Switchblade 2 logo

GREMLIN GRAPHICS * £25.53 Joystick

The Cyberworld of Thraxx is under threat. Thousands of years ago, the evil havoc tried to destroy the Bladeknights by destroying their sacred weapon - the Switchblade. One man managed to break free of the tyranny and battle through to defeat Havoc. His nam was Hiro.

The Lord of Chaos
It appears Havoc escaped after the last battle, waiting to return to the Cyberworld and dominate its people. The volcano has become active again and earthquake shake the surrounding area. The people of Thraxx have discovered a note from Havoc, proclaiming himself ruler of Cyberworld and threatening to cause mayhem unless they yield to his will. But there is an alternative.

Hiro's descendants have ignored the derision and scor heaped them and continued to bring up their sons in the traditions of the Bladeknights. The last in the line, also named Hiro after his esteemed ancestor, is willing to take up the fight.

You take control of Hio in his quest to defeat Havoc for a second time. To begin with, Hiro is armed with a sword and a multi function Cyber Arm. In order to use the arm, Hiro must pick up weapon packs along the way. These turn the arm into a high-powered weapon, capable of firing various types of missile.

More powerful weapons can be bought in shops, but in order to collect money, Hiro must kill enemy robots and pick up the orbs that they leave behind.

The mission takes place over six levels, each covering a different scene on the way to the volcano. You must guide Hiro through each level and destroy the guardian to collect a Fire Blade token, which will allow him to continue to the next stage.

One more into the base, dear friends
Switchblade II's strength is its graphics. The small sprites and flick scroll of the original have been replaced by large, colourful characters and smooth, full-screen, multi-directional scrolling. The first level is pretty much carried over from the original with new rooms only being discovered by walking through a doorway, climbing a ladder or smashing through a wall. Th higher levels are in the style or arcade beat-em-ups Strider, with Hiro having to leap around platforms bashing enemies with his sword.

The control feels comfortable enough too, with Hiro moving in good response to the joystick commands. The problem is that Switchblade II isn't anything new. The original had a novel method of exploration and cutesy graphics, the sequel ends up being just another arcade beat-e-em-up.

There are niggles which crop up occasionally for example it is impossible to get past the end of level guardians without losing at least one life. This means that the rest of the game is simply an exercise in finding bonus lives and collecting weapons and energy pods. Where is the finding skill? Where is the exciting skin-of-the-teeth battling with the guardians, in which the best fighter wins through? Not here it seems.

Completing a level is more a matter of luck and how many lives you've managed to amass. This reduces a good-looking game, with the potential of being comparable to some of the top coin-ops, into a pretty dull and repetitive hack-and-slash variant.

Switchblade 2 logo

Zur Zeit grassiert wirklich die Nachfolgeritis: "Turrican 2", "Super Cars 2", "Midwinter 2", "Speedball 2" und nun eben auch Switchblade II.

Bevor es ans Eingemachte geht, erstmal ein Blick auf die historischen Grundlagen: In Teil I bedrohte der diabolische Havoc unsere schöne Welt, was ihm aber gar nicht gut bekam, weil es da auch noch einen furchtlosen Helden namens Hiro gab, der ihm mit seinem Feuerschwert tüchtig eins tüchtig eins aufs häßliche Haupt gab.

Jetzt, zwei Jahrhunderte später, feiert Havoc seine Wiederauferstehung. Deshalb darf nun der letzte lebende Nachkomme Hiros beweisen, daß er genauso gut hüpfen und ballern kann wie sein berühmter Vorfahr.

Die Nachfolger von Plattformspielen sind meist wieder Plattformspiele, logisch. Folglich darf auch hier viel gelaufen, geklettert, gesprungen und gesammelt werden, auch klar. Aber während der Schwerpunkt früher eher beim Knobeln & Tüfteln lag, ist diesmal vornehmlich Action angesagt.

Was sich vor allem darin ausdrückt, daß es hier außer dem üblichen Sammelgut (Energie, Zusatzleben, Punkte, etc.) eine besonders große Auswahl an Extrawaffen gibt - Maschinenpistolen, Shuriken, Flammenwerfer, Laserkanonen, Raketen...

Grafik wird ebenfalls reichlich geboten: sie ist zwar ähnlich düster wie beim Vorgänger, aber äußerst umfangreich: die sechs Level (je hundert Screens!) sind randvoll mit Monstern, Fallen, Geheimräumen, etc...

Gescrollt wird perfekt in alle Richtungen, der Sound ist brauchbar, die Steuerung sogar sehr gut - Hiro kann also durchaus stolz auf seinen Nachkommen sein. (Manuel Semino)

Switchblade 2 logo

The last word in Japanese arcade adventures arrives in the form of Switchblade II but (and this is the really weird bit!) it isn't even Japanese!

Now here's a funny thing. Switchblade II reviewed in the very same issue as the original Switchblade (check out the budget section to find out what we thought of the first game). This follow-up is a bigger proposition altogether, and sets out to silence one of the major criticisms of Switchblade - the one that all the screens looked the same.

There's loads of graphic variation in this sequel, with forest scenes, underground scenes, scenes in the same tunnel-and-caven network as the original, industrial dockland scenes, and lots more besides. So, er, that'll be that criticism silenced, then.
In many ways Switchblade II visually resembles Midnight Resistance, but the gameplay actually contains several elements of both Rainbow Arts' Turrican and the more recent Gods from Renegade.

Um, well, that's a tricky question. There isn't much in Switchblade II that hasn't been seen before (and seen several times for that matter), but I don't think I've seen a game that did all of it quite so well until now.

There aren't any weak elements in here at all. The game is instantly playable, the graphics are uniformly beautiful, the sound is atmospheric and solid (although to be scrupulously honest, it's more 'good enough' than 'absolutely stunning'), the difficulty is very well-judged there's no reliance on the infuriating 'learning from experience' (i.e. killing you without any warning and then relying on you to remember exactly where it happened) cop-out that completely ruined Rick Dangerous 2 for me, and there's always plenty going on to keep you occupied.

Even when you've gone right through a level, there's likely to be at least one secret room you haven't found yet, or one secret entrance to another huge section of play area to stumble across (I'm still finding new bits just on the first level).

And 'huge' is a word that keeps coming back to me when I think about this game. Each level is massive, and with six of them to hack through, separated by some pretty mean end-of--level guardians - you'll be plugging away at this game for absolutely ages before you get anywhere near completing it, especially as the difficulty rises perfectly throughout, letting you progress further each time you play but getting phenomenally harder near the end.

This is a feature it shares with its predecessor, but the difference with Switchblade II is that the completely new graphic style of each level gives you a real incentive to keep at it.

Even though most of the elements of Switchblade II aren't new, some of them are still executed in an innovative style. The idea of collecting money and buying power-ups, for example, is as old as the hills, but here at least some of the power-ups are a little more imaginative than the usual three-way-fire-and-smart-bombs type of bog-standard weaponry.

I'm thinking particularly of the 'dragon', a bizarre and elegant weapon which consists of a small, well, dragon (you won't be surprised to hear) which flies around you in what seems to be a fairly random manner, killing any baddies it happens to bump into. Quickly though, you realise that it never flies far away from you before homing back in on your position, so you can sue it to carefully eliminate enemies that would otherwise have caused you serious problems - those lurking at the tops of ladders, for example.
For some reason, this is such an incredibly satisfying thing to do that it gives the game a whole new lease of life, as well as giving you a really clever and smug feeling. (Until you lose concentration and get knocked off a platform by one of the bad guys and plunge to your death at the bottom of an incredibly deep lift shaft, that is).

I'm also a dead sucker for rain effects in games (which this has got) and having the first level in a similar style to the original game to create a feeling of continuity is a great idea. My favourite little touch, though, has to be the way that extra lives appear in the form of the character sprite from Switchblade. It's only a tiny touch, but it's typical of the amount of trouble that's been taken on this game to make everything feel just right.

Well, not much, really. The only niggles are tiny, tiny things, like not being able to jump on to or off ladders, or the baddies being a little bit characterless and not changing much from level to level. Then again, there are compensations - like being able to shoot things that are slightly off-screen, the natural and flexible jumping system, and the way you stop momentarily when you're going down a ladder and reach a floor level, which can be invaluable when you need to tackle a baddie wit split-second timing.

Generally, the feel is of a very well put-together game indeed - it's very rare that you get annoyed by something that isn't intended to annoy you. There's enough frustration to make it addictive, but never enough that you become disheartened, and if Switchblade II was a coin-op, I can quite confidently say that's be chucking money down it for quite some time.

It's an arcade game in the purest sense - there's little thinking involved, but it's so nice to play you won't even notice that you brain has atrophied. And what's more, it won't matter. Superb.

No, but it's pretty important, all the same. One of the nice things about Switchblade II is that it delivers a lot of play area for your money, as these very different screens show...
Switchblade 2
Level 2 - Big, expansive coin-op style exteriors. Mind the gap!
Switchblade 2
Level 3 - Bright, cute, colourful and sharpy defined arcade-style graphics.
Switchblade 2
Level 4 - A quiet bit. Through that door lies a lovely bonus room.
Switchblade 2
Level 5 - And a loud bit! Those missiles never stop, so run for it!
As you may have guessed by now, I don't think Switchblade II is merely one of the best games of its type, I think it's the very, very best.
Which would be all very well, except half the office don't agree with me and have challenged me to prove it to them. Here, then, is a handy series of comparisons to show them why...
Switchblade II has much better graphics, and identifiable landmarks that make the levels seem a lot less unfocused.
In Switchblade II the levels are a lot bigger, and it doesn't have the awkward control system.
Switchblade II has much less in the way of invisible danger, hence much more reliance on skill rather than dumb luck.
Well, the Striders looked nice, but where was the gameplay?
Though some people prefer Gods, you have to admit Switchblade II is much more of a pure action game, and much faster-moving.
Er, no contest here, I'm afraid. Everything that was good about Switchblade is present in Switchblade II, but bigger and better.
Nice touches abound in Switchblade II, from the startling arcade-like graphics to other, less obvious, but nonetheless equally 'neat' things like these...
Switchblade 2
An extra life. Trivia fans (or addicts of the original Switchblade) will notice that it's actually the guy from the first game. Isn't that sweet?
Switchblade 2
The end-of-level baddie from Level Four. It acts rather like an evil version of your own dragon weapon. (And, of course, it's as hard as nails).
Switchblade 2
Here's a quick sneak preview of the last level. The action takes place in several volcanoes, so precise timing is needed to get through uninjured.
Switchblade 2
Scattered around the later levels are many of these little rooms. They usually contain very useful stuff, such as extra lives, more ammo and the like.
We had a quick chat with George Allan, the programmer behind Switchblade II, and put a couple of points brought up in the review to him. Here's what he had to say...

Q. So, George, can you go through all the games you worked on before this one?
A. I did Venus on the Amiga for Gremlin, but that's all. This is actually only my second game.

Q. Blimey. What kind of things influenced you while you were writing it?
A. Well, we had quite a lot of freedom with the game design, but obviously a lot of the ideas are based on arcade games like Strider and Shinobi, as well as a few console games we liked.

Q. Looking back, is there anything you'd have liked to have done differently? We've noticed that the baddies don't change all that much from level to level, for instance.
A. We didn't really spend as long on the design stage of things as we should have done, I suppose, but the enemy graphics are all down to the graphic designer. It's not my fault! Seriously though, we simply ran out of time.

Q. And what about not being able to jump onto ladders, or fire when you're climbing and all that kind of stuff?
A. Actually, we'd have liked to have Hiro firing from ladders and while he was running along, but we just didn't have enough memory for all the sprite data for the extra actions. The main sprite uses 60k alone as it is!

Switchblade 2 logo

Leaving the racetrack behind them, Gremlin Graphics are set to release the long-awaited sequel to their platform slice 'em up, Switchblade. In a radical overhaul, the new game's been totally transformed from a cute arcade romp into a fast-action platform blast.

It's been two hundred years since Hiro defeated the evil Havoc and saved his people from eternal enslavement. Unfortunately, Havoc survived the encounter and has been licking his wounds and plotting revenge ever since.

Now he's back, ready to kick ass and pummel all-comers into a thick meaty paste of blood and bones. All is not lost, however, as one of Hiro's descendants, a muscle-bound sword-wielding warrior, is desperate to prove himself in combat. Obviously lacking a bit of the ol' grey matter, off he trots to confront Havoc and save the day.

Switchblade 2's set over six enormous levels, each one made up of between 80 and 130 screens. With over 600 screens in all, the game's more than four times as big as the original with a vast array of weapons to collect and enemy droids to slice apart. Even the main character is twice as big as the previous sprite and sports much more detail and additional frames of animation.

Level one is set in the same dark and dank underground city complex as the first game. It's a self-mapping section where the player has to destroy sections of wall before another room is revealed. There are various ladders, stairways, and lifts to help move about the level but, conversely, there are also various blasters, hover-droids and guard robots to impede your progress.

Laser gun turrets are placed at strategic points throughout the section and fire armour piercing pulses of light which prove difficult to dodge. There are also electrified force-fields, spiked floors, land mines and a variety of other such impediments. Reach the end of all that lot, and you'll come up against a super-tough end-of-level guardian who also makes a reappearance later on during levels two and three.

The claustrophobic and dimly-lit underworld of level one gives way to yet more fast and frantic action in level two, a horizontally scrolling affair with an assault course of crates and platforms to overcome plus armour-played armadillos which carry portable mortars capable of peppering the area with miniature bomblets. Starting off at the base of a cliff, the player has to fight his/her way up to the top and confront an end-of-level warrior.

Level three is set over a snow-capped mountain range while the fourth takes place beneath cascading waterfalls. There's a choice of routes to take, unlike the linear and predictable route of level two, but beware of dead ends.

Crossing rickety wooden bridges while being strafed by gun emplacements, attack droids, super-tanks, gunships and unshakeable hover-droids isn't easy and you'll need all the power-ups and extra ammo you can collect.

Armour-plated sentry droids with their razor-studded knuckles are on the loose and if you get caught by a one-two combination it's goodbye to one of your lives. The final two levels are set over a waterfront and volcano respectively. The first has massive Scud-like missiles launching from the water while the latter has deadly lava pits and molten avalanches to contend with. Complete this final level and it's a face off with Havoc himself in an impossibly frantic 'mother of all battles'. You have been warned.

There are five different weapons to collect: machine-guns, flamethrowers, lasers, shurikens, and homing missiles. Machine gun fire is the least effective with the homing missiles proving the most efficient at bumping off the opposition. They zoom around the screen taking out a screenful of bad guys in one go.

Flamethrowers and lasers can pass through objects and the shurikens can bounce off walls and rebound onto the enemy. Unfortunately, firepower is limited and can only be replenished by picking up special ammo boxes dotted around each level. Run out of these and it's back to hand-to-hand combat although if you're close enough you can use your sword to take a slash at the advancing alien slime.

The game's been designed and developed by George Allan and Paul Gregory, both of whom worked on Gremlin's rather swish environmental shoot 'em up, Venus. Taking on the sequel to Switchblade must have been a bit like stepping into dead men's shoes as the original game was handled by Core Design who split from Gremlin last year.

However, George and Allan have come up with a host of new ideas. Although the first level of the game doffs its hat to, and mimmicks the graphic style of, the first game, from there on Switchblade 2 cuts a creative swathe all its own. It's refreshing to see a game which builds on the strengths of its predecessor yet introduces enough new elements to give it a character all its own. Far too often softcos seem content to offer more of the same, hoping to live off the success of the original.

Switchblade 2 is fast, frantic and fun and a big improvement o n its critically acclaimed predecessor.

Work started on the game last August and influences include Strider, Shinobi and the brilliant Midnight Resistance. The team decided early on to utilise the Amiga's 32-colour capability and full 256 line PAL screen, rather than opt for any fancy parallax scrolling.
With bigger sprites and subtle use of colour the game looks a treat. There are a lot of interesting touches throughout - look out for a King Kong-type character hanging off the edge of a skyscraper in the background of level two and the puff of dus that rises from the ground everytime your character takes a jump! The game updates at 50 frames a second so the scrolling is sily smooth and the in-game tune is suitably atmospheric as are the numerous digitised sound effects.

Switchblade 2 logo

One of Paul Lakin's particularly off-putting habits is swapping peoples' cutlery around. This makes him an embarrassing person to take to dinner parties, but the ideal person to review Switchblade II from Gremlin.

There's nothing like a bit of carelessness to inspire a sequel. Having spent the original Switchblade charging round dungeons reconstructing his fireblade and ten defeating the evil Havoc it's a bit of a shock to be asked to do the same thing again.

So what went wrong? Did you lose the sword down the back of the sofa? Or did you forget to put in the killing blow in the same way that you forgot to finish that course of antibiotics last spring? Yes, well, you paid for that did't you, cos you went down with quadruple pneumonia and had to miss Auntie Alice's 'vicars and tarts' party. Likewise, your inefficiency has left you with the whole job to do all over again. Only this time it's going to be a whole lot worse.

Switchblade had you crawling around a nasty damp sewer-type place. Horrid, drafty place - no wonder you got pneumonia. Switchblade II puts you in an almost identical place - just as damp, just as dangerous and just as damn big.

The problem is, this time it's only the first level. Gremlin claim that the whole of the original Switchblade would fit into the first level of the sequel. Well they should know. What is indisputable is that after this level you're left to deal wit four more. These range in location from ice-fields to waterfalls, before ending up in a dockland that is a heck of a lot livelier and somewhat more dangerous than the one in South London.

Along the way there are many new monsters to met and get to know socially. A few old 'friends' also put in an appearance. How you go about destroying these old and new 'friends' is somewhat slightly different from in the original. Weapon upgrades aren't just picked up along the way they have to be paid for. Nothing is for free these days.

However, although money doesn't grow on trees, in Switchblade II it can be found lying around on the ground. Gathering enough of I and paying a visit to the friendly neighbourhood storekeeper allows you tp purchase the very best in bargain-basement bashing equipment. You'll probably need every iota of it.

Amiga reviewPaul: Switchblade was a rather distinctive little number - not exactly a beat 'em up , not exactly an arcadey puzzle. Perhaps for this reason the game was extremely popular with reviewers and yet didn't really make much of an impact on the sales front. That certainly seems to have been Gremlin's thinking because the sequel has been given a lot more oomph but a little bit less character.

The graphics are brighter and more lively than before (Not surprising considering most of the action takes place above ground this time)/Hiro, the hero (hem, hem), is a lot bigger and slightly less effeminate than before. Backgrounds are considerably more varied and colourful.

The waterfalls level is a particularly striking example with its constant cascade of water. Animation is as good as before - actually it's better really, since the range of monsters and their movements i far greater. However, Hiro's shooting is a bit crap - he can only manage basic straight-ahead shooting (no flash diagonal stuff for him).

So in the looks department Switchblade II is a considerable improvement on its predecessor. It's also a step forward in shoot 'em up terms, yet in the process it's stopped being Switchblade. The main sprite and a lot of the action is more reminiscent of Strider. Collecting pizzas and burgers for extra energy reminded me of nothing so much as those flippin' turtles. It has slipped comfortably and impressively into the beat/shoot 'em up league and should be easily be a front runner. (Bit of a mixed metaphor there. Ed.)

However, fans of the original may feel a bit disappointed. Gremlin have produced a great sequel to Strider, which is in itself an achievement to be proud of. Stop