You must have heard of Blood Money by now - the Amiga version has virtually become a classic and, after a long wait, it's finally time for the ST's turn to hog the limelight.
Blood Money is a shoot-'em-up in the typical arcade mould - fly through one level after another confronting a giant end-of-level guardian in a bid to amass a gigantic score.
However, there are some major differences which really make it a great game. First off, the game uses four directional scrolling which moves along at its own pace, separately from your movements. This means that your character is forced to follow the natural direction which creates its own problems - a move around the wrong side of a wall can see you trapped among debris and unable to do anything but die.
A central idea in the game is money - hence the title. By blasting away the aliens, you can run along behind them like a parasitic hoover and pick up all the coins that they drop. Some aliens are harder to destroy than others but these invariably carry more money.
There are four planets to overcome and each one comes with a price tag of $100 more than the last. You begin the game with a bank balance of $200 so you could go straight into level 2 but this leaves you with nothing for bolt-on weaponry. You assume a different character for tackling each planet - helicopter, submarine, astronaut and space craft.
Shops are scattered liberally throughout each planet and you can fly into these to use your cash to purchase new weaponry. There are eight types on sale. These consist of earth and skybound missiles, bombs - which make gates spin like Catherine wheels - rear firing and long-range missiles. Speed-up can also be purchased to make you move faster through tricky situations force-fields for limited invulnerability and even extra lives.
There are several types of aliens involved in the game: the first can be blasted away. Some eat up more firepower than others, but they all drop coins. The second won't kill you but will steal your money. Then there are the massive sea-serpents which come out from the edges of the screen and obstruct your progression.
Hazards make it tough especially the gates. They spin round and you must steer your way through them; other gates can only be opened by firing at them and by far the worst obstacles are those which are perfectly hidden in solid walls. The only way to find them is to fire up and down the entire wall until something moves - damn distressing when you've got a squid hot on your tail.
All the aliens for each planet are loaded into memory when you first select where to go so no disk accesses are made during gameplay. However, just before you reach the end-of-level guardian, the display halts while the guardian is loaded up. This is the only intrusion in what is otherwise a smooth operation. Scrolling is marginally slower than the Amiga version but animation and sprite control are just as perfect.
Aliens are often extremely large and colourful with the majority individually animated. The jellyfish and walkers in particular are an impressive bunch. End-of-level guardians are massive and eat up the firepower but they've been so beautifully animated that it almost hurts to watch them explode into a mass of flames.
The 3D opening sequence which made a big impact on the Amiga version has not been included here because it was felt that there wasn't enough time.
Sound was not present in the version reviewed but we understand that it will consist of standard spot effects.
Shoot-'em-ups are a common breed so finding one that actually has something above the rest if rare. However, Blood Money has that elusive quality. For a start, the graphical effects almost bored on a programming miracle with smooth and exciting animation. Four-directional scrolling adds an additional maze element but it's the money idea which really gives it a glow of originality. It runs slightly slower than the Amiga version, which is in fact a positive point. Many claimed that the Amiga version was far too difficult; this slight reduction in speed resolves that.
Blood Money is still a shoot-'em-up, so there's no getting away from the hackneyed theme of blasting everything that moves in your bid to meet the end-of-level guardian, but with each planet populated by animated aliens, it's better than any other ST shoot-'em-up.