Sinclair User20th March 1990
Published in Sinclair User #100
The problem with producing top-bottom scrolling blasts these days is that, since everyone has had a number of successful stabs at the genre, you really can't get away with anything which doesn't have a revolutionary new angle.
Sonic Boom, Activision's latest fighter-Jet coin-op conversion unfortunately falls just short of this admittedly tall order.
Two immediate problems come to light on loading. The first is that you have to load each level individually, even on 128k machines. Should you lose all three lives on level 3, for example, and use up your "continue" credits, you have to rewind the tape, load in level 1 and start all over again. The second irritant is that, unlike the coinop, there is no two player option. No team-up chocks-away bravado here.
So a tape-straining solitary mission of death and destruction is all Sonic Boom can offer.
SB isn't bad looking at all boasts a variety of heavily protected installations for you to destroy (loopy fanatics having taken control of a bunch of military bases). There are swooping waves of enemy jets which barrel-roll out of the sun toward you. You have extra "spirit" fighters which fly along side and fire on your command. And when you hit a fuel depot, it bursts into a visually appealing fireball.
In fact, it's betwixt the twin stools of graphical excellence and visual clarity that Sonic Boom so frequently falls.
Enemy bullets are so successfully camouflaged while passing over the intricate backgrounds, that it's actually quite rare that you know what's just killed you.
At the end of each level, you must defeat a (really rather predictable) big-thing-that-fires-a-lot. Defeat this gargantuan piece of military kit and you get to (load from tape) the next level.
Personally, I find the less than excellent joysticks available for the Spectrum virtually useless for games requiring such instant response and accuracy. Redefining the keys is a bit of a curiosity, though. Since you can't redefine the Quit and Pause keys (Q & P) the world-famous QAOP - Up, Down, Left, Right set-up has the unfortunate result of pausing the game every time you try to fly right and quitting every time you try to fly towards the top of the screen.
The flight of the enemy planes and your own Super weapon; a sort of circulating circle of discs affair, are triffic. The baddies swoop around in their jets and their tanks truncle along the debris-strewn pathways. And your spinning weapons spins most impressively.
Not bad, but we've seen an awful lot of the same.