Amstrad Action1st June 1987
Published in Amstrad Action #21
Solar Coaster is a fast and furious space shoot-em-up, alien annihilation at its most basic level. Your mission is to shoot each wave of aliens defending their mothership and then to blow that up again.
There are four levels. The first, second and third are pure and simple alien-bashing. They differ in shape and colour from one level to another. They also think up new ways of diving and bombing you. On the first level, the aliens swoop down randomly with varying speed and accuracy. They drop bomb after bomb in their never-ceasing mission to blow you off the face of the universe.
Movement left and right causes your ship to tilt quite realistically. You'll be thankful for the option to thrust it higher up the screen. This can make the difference between life and death.The aliens on the third level are the hardest to shoot. They form a line of defence and then swoop down at you like holiday-makers doing the can-can at the end of an evening's drinking. The fourth and final level is a mothership almost identical to that in the arcade game Phoenix, in that you must shoot through the bottom shield of the ship, despite being bombed by it and pestered by yet more aliens trying to hold on to the last bastion of their civilization. Through that, you must shoot the centre of the ship. If only you could tell them that they will reappear next time round, they might not be so annoying.
Solar Coaster is a very simple game with easy controls. Personally, I get bored with monotonous shooting. But this game is one of the few shoot-em-ups which really tax me. Although after a few games I blew up the mothership. I still found it quite addictive. The most annoying feature is the poor collision detection. I don't like to be blown up when, in theory, I am half a lightyear from the nearest alien.
It's a passable shoot-'em-up for a couple of quid, but it's not exactly breaking the barriers of originality. now is it? This is the major danger of budget software - it can stifle more original games. The full-price labels are failing to exploit this at the moment, producing many shoddy conversions themselves, but if full-price titles are to survive, particularly on the Amstrad, they'll have to buck their ideas up. And I mean *ideas*.
Back to the game. Ship movement is too sluggish. Result: frequent infuriating deaths when I reacted and it didn't respond fast enough.
Green Screen View
Some waves are awkward to spot
P. Colourful characters and backdrop.
N. Flickery explosion and collision sequences.
N. Average shoot-em-up effects.
Grab Factor 56%
P. Addictive like most shoot-em-ups.
N. Seen it all before.
Staying Power 42%
P. Levels are quite tough.
N. Levels are boringly repetitive.