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.
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...
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-
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.
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.