Awesome, totally awesome

Silkworm logo Amiga Computing Supreme Award

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 autofire stick it becomes very adequate indeed.

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.

Silkworm logo CU Super Star

Sales Curve
£24.95 disk

What works in the arcades doesn't necessarily work in the home. You couldn't hope for a better example of this than Silkworm, drowned out by dedicated cabinets and R-Type clones, its appeal - as a straightforward unglamorous - blast was limited. On the small screen, however, it really comes into its own. Every byte is crammed full of action so explosive it can cause severe neural spasms just watching it in demo mode. Silkworm's great novelty is that it can be played simultaneously by two players: one playing a helicopter and the other a jeep on which is mounted a heavy machine gun. The two are hardly equals, however the 'copter being able to whizz all over the screen, while the jeep is stuck with bouncing up and down at the bottom. The idea, although it's a perfectly good game in the one player mode, is to co-operate, hence the different high score tables for the two machines.

At first glance that might not look like an unbeatable combination for a shoot 'em up, but it works. The arcade version is faithfully reproduced here, the graphics are sharp, the sprite detection perfect and the joystick responsive a joy to behold. As far as I can see there are no annoying little idiosyncrasies or bugs - and the game flows smoothly from level to level.

What makes Silkworm really outstanding, however, is the superb range of opponents for you to get around and destroy. At the bottom there's an indicator which tells you how many of the enemy you've obliterated. Each time it drops to zero, a "goose-copter" appears (That's a goose-shaped helicopter of course). Dispatch that, which is far from a doddle, and some handy little icons pop up giving you double fire, rapid fire and so on. This considerably adds to your arsenal of firepower and you're going to need it to deal with nasties like the indestructible transport helicopter which belches out dozens of venomous autogyros, or the mole - taken straight from Thunderbirds' - which, if you're not careful, burrows through your jeep, or the super-tanks bristling with ballistic missiles... you get the picture?

The sound effects are excellent too. Meaty explosions and ricochets pund your eardrums after and during each encounter. The only slightly dodgy one is a clinking sound which sounds like a sample of someone beating a frying pan with a spoon. At least in the uproar it's distinctive. On the version I played, the game had been completed with the exception of the music. Hopefully this'll have little effect on the game other than to provide it with a nice little tune. You certainly don't feel there's anything missing without it.

The first couple of levels will lull you into a false sense of security. It's not that they're amazingly easy, but they're certainly nothing that should trouble an experienced game player. The end-of-level guardians, a supercopter and supertank, respectively, are down right easy. They may be tough, but it's only the jeep that really has any problems with their sedate firepower. Make the most of it, it won't last. By the fourth level the screen is almost constantly filed with plumes of fire, huge explosions and all size and shape of missile. At this point the shields change from being a luxury to a necessity. They occasionally appear at random as small sparkling clouds, but most of them will have to be got by shooting out mines which are scattered sporadically around the ground. If you get a second shield, or shoot into one, you get a smart bomb. This is one of the most satisfying effects in the game, as everything on screen instantly vaporises.

The real trick of a well-constructed blast is to jack up the pace, difficulty and general sensory overload without making the game impossible or, as often happens, just frustrating. Silkworm does this brilliantly. You don't have to be an amazingly talented game player to enjoy it, but it will test out even the very best of you. Silkworm is also good fun, especially in the two player mode. For me and just about everyone else here this makes it about the best shoot 'em up available on the Amiga. Highly recommended.

Dakka dakka! KER-boom! Nyyyyowww! and other such noises are yours when you play Silkworm

Silkworm logo Zzap! Sizzler

Random Access/Sales Curve, C64 £9.95 cassette, £14.95 disk; Amiga £19.95

You know how it is. A few bevvies in the bar whilst you're watching the news and a report comes on...


Zzap's Nose

So you stagger out of the pub and sign up - after all, you've got that Army Surplus helicopter that you tarted up. It's only two weeks later (when you get the call-up papers) that you realise what you have done. 'Don't worry,' says your mate, 'I'll bring me jeep'.

This hardly fills you with confidence, until you see that his jeep isn't just a little Suzuki 4x4, but an armoured vehicle with cannons and a missle launcher.
'Fair enough', you think - and off you go...

Zzap's Rockford: I'm so 'ard, me! Kill me, Please!

First of all, the action takes place in the mountains, where small helicopters and ground based missile launchers attempt to blow you out of the sky. No problem - you and your mate just blow them away, picking up the energy emitted by the exploded mines to use as shielding, or shooting it to cause a smart-bomb effect. However, when some bits of helicopter drigt in and form a large ABC Warriors type gunship, the tension mounts. A few well-placed blasts soon destroy it and a pod appears. You pick it up and find an extra barrel auto-mounted on your front-cannon.

Just as you hear the end of the canyon and think that safety is close at hand, the enemy rain on your parade by flying in a gigantic gunship that has to be blasted a good number of times before it explodes.

Next it's to the plains and other terrains. Oh, and if you thought that the big helicopter was bad, wait until you see the huge tanks and missile launchers, all of which have to be encountered before entering the metallic enemy complex!
Whimpers from terrified pilot.

< Used for air-attack on enemy emplacements
< Fires air to air/ air to ground missiles
< Capable of double front-missile mode and extra maneuverability from collected pods
< Can be shielded by mine emissions
< Best control - joystick
< Used for ground attack on enemy installations
< Fires ground to air missiles via movable turret and has a front-mounted cannon
< Capable of twin ground to air missiles in 'spread' formation
< Has the ability to jump which can be increased with pick-up pods
< Can be shielded by mine emissions but can't collide with mines
< Best control - keyboard
Gordo I first saw the demo versions of Silkworm just after Christmas and was impressed by how much of the arcade feel the programmers had managed to cram into the 64 and Amiga. Now the finished game is here, I can say they've done the best conversion job possible. The graphics, especially on the Amiga, are really atmospheric and the sound effects (on both versions) are pretty hot as well - on the 64 you also get a great Ben Daglish soundtrack! What impresses me even more is that they've bothered to program in an extra alien especially for the Amiga - which means you get the equivalent of the arcade game and even more. This is one shoot 'em up you can't afford to miss.
Kati Silkworm isn't exactly the world's greatest coin-op ever but it is an absolutely brilliant conversion! The 64 backdrops are really pretty (the sprites aren't so exciting, though) and the Amiga graphics are practically as good as the original. But what really makes this so much fun is the all-action, fast and furious gameplay - especially as it's just as exciting to play on your own as with a friend. In fact, even if you're on your own, you get double the fun because once you've finished playing with chopper, you can start all over again with the jeep! Unless you're into misery and deprivation, check this out.
Maff Silkworm is one of those arcade games where you see it and think, 'oh, it's just a shooting helicopter game', but you soon get gripped by the frenzied blasting action and atmospheric graphics. I actually had no idea that the game was to be converted until I saw the demo version, so it came as a very nice surprise. The programmers have done a remarkable job on the home versions graphics, coaxing the utmost out of both machines to portray the action to the best effect. In fact, I'd say that some of the graphic effects on the Amiga are better than the coin-op! I haven't quite managed to finish the game properly, but I'm determined... so if you'll excuse me, I'm off for another trash.