Action Force (Virgin) Review | Zzap - Everygamegoing


Action Force
By Virgin Games
Commodore 64

Published in Zzap #32

Action Force

The small island of Botsneda has recently been attacked by the evil forces of COBRA. As the inhabitants retreated, they left vital classified information which would cause great embarrassment and a substantial breach of security if found by the enemy. It is now down to the Action Force team to recover this information as quickly as possible.

An All Weather and Environment (AWE) buggy is sent in to retrieve the secret data, and traverses the horizontally scrolling landscape from left to right. However, it has no defensive capabilities of its own and is therefore extremely prone to COBRA attacks. The player comes into the action as 'Wild Bill' in his 'Dragonfly' helicopter, who defends the AWE on its perilous journey.

Protecting the buggy involves subduing enemy aircraft. These zoom in and attack with either machine gun fire or bombs. An accurate hit reduces the buggy's 100 hit points, and bombs completely destroy it. At the same time, Wild Bill avoids being hit, as the Dragonfly is also susceptible to the same damage as the buggy, but has a buffer of 200 hit points instead.

After enemy attacks, the two major hazards are craters and walls, both of which destroy the buggy on contact. The former is countered by collecting bridging sections from other parts of the landscape and placing them over the holes. The latter is simply destroyed by blasting.

While flying across the war-torn landscape, Wild Bill avoids hitting solid objects, such as walls, refuelling points or the extreme left and right sides of the playing area, since collision with any of these result in instant death.

When the buggy reaches its destination (the extreme right hand of the landscape) a message is displayed and the action continues on the next level, where more hazards and enemy forces lie in wait. The mission ends when either the buggy or the Dragonfly are destroyed.


If the accompanying blurb to Action Force hadn't mentioned the fact that it was a licence, I'd never have guessed.

There is little here to link it with anything - least of all a line of children's toys. The idea (as with most Gang of Fie games) is different, if not entirely original, but suffers from a lack of variety. The gameplay is hectic, with a good slice of blasting action, but things get overly difficult after the first screen.

It's also annoying that the far edges of the screen kill, since in the heat of battle it's fairly easy to forget this and inadvertenty terminate the game. Not a terrible effort, but lacking in imagination as much as anything.


It must be very difficult to make an interesting computer game from a series of plastic figures. Zoids succeeded because it utilised the great sci-fi story behind the toys.

With Action Force there's very little to capitalise on - and it's ended up becoming an uninspired horizontally scrolling shoot-and-collect game.

There's little else to do other than fetch and carry bits of bridge, dodge the enemy and wait between screens for the highly annoying and very slow messages to pass.

The action is tricky, in fact it's almost too easy to die, but on the whole there's nothing to keep you coming back for more.

The graphics and sound are very polished, but the gameplay just isn't interesting enough.


At the moment it seems that every toy released on the market must be followed by a cartoon series and a computer game. The latest 'conversion', Action Force, is like its predecessors in that it maintains an amazing level of mediocrity.

It's actually quite good fun when you first start playing - as are most shoot-'em-ups - but there's nothing particularly innovative in the action.

Once you've shot a dozen planes and filled in a couple of holes, you've seen all that's on offer. Playability is hindered by the difficulty in distinguishing solid objects from background, which obliges the player to explore by collision, and there's also a problem with the game difficulty: it increases hugely between the first and second levels. This is enough to deter the most fanatical games player from continuing.


Presentation 73%
Slick joystick control and extensive in-game instructions, but too much waiting between levels for text messages.

Graphics 72%
Atmospheric, smooth scrolling backdrops, but otherwise lacklustre.

Sound 55%
A lively intro tune, but simple game effects.

Hookability 71%
Simple to play, with enough instantly frenetic action to get you hooked.

Lastability 43%
Little gameplay variation, and a ludicrously difficult second level.

Overall 60%
A bland shoot-'em-up, with little to prompt recommendation.