Sidewinder 1 logo

MASTERTRONIC'S Arcadia project, in which games developed for its arcade consoles are converted into home computer formats, is well known afters successes with Roadwars, and particularly Xenon.

What many of the people who hail this project as a wonderful idea fail to appreciate is that with the arcade games being developed on a two or four meg Amiga, they are barely of arcade quality standard at best.
Not that it is any particular fault of the Amiga, it is quite capable of delivering the goods. More that the programmers simply haven't come up to scratch. Sure Xenon was a nice game, but that was the best of the bunch and you would hardly feed a coin-op shoot-'em-up which only used around 60 percent of the screen.
That's all about to change right now though, in a game that gets zero marks for originality and more importantly, top marks for all out action.
The name of the game is Sidewinder, and for the astonishingly low price of only £10 you can equip your Amiga with one of the best pieces of non-stop destruction ever.

It all starts with a pounding tune playing over what appears to be a digitised picture of the inlay card. This provides the mission briefing. A galactic war has ground to a halt with lines of spacecraft facing each other across the cosmos. Suddenly, flying out from the enemy ranks, appears a ship the size of a planet. The Star Killer is here and is heading for Earth. Subtlety isn't part of its armament, as its primary function is to dive-bomb the sun in a system, sending it supernova, crisping everything else in sight. Nothing can stop this monstrosity. Or can it? As with all the best sci-fi movies, it is noted that a single seater spacecraft could penetrate the docking system and live long enough to destroy the control level, an act calculated to bring about the destruction of the ship before it reached Earth.

In order to get to the control level you have to fight your way through the water distribution level, the hydroponics, the residential, the flight deck and the command level.
The whole point of this waffle is that the scenery for each level corresponds to its function. Thus the water distribution level, the first in fact, is very watery with steel grey platforms, tanks and barrels.
The ground defences arrayed against you are also appropriate so that on the first level you are facing pill boxes on legs set in the water.
The hydroponics level features robotic gardeners who lob missiles towards you, and lots of flora and brown earth from which snipers appear, fire, the disappear underground again.
The residential area contains lots of cream coloured towers and interconnection pathways, as well as giant gun emplacements.

The graphic designs are excellent but fall down in one area: the airborne defenders that you have to contend with are uninspiring, to say the least. While they do occasionally swirl around in pretty patterns, the ships are fairly dull. Not that you've got that much time to watch them.
Surprisingly, after Xenon anyway, Sidewinder is a full screen vertical scrolling game with some measure of lateral movement in the style of Flying Shark. The scrolling is very smooth, if not particularly fast, but it doesn't have to be for this type of game.

Best of all though are the explosion and accompanying sampled sound effects. As there are a great many ground-based targets, usually packed together, the effect can be amazing as you strafe them, see the glowing explosions and listen to the noise reverberate from the monitor's speaker.
At full belt it's like something out of a Rambo film. I just love blasting the long strip of fuel drums on level one.

Initially your firepower isn't too high powered, so thank goodness for the another feature of Sidewinder. Periodically goodies float down the screen in the form of lettered boxes. Rapid fire, power shots that enable targets to be destroyed with a single missile, invulnerability and a hover facility can all be had for around 15 seconds before the effect wears off.

The hover function really only comes into its own when you reach the final, control level, as it stops the screen from scrolling - essential if you are to fulfil the mission brief of destroying everything on that level.
If you have an auto-fire joystick flick that switch and indulge in an orgy of apocalyptic annihilation.

If you found that Xenon got too hard too son then Sidewinder's five skill levels will be all the more welcome. Add to that the fact that this game is a shrine to wanton destruction, the entrance charge is only £10, and you have a brilliant, all-action experience.


Sidewinder 1 logo CU Screen Star

Amiga
Mastertronic
£9.99

There quarters of the shoot 'em ups that have been released in the last year owe a great deal of their ideas to Andrew Braybrook's Uridium. So does SideWinder but the programmers have obviously set out to use the Amiga's full potential. Excellent graphics, at last reaching the standards that the Amiga has been promising for years, a catchy theme tune that owes a great deal to Rob Hubbard, and some of the smoothest scrolling I have ever seen (especially when you consider the amount going on on-screen).

It is basically a four way scrolling blast (although the horizontal scrolling is limited and really for effect only). As you fly vertically up the screen, you can scroll the scenery about three inches left or right. Progression from wave to wave, however, is by completing a section vertically.

Once loaded, you are given the choice of five different playing levels, ranging from Beginner right through to Master. If, however, you decide to change level, there is no need to stop playing, you simply press F2 (pause) and reselect a level. This is particularly useful if you start on a simple level and begin to feel a little more adventurous.

To start with, your fighter is equipped with a twin cannon. Although relatively okay, to kill some of the enemy buildings you must hit them ten times. As you progress through the levels, you can, Nemesis-like, collect more and more powerful weapons, until eventually you can blast almost anything with a single shot. Unfortunately, these power packs only last 15 seconds.

When playing the game, the music no longer plays, and instead you hear some of the most impressive explosions ever. Turning the lights down and plugging the Amiga into a stereo while playing SideWinder is an experience not be missed!

If I had to make one criticism, it would be that the game does not have a high score table. But with a two player option and arcade quality action, I can live without a high score table.

SideWinder is without doubt a bargain. It is better than Xenon - which must be slightly embarrassing for Mastertronic as they released both - and it costs less than half the price.

For once, I am quite willing to stick my neck out. If you buy one game this month, buy this one. Miss this and you should be condemned to a life of playing-by-mail games during a postal dispute!