ONE Of the first things that sold the Amiga was its capability for really deep, involved games. You know the sort of thing - being stuck on level 18 after six weeks of play and not an earthly clue as how to get the Lost Amulet of Gronk. Very few people realised that an Amiga could play a darn good game of Scramble too.
To call Silkworm a version of Scramble is like calling an Amiga a QL. True, they have a few things in common, but one is the logical extension of the other.
Where Scramble had a weedy pea-shooter and a supply of party-popper bombs, Silkworm has got a vastly over the top mini-missile system couple with an equally outrageous bombing method. We're not talking a few wee pops and crackles here, it's all-out annihilation time.
Because Silkworm is an arcade conversion - A Sales Curve production programmed by Random Access for Virgin Mastertronic, incidentally - there isn't much of a plot, and what little there is, is completely unnecessary. An aggressor - who shall remain nameless, but whose craft look not dissimilar to MiGs and the like - has decided that it is time to get aggressive.
The allied forces are caught rather on the hop, and all they could muster was one helicopter and one jeep. These aren't standard issue craft, but highly manoeuvrable experimental ones with firepower equal to several destroyers put together.
The helicopter is fast and agile; there must be some use for the jeep but darned if I can find it. It's probably the one for experts who can get the hang of its aiming system.
Basically, Silkworm is a scroll from right to left job. That's wehre the Scramble similarity comes in. Waves of murderous aircraft fly at you in formation and the idea is to mow them down before they perform the cut-the-grass (coup de grace? Ed) on you.
You have a rapid fire capability, which is certainly adequate, but with the addition of a good auto
Various things shoot SAMs at you. These need some nifty manoeuvres to avoid. Some swine even have the audicity to lob fragmentation bombs, which can cause a lot of damage to the enemy if shot at the right time, and even more damage to you if you not shoot at all.
A counter keeps track of how many things you've done away with. When that reaches zero a large "Goose" helicopter forms which will give you a tasty bonus if shot. This usually takes the form of a double fire rate which goes from the merely blistering to the quite frankly ridiculous.
As you pick up more things, you progress in rank to the maximum of Air Marshal, or similar. The most handy, and certainly the most common acquisition, is the shield. This appears when a landmine is shot, and it gives 10 seconds of invulnerability. If you try to pick up a second shield, or shoot one often enough, there is the largest, loudest and brightest smart bomb effect ever seen. The same effect happens when the end of level biggy disappears. The sound in Silkworm is not merely heard, it is experienced.
There's an ever-so-slightly nice parallax scroll and the backgrounds are really beautiful, despite the fact that they take very few seconds to load with Random Access's fast loader routine.
Another thing which is really impressive is that occasionally tiny squadrons of helicopters fly past in the distance or aircraft carriers launch fighters in the background. These are totally harmless and occur even when the screen is full of sprites and bobs.
Sprites are used to their limit - just when you think there are more than are possible on the screen another 20 or so appear, all bent on causing you harm.
There are more than enough levels (13-ish, if my memory serves) and the programmers have added bits that weren't present in the arcade original, including an end sequence. And where else would you find a Thunderbirds Mole appearing in the middle of a battle?
Although the start is easy, things soon got so hot that I started seeing things moving behind my eyes. It was either the game or the half pint of Old Java coffee interacting with the adrenalin. Either way, Silkworm is a refreshing, very pretty blaster. It's got to be in your collection. Buy it.