It really doesn't matter if a game looks and sounds incredible if it plays appallingly. It is rather like going to see a film with a beautiful scenery and amazing effects, but an awful storyline (Jaws III, Superman IV, The Living Daylights!!!). It is good to see, therefore, that Microdeal, the Cornish Software house, have released a game for the Amiga which, although good to look at, is also very playable. Goldrunner is the second Amiga game from Microdeal, and as with Karate Kid II, it is a conversion from a well received Atari ST game.
You are Goldrunner. Man's destiny rests in your hands (oh no, not again!). Earth is slowly but surely dying of poisoning caused by the pollution in the atmosphere and therefore the population must be evacuated to a new and less polluted planet. Unfortunately, to get to this new planet you must fly through the Ring Worlds of Triton, an aggressive lot who see your intrusion on their space as nothing short of criminal. So you must kill as many of these tiresome aliens as possible, until they realise who's the boss!
As with most games of this ilk, Goldrunner uses a split screen, with the right hand third of the screen being used as an indication of how you are doing in the game; score, ships left, shields left, the high score etc. The rest of the screen is left as a vertically scrolling area. Your ship is equipped with two laser cannons to start with as well as five units of armour strength. Each time you are hit by an enemy mine, both your armour and craft strength depletes until, just prior to death, your craft has very little extra speed and only one cannon.
As well as your weapons, you also have the ability to use a booster, which sends you zooming away from every conceivable enemy craft, although you also tend to zoom straight into very solid buildings - another major hazard in Goldrunner. Dodgin enemy mines can be achieved either by zooming away or, for the more dextrous amongst us, by performing some lovely U-turns (simple enough as long as mice are your preferred medium of input).
The speeds of the scrolling is absolutely stunning! Even at normal speed it is impressive, but when you hold down the boost button, it has to be seen to be believed. When flying either up or down the terrain it is easy to see the time and effort that has gone into the design of the land below you; haunting faces, creature-like fossils, towers and mounds, all excellently defined and all made to be blown away as you scorch the landscape. As well as having landscape to shoot, there are also a host of enemies who obligingly fly past, letting you blast them to kingdom come. Once you have completed one wave of aliens and destroyed a good percentage of the ground installations, you are then presented with a bonus screen Uridium-style on which to up your score.
Unfortunately there had to be a let down. The tune is pretty bad, a sort of poor man's version of Star Wars produced on a childs plaything, but even worse is the continual moaning of a sampled voice. With such comments as "Go for it" and "Don't give up" the voice does little except prove exceptionally annoying. Thankfully Microdeal have included the option of turning the sound off. Another small criticism is that you cannot play the game with a joystick, you must use the Amiga's mouse. That apart, Goldrunner is an excellent shoot-'em-up. In many ways it is reminiscent of a scrolling Galaga, but on the Amiga it is considerably better than an average arcade game.