You could have been forgiven for passing Flying Shark in the arcades. Yet another bi-plane game in the 1942 mould, filled with super tanks, gun emplacements and other things your average bi-plane pilot would be most unlikely to encounter flying over any jungle. The flying shark in fact, according to our resident expert on such matters, Tommo, was not even a bi-plane - so there goes historical accuracy right out of the window. Nothing new, you think and that is exactly what I was thinking about Flying Shark as I booted it into the Amiga.
In the arcades, this game had a strange attraction to a lot of people, and you may well find this, once you have overcome an initial bout of irritation, to be of the more playable vertically scrolling shoot 'em ups released to date. The backdrops are violently dazzling. The jungle is bright green and the sea bright blue, like some deranged travel agent's feverish hallucination. This helps enormously to add to the general feeling of sensory overload which you need to really get into a frenetic game like this.
Initially, you will probably find it seriously difficult to negotiate blowing away the red squadrons to gain essential extra fire power, whilst staying in the sky yourself. And be careful, you are going to need those smart bombs (awkwardly accessed by use of the space bar) for those end-of-level guardians. Persevere, and you will find yourself coming back to Flying Shark a lot more than you might thought at first.
This is a sort of game which holds few surprises. Five levels, icons for extra lives, extra smart bombs and so on. Flying Shark is aiming at quality rather than originality. Given its crisp graphics and addictive gameplay, it would be a game to recommend - especially considering the weakness of some similar conversions - if it were not for some serious niggles. First off, the ST version is better! I hate to say it, but it is true, the plane handles much more smoothly and the gameplay and graphics are better. If the Amiga is meant to be the superior machine, this should not be allowed to happen. It is true, the plane handles much more smoothly and the gameplay and graphics are better. If the Amiga is meant to be the superior machine, this should not be allowed to happen. It is true that some programmers find it easier to work on the ST, but to an Amiga owner that is no excuse. But maybe it is of little relevance too. Sound too is below average, despite the jolly tune.
Point two, finding a joystick which makes the most of the Shark's firing capacity is a nightmare. At best it is slow and stuttery. On auto-fire you cannot muster the extra pace needed to get yourself out of tricky situations. I have tried five and I am far from satisfied with any of them.
If you can get to grips with this, Flying Shark is irritatingly addictive - in fact, as fluent a shoot 'em up as you could wish to find. Build up your firepower enough and virtually nothing can stand in your way. A very satisfying feeling. The skill, of course, is in acquiring the firepower in the first place. Not an obvious purchase, perhaps, but one I think that will last.