You can give games a flashy title, you can give them wild and exciting plots, you can even cover them with expensive packaging or jam, but you can't hide the fact that a shoot-'em-up is a shoot-'em-up, no matter what it's dressed up as. So why bother dressing it up at all?
I mean, there is nothing more annoying than going down to my local software dealer to buy the latest game, Slaughter of the Weeble Wobbles at some exorbitant price, only to get it home and find that all the claims of it being the most wonderful great, terrific game etc, are not true and it's simply a poor Defender clone after all.
I have to say now, I love Mega Apocalypse to bits because it tells you exactly what it is. It doesn't promise you the chance to rule the galaxy. It doesn't tell you about the millions of different sprites and screens in the game. It tells you that it's a shoot-'em-up and a good one at that.
Mega Apocalypse is similar in many ways to Martech's earlier offering, Crazy Comets, in that it has the same game objective. You still have to fly around space shooting anything that comes near and generally clocking up some very high scores. The game is set over a multitude of levels and as you can tell from the screenshots on this page, all are completely different (oooh, little bit of sarcasm there). OK, so originality of gameplay is not one of the strongest points in the game, but who needs originality for a game this good?
You fly a little diamond-shaped craft (which, incidentally, looks like a reject from Elite, but enough of this nitpicking). You fly it around a single screen for each level, but when it comes down to it, the playing area is quite large. The only area you can't move to is a line 1 character block deep at the top of the screen, which holds all the information about lives, score, etc. The original Commodore version of Mega Apocalypse had excellent moving backdrops, and these have been transferred very impressively to the Spectrum. The starfield background is completely animated, with the stars spreading outwards (as in a lot of 3-D space games). Then the whole starfield spins around the centre of the screen, which is all very clever, but very hard on the old brain.
The movement of the planets is fab. They start as little blobs and then grow into huge planets which bounce around the screen, usually after some contact with you. By the way, contact with most objects in the game causes death, so be careful.
One major complaint about Comets was that it was too hard in the way tat you could only fire upward. However, Martech has listened very closely to the grapevine and come up with a rotate facility, which allows you to manoeuvre your ship in any of the 8 directions available, which is bloody handy. Nice one Martech.
Upon loading, you are greeted with a small piece of speech which tells you to, "Get Ready," in a very indistinct American accent. At least I think this is what it says; it took me a long time to realise that it was speech and not a digitised sound effect of a heavy smoker blowing his nose (not very pretty).
But the music, the music! This is something else. David Whittaker has created a zappy new tune with a hint of Crazy Comets behind it. It's wicked.
Generally then, a wonderful game. I think everyone will like this one, basically because it's an addictive blast and one for which you don't need much brain power.
Terrific blasty sort of game with lots of needless violence and mass destruction. One for the year, perhaps.