Only marginally better is Tomcat (25%) from Players. A vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up, Tomcat has good, monochromatic graphics - with the singular exception of bullets which are simply small circles. Spotting them is exceptionally difficult which, together with the unoriginal gameplay, makes for an extremely difficult game.
One of the banes of my life has always been shoot 'em ups that are just so difficult you can't get anywhere at all. I bought one recently for the ST (spit) that everyone had said was amazingly groovy, but I never lasted for more than 20 seconds, so that was 20 nicker chucked down the drain. At least with the Speccy budget games you're only wasting a tenth of that price, but it's a pain nontheless.
Try as I might, I could get nowhere on this blasted game, much as it's beautifully drawn and animated, if a little slow. It's a vertical scroller in the Slapfight mode, with you flying low level over an automated island full of robots and gun emplacements firing at you. But it's so hard that in the end it seems a bit of a wasted opportunity. If, though, you really are a shoot 'em up whizz kid and you're finding everything else a touch on the peasy side, this is highly recommended. But I dunno — methinks even Jon-Boy Davies would have problems with this one.
Encouraged by the name (a Tomcat, apart from being a feline of the male gender, is a rather spanky US Navy plane), and, in sheer desperation, I decided to give this one a whirl. Bad idea. It's a very ordinary vertically-scrolling shooter with one outstanding feature - it's completely impossible to get anywhere in. The aeroplane theme is a bit weak too, as you could easily replace it with a spaceship or something and not notice the difference. Still no joy then.
I know you're supposed to have reasonable eyesight to fly one of those American superfighters, but Players' Tomcat seems to require nothing short of E.S.P. of its pilots. I'll tell you why, shall I? Yes I shall. It's because you can't see what's shooting at you, you can't see what you're shooting at, you can't see where the hell you are and you can't see where you're going. It's like Beirut with fog.
First appearances imply that Tomcat is a rather special vertical shoot-out. While very much in the Flying Shark/Xenon mould, Tomcat has more complicated graphics and more going on. Well, that's what it seems like. Unfortunately, it turns out to be cluttered, confused and confusing.
The biggest problem is that you simply can't see what is going on. "Game Over" pops up for no evident reason. Especially observant spectators were sometimes able to point out the direction from whence the incoming bullet originated, but I was continually dumbfounded as to what was shooting me down.
The reason for this feeling of myopic paranoia is that the amount of things on the screen which are FILLED IN is virtually equal to the number of things which AREN'T, so it's like looking at one of those Embassy fag adverts which you couldn't possibly make out unless you were 100m away. While they were very clever adverts (This remark in no way implies that Sinclair User endorses smoking. It doesn't. Thankyou, Ken). I couldn't look at them for more than two minutes without feeling all giddy. (This remark in no way implies that Sinclair User endorses spinning ground until you feel giddy or using other hallucinatory aids like roundabouts - it doesn't. Thanks again. Ken)
So, what of the playability? Well, it certainly isn't the fastest game I've seen.
The screen scrolls four ways and your task is the standard one of blowing up gun emplacements and shooting down enemy fighters. You can collect extra weapons in the now rather tired fashion of flying over the tokens.
The bad guys fly in quite uninspiring patterns, but the bullets - THE BULLETS! God knows where they come from. I can't see them! Even when I've got backward firing missiles and tri-directional machine guns - which don't always fire - I was getting shot all over the place by mystery aliens with mystery invisible bullets.
On and on this thing goes, killing you with infuriatingly little explanation, and no hint of further excitement.
It's a pity that what could easily have been a very polished and entertaining budget game is horribly let down by poor presentation and slow action. Tsk Tsk.
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
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