Commodore User1st November 1986
Published in Commodore User #39
This shoot-'em-up has a lot in common with the two Blue Max games that did such a lot for U.S. Gold's cash flow. The same technique of 45 degree scrolling is used with the illusion of full three dimensional flight achieved by the use of shadows. The landscape changes just as it does in these games, but there's nowhere near the same depth of gameplay - so don't think you're gettting hold of a bargain substitute. If we compare Panther with other cheapie space games instead, then it becomes obvious that £3 buys a reasonable blast with an unusual visual presentation.
The idea is to skim over the ground looking out for bunkers which shelter little white men who were trapped when the enemy overran your territory. These chaps have to be transported to a space port and freedom. You pull back on the joystick and the pulsating surface skimmer lifts off, the higher it flies the quicker it goes.
You are hovering along a railway track that cuts its way through a brown desert. Oil derricks are pumping merrily away when suddenly you are confronted by a UFO. This is no mindless kamikaze craft on a ramming course; it bobs and weaves, rolls, gyrates, back-tracks and spits out devilish whirlygigs. I found it best not to overfly enemy craft, try to keep them in front of you as you can only shoot straight ahead.
Mistakes can be rectified by losing speed (by descending) so getting back to a head-on duel. In order to down a saucer you need to be at the same height as well as latitude.
When this first obstacle is removed you should be able to drop to the ground by a bunker and let the escapers pile in. It becomes clear that like the Tardis, the Panther is bigger inside than it is outside. If you're feeling a bit evil, you can have some fun by descending to pick up some refugees and then take off just as they reach you. Watch them wave frantically as the enemy saucers close in.
By now you will have familiarised yourself with the computer display at the foot of the screen. This basically houses a radar screen and pumps out various information coldly informing you "Beta wave launched" - and there's a whole Greek alphabet to come. Back into the air but this time you're facing two saucers, then three etc. By the time the formations are up to twelve, things are getting hairy and you need to develop a decent battle technique.
The railway track disappears but there's more desert to cross before you reach the green fields and the road network with its scattered, devastated buildings. You are still dividing your time between dog-fights and swooping down to the rescue. Even when you get out to sea (be careful not to ditch in the briney!) waving refugees turn up on oil platforms. These platforms don't appear on every sortie for some reason.
With a bit of luck you should still have some lives left when you reach the blitzed city. Drop below the radar horizon smartish otherwise deadly SAM missiles will turn you into tomato ketchup. This stage is similar to the city maze in Skramble but in full perspective. If your nerve holds you should be able to snake a path through the buildings to the space plot, unload the Wallys and go round again.
To be frank, once you've had a few successful rescue missions interest is bound to wane, yet if you haven't got Blue Max I'd say it's worth grabbing a copy.