Remember that bit in Theatre of Blood where Vincent Price straps his victim into a chair and spears his eyes with a pair of rotating knives? That is what I feel like doing to the programmers of this. Theatre of Death combines arcade shoot-em-up and strategy elements based around the fictional Def Com Military Academy. As one of its keenest students you have been let loose on a military simulator to engage in a war of attrition against four ruthless commanders and their armies.
It divides 50 varied and increasingly complex missions among four zones (grassland, desert, snow and lunar). You can be called to launch troop assaults, jet strikes, tank attacks or helicopter raids on a series of enemy targets, blasting everything you see.
The action takes place across two different screens - the first is a map where you can move your forces collectively and plan your strategy, the second is an overhead-and-behind view where you control individual troops, vehicles or platoons.
If you are a fan of gratuitous pixellated violence you are in for a treat. Like Walker, Cannon Fodder and Syndicate, Theatre of Death gives you plenty of tiny blood-spilling sprites. Your chaps even get splatted by tanks, swallowed by sharks or suffocate in the swamps that cover the game area. Sound good? It's not!
Pass the suicide pills
Theatre of Death is plagued by an almost insurmountable number of problems. The control method is incredibly fiddly; you move your troops and vehicles around using a mouse, but are forced to scroll around the Action Screen with the cursor keys, so instead of centring on your selected platoon, the game makes you chase around trying to find them.
Worse still, appalling scrolling inevitably means fire-fights happen off-screen and you get caned by an enemy who is just out of sight.
Another major gripe is the game's lack of artificial intelligence when it comes to moving your troops. Click on the Action Screen to give them a destination and they plough through rivers or swamps, drowning in the process. They also die if you move too close to your own vehicles. Why?
Your tanks and APCs are little better. They manage to get themselves stuck behind every building, tree and hillock going, so you end up wasting even more precious time trying to negotiate obstacles, when the AI should work out where you want to go.
Graphically, ToD looks the part - the helicopters and jets are good, casting convincing shadows, the sound effects are good too with some convincing gun noises, explosions and spine-tingling screams. But it is all spoiled by some dodgy collision detection and flickery sprites which get stuck behind objects and then stay there. What a shame.