Sinclair User

Hellfire Attack
By Martech
Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in Sinclair User #82

Hellfire Attack

Whoah! Is this supposed to be Afterburner or is this supposed to be Afterburner? Hellfire Attack does an impression of Afterburner which is about as good as Mike Yarwood's impression of Margaret Thatcher, which is to say, it looks right but it's completely unconvincing.

The problem is that while the idea's roughly the same, the playability level is minimal. You never get the impression that you're in control of what's happening - it's just a lot of graphics flying around as if there wasn't anyone playing.

Your Thunderblade style attack helicopter is equipped with a rotary cannon which fires all the time the chopper is airborne. Well, that's what it said in the instructions. In fact, the screen is so cluttered it's hard to tell when you're firing and when you're not. Just by lining up your sights you can knock down any targets close to hand. For some distant enemies you have to resort to using a laser-guided missile. Once your radar has locked onto a target, a square cursor appears on it, the word TARGET appears on your control panel and you can fire and forget.

Hellfire Attack

Another useful trick is turbo power. By pressing the space bar you can increase your thrust two fold, this, allows you to speed past some enemies, and also to fly upside down. For some unknown reason I ended up flying upside-down even when I didn't want to, which is pretty off-putting.

The backgrounds include forests, seascapes and battlegrounds, but the targets are so ill defined that you can't actually work out what you're shooting at or whether you've hit anything. Even more annoying, you can't really tell when you're about to be hit; the graphics are so messy and unclear that it's impossible to tell what's going on until it's too late, and your pilot is parachuting to safety. A charming little bug means that your missiles remain on the screen as you plunge to the ground. Another little jolly is the way the cliffs go blue once they fall below sea level. Clever programming.

About the only entertaining aspect of the game is the 128K sampled music, which includes a howling metal guitar bit and some whizzy drums. Apart from that, don't let the relatively impressive screen shots of Hellfire Attack fool you into thinking that this game is in any way a rival to Afterburner or Thunderblade.

Overall Summary

Disappointing Afterburner/Thunderblade lookalike without the playability.

Tony Dillon

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