US Gold's conversion of Capcom's classic coin-op Strider has those nasty Ruskies as the baddies again, with Strider, as a kind of futuristic Rambo, waging a one-man battle against the evil Commies.
It's essentially a horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up on five levels and your task is to infiltrate the Red Army and then return its secrets back to your superiors - thus saving the western world no less. To do so, you have to slash your way through all manner of foes including a giant robot ape, a pack of vicious sabre-toothed tigers, Russian guards and some lethal boomerang-throwing rock men.
Your enemies change with each level as does the battleground which is made up of various platforms. Strider;s mission could be a bit one-sided were it not for his superhuman agility. He runs, walks, jumps, crawls and defies the laws of gravity by somersaulting like some sort of Olympic trampoline champ.
The game kicks off in Red Square where you're dropped off by a futuristic hang glider. Soon after you land, you can activate a defence droid by pressing your fire button. The R2-D2-looking droid will then circle around you, firing off killer boomerangs to help clear your path. On this level you're attacked by Russian guards - once they're killed you've got to somersault over a well nasty crevice and navigate your way up one side of a peak and down the other, without getting zapped by a series of static cannons.
Prehistoric-looking sabre-toothed tigers attack you on your way to the snow-capped peaks of Siberia in level two, where you're also confronted by an awesome metal monkey android. If you survive that icy test it's off to the lowlands where you meet the rock men warriors slinging poisoned spears and chucking deadly-poisoned boomerangs.
The fourth level swops rocks for metal and is set on what looks like the back of a battleship with vertically pumping turrets, spewing out ammo like there's no tomorrow. Finally it's off to a stark industrial complex that's a dead ringer for the Axis Chemical plant in Batman.
Sean: Bit athletic, this Strider chappie. There can't be that many geezers, who, rather than whip out a Magnum and blast someone in the goolies, would prefer to leap into the air, do a double back somersault and back flip before landing and slapping the assailant round the cranium with a half brick. Still, I suppose it's pretty brassy in Russia, so all this leaping about malarky keeps you warm.
The major drawing point of Strider in the arcades was the athleticism of the main character. The US Gold conversion has obviously gone for smaller sprites than the coin-op, but the range of movement of Strider and the eight way scrolling has been preserved, and the game moves very fast and fairly smoothly.
On the graphics front, Strider is more colourful than the lav after an all-night party, and the major meanies are all beautifully animated. The enemies encountered are various, and a number of ploys must be used to progress through the game. This makes a change from just lobbing the axe about slicing and dicing, and adds to Strider's appeal. Sound in the game is fairly crap, mostly limited to an annoying grunt each time Strider attacks anyone, with the odd tune and sample elsewhere.
One tiny hassle was that if I happened to move the joystick in the wrong direction, Strider would leap into the air or jump in the wrong direction, performing a doubly 'posey sod' hyperflip manoeuvre which lasted several seconds and usually occurred whilst I was in the throes of battling it out with a major assailant. I was then sent back quite a way down a level, which often meant defeating major meanies twice or three times in a game - not to put too fine a point on it, a real pain in the arse.
All minor gripes though, as this is an excellent computer game, and one which will keep the most ardent acadester glued to their computer through the Autumn evenings. Better than a slap in the face with a used codpiece (I should hope so! Ed).
Matt: Wahey! Strider was the coin-op sensation that rocked the nation a mere couple of months ago, and already it's out on 16-bit! Honestly, the lead times on these things is getting just ridiculously short. But who can complain though, when Strider is such a nifty little game? The little hero sprite, Strider, is the jumpiest somersaultiest and generally bounciest in history - but he's easily controllable too! Double ber-limey! Hardly fair sending him in to take on the Red Army on his lonesome, is it? Not so, chummo! Armed with a Luke Skywalker laser sword and the bouncingest Air Ware soles in Doc Marten history, he's one of those chaps who's never content to stand still when a quadruple-reverse-spin-back-flip-withdouble-axle-and-quarter--pike will do.
What we have here is a well - but not spectacularly - executed platform beat 'em up with a suitably wide range of backdrops, problems and baddies. What's slightly disappointing is the limited way in which some of these are animated, and the general tendency for each bit to be very hard for a while then a total cinch once you've worked out how to do it. I could be wrong though, 'cos Strider does have one rather neat and nifty little ace up its sleeve - Stridey himself. If ever a sprite was worth watching, it's him. (But don't try and imitate him at home kids! You know what happened to the guy who thought he was really that superhero Spiderman!)
It looks to me like US Gold has simplified the map of the game a bit from the coin-op, which lets it get away with a more limited range of sprite animations (for instance, instead of having seven or so gradients of hill for our boy to climb there are only about four) but even so the range of movements Stridey can make are nothing short of remarkable. The ST version shares with the Amiga the fact that you can sometimes access an unwanted (and therefore occasionally fatal) move by a slight slip of the joystick, but it's not quite as tragic because everything moves a bit faster here. In other words yes, to do get the occasional back-flip you didn't ask for, but not, it's not too frustrating because it doesn't last quite so long. For those who dislike the Amiga's grunt city soundtrack (i.e. everyone in this office) your more limited ST noises are a bit more socially acceptable too.
As I see it the ST version of Strider is a smart conversion, but it's only good-to-very-good rather than blooming brilliant, like the arcade Because of the speed the ST probably has it slightly over the Amiga, and some of it plays like a dream. My only nagging doubts are that though it's undoubtedly a very clean and professional program, it also seems like a bit of a thin one. If we believed in predicted interested curves (whatever they're meant to be) instead of thinking they're a load of pseudo scientific bollocks (which we do) I'd suspect it'd go straight downwards rather sharpish. The first two weeks would be smashing fun though.