Five Ways began producing software almost four years ago, effectively launching book publishers Macmillan into the computer games market with their sailing, rally driving and athletics simulations.
Their latest production, released on Macmillan's Piranha label, is a horizontally scrolling shoot-'em-up that puts you in control of a heavily armed, super secret gunboat. The objective is to negotiate the enemy's maze-like inhand waterways, and destroy four major naval bases.
Not surprisingly, your intrusion into enemy waters does not go unnoticed, and progress is hampered by a profusion of aggressive warships, helicopter gunsips and shore batteries - all of which shoot to kill.
A panel at the bottom of the screen displays the boat's fuel and ammunition levels, its speed and its engine condition. Damage is repaired and fuel and ammunition levels are replenished by docking at the enemy depots dotted around the waterways.
The gunboat can rotate clockwise and anti-clockwise, and can move either forwards or backwards. You are amred with cannons, heat-seeking missiles, torpedoes and depth charges, all in limited supply. The fire button activates the cannons, whereas the other weapons are launched via the keyboard.
This arrangement is more often than not inconvenient to say the least - it's not much fun trying to manoeuvre the boat while launching missiles, torpedoes and depth charges, especially when the action hots up. Playing with keys only doesn't make the going any easier either.
Control is sluggish and means that the enemy is invariably presented with an easy target. Fortunately, the action is predictable, with enemy craft appearing and firing at exactly the same positions each time you play.
Sound is sparse, simplistic and frequently irritating, and the graphics are on the whole bland. The scrolling is as smooth as sandpaper, with the screen juddering quite badly at times - especially when the boat stops to allow the scenery to catch up. Gunboat is a very dated product in every respect, and sadly lacks the playability and polish of previous Piranha releases. Hopefully, their impending batch of licenced software won't suffer the same fate.