The gravity feels good

Raider logo

THERE was only one problem when I upgraded my Amiga: I couldn't play Thrust anymore. It was the best budget game ever written, using simple gameplay and even simpler graphics to great effect.

Raider is as close a copy is likely to be written. The inevitable plot paints the usual Rebels versus The Empire story and you, Greg Simpson, are the only person left alive/stupid enough (delete as applicable) to save Life, the Universe and Tescos.

With that out of the way we can get down to playing the game. Your ship appears out of hyperspace above the surface of a beautifully drawn planet. Your small arrow-headed ship - and I mean small - is manoeuvred by rotating left and right and giving a small amount of thrust at just the right moment.

Gravity and gun emplacements, your two enemies, will do their upmost to foil your important mission. You can destroy the guns with laser cannon, but avoiding the ground and mountains is a matter of great skill, great cunning and the occasional sharp intake of breath.

The mission consists of collecting pods, which form part of the very involved and highly dubious plot. Suffice to say that collecting them is what the game is all about. They are swiped off the surface by hovering above them and switching on your tractor beam. No need to tow it around after you, presumably the advances of 16 bit technology mean your ship now has a larger boot.

Fuel tanks are scattered around. They are also collected by hovering above them and using the tractor beam. A further type of fuel is available to power the torch you will need when the lights fail on later levels.

Each star system consists of four heavenly bodies - either planets, moons or asteroids - and each is different, not only graphically but in gameplay as well. The strength and direction of the gravity, the atmosphere and even the shape of the place can change dramatically from level to level.

Once you have collected four pods it's off to the inter-level gap for a bit of nuclear powerplant engineering. If you manage to make it this far, you will be given a password to allow easier access to the higher levels when you play again. This is a Good Thing.

The graphics used to define the various planets and moons are wonderfully drawn and smoothly scrolled in all directions. Every new landscape is a joy to look at and explore. The only flaw is the minute ship, which doesn't rotate in as many steps as it could.

Sound is either brilliant, if you have never heard an Amiga before, or disappointing if you have. The explosions are fine, but the laser sound sets your teeth on edge. It must have taken ages to find just the right Pet Shop Boys album to play backwards at half-speed and sample.

Raiders doesn't have the "less is more" touch of Thrust, going completely overboard with fancy graphics and more levels than is humanly possible to play. It does however have the same delicate, addictive gameplay.

There are 10 star systems to explore, making a total of 40 levels to play. Without the password system this would be impossible, but as it stands you can get just far enough with each game to warrant another go. Some might say this is addiction but I could give it up any time I wanted.

Raider logo


Unless I'm very much mistaken I've been playing an Amiga game. I mean, I took a blue disk from a box and popped into my machine's fun slot just like any other 16 bit offering. Then I was confronted by something horribly familiar and deeply unimpressive. If you thought you'd never have to play out those tired scenarios when you bought the wonder machine think again.

The simple fact is that Raider is that old 64 budget classic Thrust with a bit more colours and a few more levels.

Ignoring, as is customary, the Philip K. Dickhead storyline and plunging into the game, it's made clear that you have to shoot out all the fortifications and pick up a cog-like pod on each of the four star systems and then fly through a powerplant to deposit them. This boils down to a great deal of fiddly frustration as you try to negotiate flak and rock outcrops whilst battling with gravitational pull from the planet.

Thrust Raider is controlled from the keyboard, something of an anachronism in this day and age for a game methinks, especially when the mouse could have done the job equally well.
The sound effects do not help, whilst the graphics look as someone put it "as if they were knocked up on D Paint in ten minutes".

It's not that Raider has no appeal, the original gameplay can still hold your attention for a while, and it's fiendishly difficult too. But there again I didn't have to spend £20 to find that out. It might be a different prospect at budget price, otherwise forget it.