Ah, what the heck

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GREETINGS TV fans! Welcome to the 2238 MegaCorp Industry's annual "Ground Defence Games" brought to you exclusively by the Century 23 television network!
So begins Thunderstrike, and as you might have guessed, you spend most of your time flying around blasting the gubbins out of everything that moves.

By means of plastic TV presenters and a good rendition of theme from "Rolleball" (yes, I do know what its real name is) thre is a nice feeling of oppressive evil.

The hero is a faceless macho pilot, and his/her adversaries are computer-controlled drones. The nearest you see to real people are Century 23's answers to Sarah Greene and Mike Smith.
Basically any scenario would have done, but instead of shooting aliens or Iraqii MiG fighters, you shoot lifeless targets. Is this what the future holds? Perhaps wars could be fought in this way, with casualties limited to hardware. If only...

Coming from the same software house that produced the wickedly enjoyable Resolution 101, Thunderstrike has a lot of groundwork to do to equal that game's technical merit, never mind exceed it.
In the end, it just about manages to sacrifice a little speed for some extra-fabby graphics.

Your ship appears just in front of you, and as you drag your mouse around the table it ducks and dives in rather a pleasant manner as you zip over the coloured landscape.

There are things you need to guard from the aliens, otherwise they sit on them, destroy them and mutate. Solution: Blast 'em.
There are things that fly around and shoot you. Solution: Blast 'em.
Ah, what the heck, just blast everything. But carefully - each wasted bullet can result in a drop in performance at the end of the level. If you want to get far in this game, you need to be accurate.

If you were to re-map the three dimensional images into a two dimensional playing area, the game would end up with would bear a startling resemblance to the ultimate classic Defender. What I would give for a Defender cabinet in my living room! It just goes to show that a good game will endure for ever.

For something as technically advanced as the solid 3D graphics in Thunderstrike, they move fast. Of course, it doesn't matter how complicated the calculation behind the scene are if they don't move fast enough as to be playable. Relax: Thunderstrike is as playable as you wish it to be.



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MILLENNIUM £24.99 * Mouse or keyboard

Smile, you are on candid camera - 23nd Century style. Live and unedited from the Thunderstrike arena comes the greatest show in space. Here pilots face death and destruction to entertain the eager millions who lust for action, thrills and spills.

Thunderstrike is a TV combat show where heroes fly fighters for fun and profit against drone ships that kill for real. As a pilot, protecting your own power installations and destroying the drone generators is the aim of the game in a fifty-stage dogfight to the finish.

The battlefield is composed of gullies, pools and hills over which you hunt the dreaded drones. Their generators are easily spotted, huge chequered pyramids rising out of the floor.

Until blasted they churn out nasties, each of which has a special way of terminating your TV contract. Some try to shoot you, others ram, while the worst of the bunch sit above your own installations sucking power until they collapse.

Each area is played 10 times, with the generators and installations in different positions and status of the installations are available on the HUD, with lock indicators flipping up when a drone falls within range - vital information that is complemented by a map that shows where the enemy is hanging out.

When you've blasted, blasted and blown yourself to victory, your performance is judged. As Thunderstrike is a game-show, you need to have done the biz, pulling in the viewers with a high kill ratio.

Fight well and your craft is uprated for the next round, defend badly and it's downgraded. Add this to the bundle of power-ups that fall from drones during battle and in no time you can be porky enough, fast enough and agile enough to rule the ratings roost.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Thunderstrike looks well weird. Following the TV theme you only see your ship from behind and it's tracked by a remote camera. When things get seriously heavy, it's common to lose sight of yourself as the camera struggles to keep up with the action.

The playing area is a 3D polygon world, with colours changing for each arena. Occasional glitches momentarily surprise, with drones appearing in walls, but when the palms sweat and battle is joined there's no time to care. Sounds are limited to a tacky Cap'n Nemo theme that screams to be turned off in favour of the far superior effects the picosecond the game hits the screen.

LASTING INTEREST

Thunderstrike is a 3D shoot-em-up with a neat twist in the attack and defence strategy. Flying any of the ships takes some getting used to, especially the quick turners, but after a few games the whole thing is a second nature. The other controls take a little familiarisation too, but the correct strategies soon become apparent. As the levels progress the generators get more numerous while the installations are spread further afield.

Abilities such as track locking - which allows high speed travel around the arena - must be used to make the grade. Thunderstrike however, remains an into-the-screen blaster battle with twiddly bits. Great fun in the short run but only for the massively vicious and star struck amongst us in the long term.

JUDGEMENT

Thunderstrike is fun: swooping, low, flying fast and firing first. The TV concept adds solidity to the game, giving you a reason for this excursion into the death zone. The 3D is quick and convincing, the ship handles well and there's enough action to keep pilots busy well into the night.

The addictive factor fades after a few rounds as there are only so many ways to win, so many chances to take, in the same arena. The development of the ship adds staying power, but the improvements aren't that noticeable as the increase in performance is only gradual. Despite this lack of longevity, Thunderstrike is still worth watching.



Mehr ein Donnerschlägchen

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Ballespiele gibt es für den Amiga ja nun wirklich in rauhen Mengen - außer solche mit Vektorgrafik, die sind wiederum eher Mangelware. Das muß schnellstens geändert werden, dachten sich die Jungs bei Millennium...

Glaubt man der Anleitung von Thunderstrike, dann wird in 200 jahren alle Welt gebannt die Liveübertragung der jährlich stattfindenden "Raumverteidigungsspiele" verfolgen. Dabei muß ein tollkühner Pilot in fünf verschiedenen Kampfarenen jeweils zehn Runden lang alle Bodeneinrichtungen gegen feindlichen Dronen verteidigen.

Dazu stehen ihm insgesamt fünf (höchst futuristische) Fluggefährte mit unterschiedlichen Eingeschaften zur Verfügung, die so hübsche Namen wie "Strikehornet", "Thunderfly" und eben "Thunderstrike" tragen. Damit er sich nicht verfliegt, kann er auf eine große Übersichtskarte und mehrere Radarsysteme zurückgreifen.

Die Handhabung ist absolut simple: Mit der Maus wird gesteuert, Gas gegeben und gefeuert, wobei man den eigenen Flieger stets von hinten sieht.

Die Extras, die die abgeschossenen Dronen hin und wieder zurücklassen (Doppelschüsse etc.), können durch einfaches Hindurchfliegen aufgegabelt werden.

Die Vektorgrafik ist sehr schnell, und die (wenigen) Zwischenbilder hat man sehr schön vom PC (VGA) rübergezogen. Nur sind die Landschaften halt arg abstrakt und wirken dadurch auf die Dauer eintönig. Und die Radarsysteme sind viel zu unausgereift, um wirklich von praktischem Nutzen zu sein. Der Sound (mickrige Effekte und 'ne kurze Nummer vom alten Bach) wirkt ebenfalls nicht unbedingt motivationssteigernd.

Empfehlenswert also nur für Vektorgrafikfans, die etwas Baller-KURZweil suchen. (mm)



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Millennium, Amiga £24.99

The game of the Millennium, groan, is Ground Defence Games. An audience of billions is captivated by the kamikaze bravery of pilots competing for the coveted title of 'Defender of the Ground'. The objective is simply to destroy all the robots ad enemy forces, drones and drone generators, before they wipe out your base pyramids. If you lose your bases you're out; if you survive you go through to the next round (The Games are set in five arenas to survive).

There are also five ships to choose from, each with different flight characteristics. Once in the arena a TV camera follows your ship, providing your remote perspective. You can use joystick or mouse to rotate, tilt, thrust and shoot.

There are two basic types of drone - Saboteur drones (which scuttle over to your bases and destroy them after 10 seconds) and the rest, namely suicidal Lungers, Fighters, Gliders and the mine-laying Bombers. Impacting with drones can knock your energy for six and if you lose all energy you're out of the contest.

So it's a good idea to take out drone generator bases first, then the drones. Destroyed drones often leave behind military hardware pods to improve your ship's firepower and energy. There's a guardian capsule to rotate your ship destroying nearby drones, and a Turbo pod providing four turbos for short bursts of rapid acceleration.

One novel touch is a black track crisscrossing the arenas, you can Tracklock onto this and it'll move you around at high speed (useful for saving a faraway base). There's also a neat Head-Up-Display providing radar info at close and long range. You can also call up a map for long range navigation and offence/defence stats.

Destroy all drones and enemy bases to complete a round. Now your performance is assessed. If you get a low defence rating power points are taken off your manoeuvrability. Do well and points are added. On the higher rounds there's more enemy bases and faster, more determined enemies. After every 10th round you win a trophy and move to another arena.


Robin Hogg It's nice to see such an imaginatively presented version of Defender: the 3-D 'patchwork world' effect is about the best bit of the game. But unfortunately it's about the only improvement. Slugging through ten rounds in the same arena is dull, but when you do get to a new arena the only real difference is the bases are further apart and the landscape changes colour and contours. There are no new gameplay elements, just another ten rounds to blast through. A new arena and horizon colour every 10th level just isn't enough to keep me playing, this game needs variety badly. Give me DataStorm for a no-messing Defender game any day.
Stuart Wynne It's ironic that while the scenario mocks F-29 as boring, Thunderstrike itself turns out to be simply an updated 3-D Defender. The graphics are extremely impressive, I can't think of another game which allows you to fly over - and into! - such a complex hilly landscape. F-29 and Fighter Bomber have pyramid mountains and leave it at that.
Thunderstrike cheats a bit, the camera doesn't follow you if the ship jumps up really dramatically, but it's still very nice to look at. The enemy drones are okay, it's surprising how many can attack at once, but they're usually shot at distance. Tactics tend to be limited to spinning around with your finger on fire. But then there's the old defend your bases/attack enemy bases decision, timing when to do what is crucial. The only problem is the lack of variety, the arcade action can't compensate for this.