Tomcat takes place in the first half of the 21st century. Land became scarce and expensive so large artificial islands were created at sea. One of them - Artrock 6 - is used as a defense installation and is completely automated.
Unfortunately, a freak storm damaged the controlling software, causing all the automatic machinery to go berserk. Now, anything that approaches the island is destroyed by the defense systems.
You have been chosen to pilot an American F14 Tomcat fighter and destroy this danger to shipping.
The loading screen depicting an F14 Tomcat fighter is good and this is followed by an even better Mode 4 graphic display. Overlaid on it is the small, central playing window.
You get a bird's eye view of the plane flying low over the island. The graphics are quite detailed, but the green colouring caused unpleasant stripes on my colour TV and I found it better in black and white. The display on a monitor is excellent with no colour problems.
You can move your plane forwards, backwards, left and right. As you move left or right the playing window smoothly scrolls in the appropriate direction.
Ground gun emplacements pop up, swivel round and fire their cannon at you while aircraft attack from the front. All can be shot easily with your own cannon, but there are so many attackers that it is easy to lose a couple of lives very quickly.
Animation is sluggish but acceptable. Things slow down more when several objects are on screen at the same time.
I find it impossible to play for more than a few minutes as the frustration factor is far too high, although a friend has managed to reach level two. From the cassette files I assume that there are four levels.We should all be pleased that Players is sticking with the Acorn market, but perhaps future offerings could be more playable.
Tomcat has graphics that are among the best Mode 4 ones seen on the BBC Micro and superbly-drawn loading screens. In parts, the game ever features parallax scrolling - one section of the background scrolling at a different rate to another. This is one of the few times this has been attempted on the BBC Micro.
Unfortunately, even the poor 8-bit BBC Micro hasn't got the brute processing power to implement this type of game format. Players is to be commended for attempting it and should consider re-writing it for the Archimedes series.