Commodore User1st February 1987
Published in Commodore User #41
I've never much liked Zed Zep Top - always thinking the best thing about the band was that ace red car (the Elimator) packed full of models in sexy underwear.
Now it seems even Madonna fans like me have something to be grateful to the bearded heavy metal men for - as the video for Rough Boy provided the inspiration for English's latest game - Leviathan.
The story goes like this. English boss Phil Morris was watching the said video when he thinks to himself "I know I'll get someone to do a 3D scrolling shoot-'em-up that looks a bit like Zaxxon but enables your ship to fly backwards, forwards and flip between both directions stylishly".
Y'see in the video the precious red motor is attacked by a giant wheel and escapes by flipping into outer space. Neat, eh?
The "someone" turned out to be 17 year old Scot Michael Hedley and an excellent job he has made of Phil's brainwave too.
The first thing to say about Leviathan is it's tough. So tough that you get no less than sixteen lives to attempt to clock it and knock up your best score.
There are three main play levels with sub levels within each one: the Moonscape - a rugged, cratered terrain. The Cityscape - very impressive futuristic structures and the Greekscape - the most impressive of all with huge, Pyramid-like, statues.
Naturally every level has a fair assortment of nasties that are particularly difficult to shoot. But shoot them oyu must if you are to progress to the next part of the game.
The program counts each alien you blast and displays it for you in the ESC box in the middle of the control console.
Sometimes you will have to give chase - pursuing the aliens through the landscape, dodging the flak from land-based enemies, and avoiding the buildings.
Only when you have downed the set number of aliens on that level can you go on to the next.
Actually the game features three separate loads - so it is possible to go to the Cityscape or the Greekscape if you have already mastered Lunar. There is no code system like Parallax. Just load it and in your go.
If you succeed in clearing a sector in the limited amount of time allocated you can select the next skill level or load a new landscape.
To the game's great credit each level is different - not just different backgrounds. It plays differently - with less time and more nasties to deal with as you progress.
Leviathan owes an obvious debt to the old Sega coin-op - Zaxxon - but not a huge one. People raved about Zaxxon graphics - but they are nothing by comparison with Leviathan.
Zaxxon also became a bit monotonous after a while and is far too easy to play for today's taste. Leviathan takes the basic 3D-esque scrolling landscape and adds to it a challenging game in which control of your ship is vital.
Perseverance pays off as when you master the basics you really do feel like you are flying. There are no less than six different flight controls to implement with the joystick - flip in both directions, slow down or speed up in both directions, as well as flying sideways in both directions.
The game employs sound effets intelligently to warn you in advance of aliens, to represent acceleration and deceleration and features plenty of good audible bangs and crashes as you waste the aliens.
Leviathan isn't going to win any prizes for originality but it is a welcome addition to the shoot-'em-up catalogue. Someone had to do something with the basic Zaxxon idea. English Software have reworked it excellently to produce an exceptionally entertaining game.