In a sense, Superior Software are in an unenviable position. After the delights of Citadel, Karate Combat and Speech, any new release from them is bound to be regarded as yet another step forward in BBC programming.
Yet, viewed in that light, their latest release, Thrust, is a step backwards. Superior started life with an arcade conversion of Hunchback and this is a return to the arcades. Originally programmed by Firebird to follow their chart-topping Commodore 64 version (which was only £1.99! Is there no natural justice?), the game was subsequently acquired by Superior and is an excellent arcade conversion on the level of last year's Tempest rather than the mega-game we've come to expect from the Leeds-based company.
Thrust is deceptively easy but compulsively hard to play. Essentially you must guide a spaceship (using thrust against various degrees of gravity on the different gravities obtained on differing planet surfaces) to perform various missions. Each mission must be completed before access to the next level and the next problem - and there are 72 in all!
There is a kind of Superior trademark in all of this as problem-solving is important; and unusual in an arcade game of this type. You have to collect fuel, shoot automatic limpet guns and steal Klyston Rods, an essential power source. Bonus points can be gained by the destruction of reactors but the game's challenge lies in removing the rods under different gravitational forces. On some screens, the tactical way you approach the problem is vital as the pods carry their own momentum when attached to your spaceship and may well career you into premature and deadly contact with the planet's surface.
What makes this game far superior to a combination of Lunar Lander and Defender, I don't know. The graphics are fairly standard and the gameplay relatively unimaginative. However, the game has a compulsive quality that justifies Superior's usual high-profile promotion - colour advertising and the ubiquitous Superior competition for completion of the game.
Superior have recently been running a well-advertised recruitment drive and will shortly expand their releases into all the major home micro areas. Thankfully they are not deserting the BBC Micro, and with Thrust and Galaforce (released August), we are being well supplied with Superior products before the anticipated autumn release asnd blitzkrieg of Repton 3. This game is compatible with the Electron, B+ and Master incidentally.
Whilst Thrust is well-packaged and plays well, I can't resist the feeling that conversions of Commodore 64 games (no matter how well they are done) are not the ideal way forward for Beeb programming. Ironically, this month the other conversion, Psycastria, is Game of the Month - any other month Thrust could well have been, and released by anyone but Superior this would have been the occasion for widespread joy. As it is, reputations are hard to live up to!