Shadow Skimmer
by John Marshall, Jack Wilkes
The Edge
Crash Issue 39, April 1987   (1987-03-26)   page(s) 25

A routine inspection of the exterior of an interstellar liner goes disastrously wrong. The liner's computers malfunction and the ship's second officer is trapped outside in his personal scout craft, or Shadow Skimmer. To return to the safety of the main ship he needs to make his way to the main personal hatch, at the far end of the mother ship. And that means avoiding the ship's security and defence systems, systems that cannot be closed down by Galactic Command.

The exterior hull of an interstellar liner is a complicated, and hostile environment. Radar controlled defences sweep the ship's face for intruding meteors and asteroids, whilst robot craft scavenge across the ship's skin. These systems are non-selective, the Shadow Skimmer stranded outside the mother craft is now the intruder - and is sure to be treated as such. Survival is only possible if the Shadow Skimmer can be piloted across each section of the ship's hull, and its defences countered. No easy task, for each system has been designed to be almost undetectable and virtually indestructible.

The Shadow Skimmer can be piloted to left and right, upwards and down, and can even flip over and fly on its back, in order to negotiate obstacles and barriers that would otherwise be too low. However when in this flying mode, it is more vulnerable to attack, and manoeuvres must be sharper and quicker if it's to survive.

The Skimmer isn't totally defenceless Three energy shields help, but they ' re destroyed by repeated blasts from protecting robot craft or radar systems -and with all three gone, so is the game. Even if the Skimmer's shields are not breached, the craft is easily thrown out of control by blast impact, or on hitting a patrolling robot craft. A display indicates how many shields remain, and a Damage Report panel signals how close you are to losing one.

Powerful pulse lasers are capable of destroying weapons systems found in the mother ship's three hull sectors. In each sector, the defence system must be destroyed before progress can be made to the next. This is done by identifying crucial defence objectives and blasting them with a laser pulse. When a defence objective has been destroyed, barriers previously impassable no longer cause a problem, and the Skimmer can move on.

Forrays under the outer skin of the hull are occasionally necessary. Here, the heart of the defence system must be located, and destroyed before returning to the 'surface '. This is done by hovering above a hatchway, opening it by firing, and moving through.

Once the third sector of the mother ship's hull is reached, the main personal hatch can be found and through this entry made into the mother ship ... and safety.

Control keys: definable, preset: Z./X left/right, O/K up/down, zero to fire, Caps Shift to flip
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor
Use of colour: very good, varied
Graphics: excellent. Imaginative and well drawn
Sound: good tune, reasonable FX
Skill levels: one
Screens: three scrolling stages, plus inter-deck game

'THE EDGE have been disappointing lately, Fairlight II was pretty but unplayable and Shao Lins Road was messy - it also lost out on the gameplay front Shadow Skimmer follows the same trend I'm afraid-there are plenty of ace graphics and a fab tune on the title screen, but the gameplay is annoying and occasionally repellent. The three levels are fairly easy so it shouldn't take too long to play through them, therefore, if you do persevere Shadow Skimmer won't appeal for long. All in all I can't recommend this, it wouldn't keep your average gamesplayer happy for longer than a day or two.'

'Shadow Skimmer contains some of the most attractive bas-relief graphics of any Spectrum game. However the game contains little to do and gets boring after a while. There's too much inertia involved for quick and accurate playing; and I don't like the idea of being thrown around the room whenever you're hit by an enemy. It's off putting and often results in the inescapable situation of being stuck between two aliens. The inter-deck stages are a good idea and make a change from the complicated graphics of the decks. Even though I played Shadow Skimmer for quite a while I could find little to do in it. Worth a look though.'

'Hmm. I'm not sure what Sinclair User were doing when they said it 'will beat the pants off everything else around for ages,' but still, everyone's entitled to their opinions. The packaging is very nice, and the game graphics are pretty, and well coloured; therefore the screen shots (and SU's quote) might persuade some people to buy a game which I suspect they might not enjoy a lot. That said, Shadow Skimmer is a reasonable game; the ship movement is excellent, very smooth, but when you collide with an enemy, or a missile, it's quite easy to lose your bearings as you go zooming. uncontrollably around the nearby screens. All the presentation and programming is there, but the game itself isn't the greatest concept ever. I found I was starting to get bored after only an hour, which isn't really worth spending £7.95 for.'

Addictive Qualities61%
Value For Money60%
Summary: General Rating: Interesting and above average idea gets spoiled by game elements and a lack of playing scope.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 16, April 1987   page(s) 61

You know, you're jinxed. I mean, every officer on a Star Class Liner has to take one jaunt out on a reccy in his five years' service, and nowt's gone wrong before. But when you shoot off in your Shadow Skimmer for a quick loop-de-loop through deep space, the computer goes haywire and sets off the automated defence system. When you try to fly back in for your tea and biccies, things start firing at you. And no-one's got through that defence system yet. You're on your own...

Oh well, can't be helped.

So, on a one-way ticket to certain doom, you've got all three hull sectors to get through and not much time to do it in. On every level there's some bit of hardware you've got to discomknockerate (Do what? Ed) before you can move on. The sleeve notes are in fact intentionally vague - part of the fun in playing Shadow Skimmer is working out how to play it. So I don't want to give too much of the play away (I always preferred Play School myself). Let's just say that you should investigate the hatchways at every opportunity.

Time is the crucial commodity in this game. Whenever you're hit you lose a bit more of it, and though there are points to be had from shooting everything that moves, you can't really afford to hang around. It's more important to avoid being hit, even though it won't necessarily impress the high score table. Your craft moves quickly, and the illusion of skimming across the ship's surface is very convincing, rather like sliding over ice but with more control.

So where does Shadow Skimmer fit into the grand scheme of things? It's hard to say. Although the graphics are Uridium with knobs on, its much easier to get through most of the screens 'cos more often than not, there's not a lot firing at you. Still the brilliance of the screen display doesn't sabotage the gameplay at all. The Edge has approached the old problem in an interesting new way - by not making the game screen-heavy and just concentrating on keeping it tight and difficult. So there aren't 472 different levels to explore, just three, but to get through all three before your time runs out is a fair old challenge. One thing your Skimmer can do is flip over Uridium-style. This lets it go under certain barriers, while making it more vulnerable to attack. But which barriers? And are there lots of 'em?

Shadow Skimmer's another winner from The Edge, even if it does skim the surface in more ways than one. Once you've finally managed to get through it, you're unlikely to come back for more, and I suspect that the real nutters will complete it quickly. But for plodders like me, it's a good thoughtful game which needs a bit of brainwork along with the usual lightning reactions, There's no shadow of a doubt!

Value For Money7/10
Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 60, March 1987   page(s) 32,33

Jaws dropped when Shadow Skimmer came into the office. Leads were checked, heads were shaken, could it really be on a Spectrum?

It was. Shadow Skimmer is the smoothest scrolling most attribute-clash free game you've ever seen.

It takes a sizeable leap beyond Lightforce's previous achievements in this area. It looks, if you want a point of reference, a little like Uridium did on the Commodore but is maybe even more detailed.

The game play itself is a little like Uridium too, in that it combines frenzied shooting with not bumping into things. It is also set on the surface of a giant space ship.

There is, however, a good deal more to the game than any of this might suggest.

The plot is this. There you were, dossing it on a Grade A interstellar liner when it's your turn to check the outer hull in your space skimmer. No problem, all those ultra efficient hull defence systems should take care of alien interlopers but guess what? Things go horribly wrong and you get trapped out there amidst a trillion different defence mechanisms in a landscape of almost box-like enclosed spaces. It isn't easy to manoeuvre let alone survive. Somehow you have to get past all the ship defences and make it to the one route back to the safety of the ship.

Problems come in various guises, obviously there is a strong chance of being blown away by assorted ship laser defence mechanisms, there is also another problem - finding your way around, often a section of hull seems impassable and back and forth you go crunching into bulkheads. Part of the trick is to make use of a nifty facility which enables you to flip your ship (a hip hop phrase if ever I heard one). Flipped, for structural reasons that elude me. your ship can pass under some of the obstacles in its path. There is a problem though, upside down your ship is not nearly so capable of defending itself.

In some cases one route through the ship is to enter the cargo holds and find another exit. The sequence where the cargo doors open and close around your ship is. simply, breathtaking I don't know why exactly such a small thing should seem so wonderful but it's so smoothly and elegantly done its almost my favourite feature.

Over all the scrolling, is as smooth as caramel, the spaceships are some of the most creative I have seen, and you couldn't ask for more speed. Shadow Skimmer scores all the way.

Label: The Edge
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor


Summary: The smoothest scrolling attribute-clash free game you've ever seen. Maybe more detailed than Hewson's Uridium.

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 76, July 1988   page(s) 39

When Shadow Skimmer first appeared, jaws dropped, eyes boggled, and quiet burbling noises were heard from reviewers everywhere. The brilliant graphic design, complete lack of colour clash, and incredibly fast screen-flipping were like nothing ever seen before. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't really stand the test of time.

You pilot a surveillance craft moving over the surface of a giant automated space station. The station's guardian droids have gone loony and think you're an intruder, so to put things right you must dear 3 areas of droids with your lasers.

At the and of each area there's a device to be destroyed before you move on to the next. There's not much more to it except the inertial effects by which your ship is bounced all over the place by the aliens. While the fast screen-flipping here is very impressive, it makes the game difficult to play and you can soon feel frustration setting in. Shadow Skimmer doesn't retain all its initial charm, but at this price it's worth seeing nonetheless.

Label: Micro Selection
Author: The Edge
Price: £2.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Summary: Another SU Classic at a budget price, but is the game play as good as the graphics?

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 67, May 1987   page(s) 22,23

MACHINES: Spectrum
PRICE: £7.95

In space, nobody can hear you scream... "Oh no, not that lousy job!" The lousy job in question is a reconnaissance trip round the outside of a Star Class Liner, to make sure that all's ship shape. At least you only have to do it once every five years, which wouldn't be too bad if it wasn't for the fact that the on-board computer has decided to make this the week for its nervous breakdown.

So there you are, all alone at the tail of a space juggernaut, and the only entry hatch lies for'ard, in the control section. Just to spice things up the defence mechanisms are still active and under the impression that you're a dangerous piece of space debris. So, they hurl everything that they've got at you!

Skimming across the surface of space liners has become an extremely popular pursuit, following the trail-blazed by Uridium. But don't think for one minute that Shadow Skimmer is yet another clone. Overcome the initial similarity and you're playing a whole new ball game. The one I have in mind is pinball.

If you've ever wondered what that silver bearing feels like as it ricochets off the pillars and sides of a pin table, wonder no more. Your skimmer behaves in just the same fashion whenever it collides with a piece of space architecture. Even worse, it recoils when it's hit. Suddenly you find yourself bouncing wildly from screen to screen.

Complete control is the key to escape. Unlike the Uridium craft, which looped and soared, the skimmers really feel like they're gliding just above the surface, with quite deadly acceleration but rather less accurate brakes, Such are the hazards of minimal gravity. Their pulse lasers only fire when you're moving too, which means you have to fly into the face of the enemy to blast them.

Skimmers fly low, but not so low that they can't flip over on their backs. This leaves them less well defended, but it also serves to sneak under some deck structures. It's a crucial manoeuvre and one that you'll need to perfect as soon as possible if you're to progress from level one.

The Star Class Liner has three sections, all of which are interlinked, but not necessarily on the surface. Apart from zooming round tight corners and flipping under bulkheads, you have to descend into the cargo holds, through hatches which only open when you stop above them. By this stage you'll probably suspect that the designer of this Liner was a frustrated maze freak.

An added complication is that, before you can progress from one section to another, you have to destroy the key defence mechanism for the sector. The control panel, which surrounds the action window, shows you what this looks like, but it's still fairly well hidden and has to be shot. An accidental collision destroys it, but doesn't open the path to freedom!

You only have three shields, which won't last long if you insist on straying into the path of the defence droids as they stream out of their ports. You even lose strength if you do nothing, which does wonder to help maintain a sense of urgency! Add the maze element to the shooting and dodging, and you may wonder if you stand any chance at all.

Time, then, to slow down and admire the scenery for a moment. Seldom has the Spectrum looked so bright and colourful. There's been a revolution in Sinclair graphics, and at last ways are being found to cheat the notorious attribute clash. This is one of the finest examples yet.

The hull is a mass of girders and pipes, the mouths of boosters and unexplained deck machinery. It even appears to follow a logical layout, so that if you took the screens and layed them side by side, you'd have a jigsaw of a totally believable ship design.

My only fear about Shadow Skimmer is that, once you've solved it, it may lose some of its appeal. But possibly not, because when you know your way through the hazards, there's always the temptation to fine tune your performance and go for ever faster escape times.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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