Menace logo Format Gold

PSYGNOSIS

The first release from Psygnosis's new label Psyclapse is a scrolling shoot 'em up which betrays the unmistakable influence of popular arcade games like Nemesis and Salamander. Menace, originally known as Draconia but since renamed, provides some of the best arcade action yet seen on the Amiga. Past releases of this genre have been lacking in gameplay but Menace points the way to a rosier future for Amiga gamesplayers with its arcade quality graphics, sound and above all, exceptional gameplay.

AIM

Far into the future, six feared tyrants have come together to reek vengeance on the Universe. Using matter collected from other planets they have destroyed, the planet Draconia has been 'restyled'. All the other inhabitants of the Universe are less than keen about this. Something has to be done to save the people of the Universe and after much deliberation, guess who has to go in alone in a single seat fighter, against impossible odds and destroy Draconia before it is too late. Oh, you are clever...


STRATEGY

The gameplay is fairly straightforward, using either a mouse or a joystick to guide a small fighter through six levels of increasingly difficult zapping. As usual your presence doesn't get unnoticed, and the inhabitants of Draconia throw everything they have at you in one frenzied attack after another.

Each of the six levels moves the battle into a different area of Draconia, from the exotic landscapes of the Sea of Karnaugh and the beauty tropics of Mace, to Carnage Rift, which looks more like a scene from The Evil Dead than a planet's surface.

Menace features over sixty different types of alien, all of which are hell-bent on your destruction. Most can be dispensed with fairly easily with a few quick blasts from your ship's lasers but others are more stubborn. To increase your chances, extra weapons can be collected and recharged en route, by shooting the bonus score icons at the end of each stage. Weapons include high power lasers, rapid fire cannons and inertia-controlled outriders. Add both lasers and cannons to your ship and alien-wasting moves into top gear.

End of level guardians are the last challenge on each level and fire multiple salvos in your direction. A mixture of dexterous flying, frantic mouse bashing and a lot of luck should get you past the guardian and onto the next level. Tooling up for these meanies is the name of the game in Menace, though, as going up against a guardian with a single puny laser is bad news. Before you reach the end of a level, arm yourself to the teeth with cannons, outriders and lasers, and recharge your shields to the maximum level.


GRAPHICS AND SOUND

As you would expect from Psygnosis, Menace scores highly in the graphics department. The background and foreground graphics in all six levels are some of the best seen on the Amiga, with the decapitated bodies, rotting flesh and maggot ridden skulls of Carnage Rift being beautifully stomach churning

The graphics and animation of both your ship and all the Draconian aliens are all up to the same high standard, making Menace one of the presented games available. Even the introduction is impressive as a huge space slug moves smoothly across the screen filling almost the entire play area; a truly impressive demonstration of the Amiga's graphic capabilities. Scrolling too is exceptionally smooth, with not a glitch in sight.

The soundtrack is equally brilliant, with a heavy rock sound track reminiscent of both Xenon and SideWinder. It's nice to find a game soundtrack that suits the mood of the game, something which game designers too often overlook. Playing a jolly little ditty while wiping out a race of aliens doesn't conjure up the right atmosphere. The overall feel of the game is enhanced still further with some excellent sampled speech and sound effects. Feed the sound output to a hi-fi system, turn the volume up and the lights down and the atmosphere is electric.


CONCLUSION

Menace will have you hooked for hours on end. The addictive 'just one more game' feeling hits you every time. The mixture of arcade quality graphics, sound and gameplay make this one hot shoot 'em up. While Menace does nothing to promote intergalactic peace, the shear satisfaction of wasting aliens this ugly is just too good to miss. In all, a recommended dose of pure arcade violence - just what the doctor ordered.


Menace logo

Amiga
Psygnosis
Price: £24.95

Oh dear, I have landed myself and others in it once already this year for saying this, but there is no avoiding the fact that Draconia is a quite brazen rip-off of R-Type oh, and probably a couple of dozen other coin-op classics. It almost holds up its hands and screams 'sue me, sue me!'

Draconia has six worlds and these form six levels of shoot 'em up mayhem for 16 bit owners everywhere. You fly your ship, once it has been spat out of a huge flying louse, through a series of tunnels, with superstructures of various kinds above and below. Here is where the fun begins, each level has the name of a coin-op company contained in it (Irem Battlestation, Konamian Graveyard, Jungles of Capcom) and showcases graphics in the form of backgrounds and aliens which remind you of a number of arcade games. Level Three for example, is a Darius underwater encounter. Maybe they ran out of classic coin-op blasts because there is one of their own in there at the end.

After all that someone better hope the arcade manufacturers have a sense of humour, something I have not seen much evidence of in the past.

Forgetting the cheek of Draconia for a moment (it is not easy) and judging it on its own merits, this is a good blast but not a great one. Graphically it is neat, with witty, colourful backgrounds, some great aliens (check the Xevious-like mirrors) yet perhaps because of its conventionality something is missing. You are flying well-charted territory here.

Sound too is disappointing, a couple of words of sampled speech and a messy Xenon-style soundtrack is simply not enough.

The over-riding factor is gameplay. Draconia is a little slow for my liking, and the method of collecting extra weapons (by continually shooting bonuses when you have destroyed an attack wave) is fiddly. That said, Draconia is still one of the better shoot 'em ups to have appeared on the Amiga. Not saying much I know, particularly when the current numero uno is a cheapo (Sidewinder).

Still, you would better buy it, if only for its outrageous insolence.


Menace logo

Psyclapse, £19.95 disk

Destroy the planet Draconia? Me, li'l ol' PG? How'm I supposed to do that? Oh, yeah... Yeah, I see... The only way it can be done is if some, ah, brave - did you say 'brave'? - right, brave person gets into a tiny, quite staggeringly small one man fighter and blasts seven shades of sunlight out of anything that moves. And I'm supposed to this with a 30kW pea-shooter laser, am I? Yep, I see.

Zzap's Thing

Look, how many times do you want to check I was listening at the briefing? OK, OK - I'll go through the history lecture one more time. Draconia's an artificial planet built by the combined forces of six exiled dictators who populated it with all the most belligerent and slimy creatures in the galaxy. The planet is now being used as a base of operations for piracy and... er... all sorts of other illegal stuff. How's that?

Yeah, right, now can we talk about bumping up my armament to some, ooh, I dunno, a quad-kill particle howitzer? How about some thermium cluster bombs? Firelance homing missiles? No? So how am I supposed to get out alive? Matter convertors - what are they? Oh, I get it. I just destroy a formation of aliens, then blast away at the debris and it turns into extra equipment. So what can I pick up? Oh, thanks - a list. Lemme see - rapid-fire cannons, lasers, outriders, extra thrust, temporary force field and shield recharge...

Well, OK, that doesn't sound too bad, I suppose. How do I get to Draconia, then? In a WHAT? In the mouth of an Aldabran Space Slug?! Oh, just great! JUST GREAT!! And I suppose you'll beside me all the way as usual, watching the scenery scroll sideways across your little monitors...


Gordon Houghton Yeah, so Maff wanted this in the Challenge, and then he goes and finishes second! Huh! I wanted him to choose StarRay myself, 'cos I'm dead good at that - but this is all beside the point. The main fault of Menace is that there isn't enough of it - at £24.95 there should be more than just half a dozen levels, however beautifully they're designed (and believe me, some of the end-of-level aliens are superb). For a tenner or even fifteen quid, this would have been brilliant - as it is, try before you buy, because your money might not last that long.
Maff Evans The various screenshots of Menace that are currently knocking around fair made my trousers yearn for the lavatory, but when I first saw the actual game I was a bit bored by it. Something about it must have stuck in my mind because I found myself coming back for another game time and again. It's a definite grower! The programmers have sensibly put the better graphics towards the end of the game, giving you something to aim for. Not to say that the graphics of the earlier levels aren't good, they're very good indeed, it's just that they get better towards the end! The music and sound effects are of a very high standard and complement the action very well, especially the speech telling you what you've picked up. Menace will appeal to all shoot 'em up fans and I daresay the odd casual blaster will enjoy it too. I've played it so much that I've decided to use it as my chosen game in the Inter-magazine challenge! High praise indeed...
Paul Glancey Shoot 'em ups don't come looking much better than this - right from the superb opening graphics and bass guitar chords, you know you're in for a bit of classy blasting. Menace's graphics and sounds are indeed superb, but it has to be said that after several runs through the first few levels, the laser-show gameplay doesn't quite live up to the polish. Almost, but not quite. The problem is that, even on Expert level, when you're not allowed to touch the scenery, the fleet of fire-button-finger can make mincemeat out of wave after wave of aliens with not a lot of practice. From then on it's easy to keep the ship stocked up with lasers, cannon shells and even shields. The fact that there are only six and the availability of a restart option mean that you'll soon see pretty much all of the game, and then you'll only be coming back to the game to beat previous high scores. That's fine by me, but if you're after vast tracts of space to explore, you may be disappointed.