Astro Marine Corps
Accompanying the recent surge in original games such as Resolution 101, Sim City and Gravity, we've seen a noticeable decline in the number of straightforward shoot-'em-ups. But if you're worried about the genre's extinction, relax, because Dinamic are coming to the rescue with AMC (Astro-Marine Corps). With two platform games to their credit already (Army Moves and Navy Moves) Dinamic have a reasonable track record.
AMC is the epitome of traditional shoot-'em-ups, doggedly refusing to deviate from the standard formula. The game is split into increasingly difficult zones. Fortunately you're given a password as you complete each zone which returns you to your last uncompleted level if you fail to make it through alive.
The objective of each zone is to walk through a horizontally-scrolling landscape, blasting at the hordes of menacing aliens. There are twelve types of enemies to defeat and many of them can stick to roofs or dart out of range.
Destroying some of them releases bonus pods which give you all sorts of special weapons. For example, a Positron shield gives you temporary immunity and a triple-shot laser divides your shots into three directions.
The landscape is absolutely full of problems: there are huge chasms to leap over, fatal plants which merge with the background, and cannons to avoid. At various points, laser barriers block your path and can only be switched off when you blast a nearby sensor.
At the end of each level there's the traditional guardian to defeat. They fill the entire screen and to annihilate them, you need to work out the precise place to fire.
There's nothing original about the style of AMC, but it differs from other Dinamic shoot-'em-ups because of its outstanding graphics. Sadly, on an Atari monitor, you miss a great deal of the excitement and the visuals look so dark it's impossible to make out much of the background. But with two planes of smooth parallax scrolling, much of the action looks sleek and each level is littered with brightly coloured lines.
Sound and music are similarly effective. After a sampled intro tune, you're into the game proper and there's a spot effect for every single bullet, laser cannon and grenade explosion.
The Moves games weren't huge hits, largely because they were so maddeningly difficult to complete. In AMC, Dinamic have avoided this problem with a surprisingly easy first level.
AMC is certainly a competent shoot-'em-up, but it's no more than that. There's nothing to make the game memorable, though that isn't to say it's boring. The action is fun, mindless and absorbing, and the huge range of enemies and bonus pods keeps it that way for hours. Nevertheless, the day when hackneyed game styles can succeed because of brilliant graphics has gladly gone.