, reverse gravity generators and enemy spaceships.
Fly Harder doesn't have a learning curve - you can either play it or you can't.
Despite that, I simply love it to death, even though it's only got eight levels and even though I can only play it on the easiest level with the wimpiest gravity.
After a few hours you realise it's all about shooting switches to turn off various force shields, and that all the shooting aliens nonsense is just distractions, and every time I crashed, I just came back for more.
It's saved from being impossibly hard by the keyboard option, which gives you the precise control that a joystick doesn't, and the low price sort of excuses the low number of levels. Accelerating at a constant rate of 9.8 m/sec/sec has never been so much of a challenge.