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reviews:astra_128

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Load "Astra for the 128 Review",8,1

Classification: Game / Space Shooter
Developer: Chris Batchelor
Publisher: Echo Magnetic Media
Year: 1992
Disk: Astra.d64

To my happy surprise, I happened to find a pretty good space shooter for the C128 and its VDC chip (aka 80 column mode). The complete title of the game is, Astra - Invasion 3. I have yet to find Invasion 1 or 2, but I'll keep looking.

In this game, you must repel the hoards of alien invaders, raining down upon you and, most importantly, prevent the alien “Lander” ships from reaching the planet surface.

At the top of the screen, the alien mother ship is launching wave-upon-wave of “Slambombers”, which gradually fill a column grid above you. When a column is filled with Slambombers, they begin to rain down upon you. If you can destroy them before the columns (or would you consider them to be launch tubes?) are filled with ships, you can stop them from becoming a threat.

However, every so often, the mother ship will launch a Lander. These cannot be allowed to reach the bottom of the screen; if they do, your fighter ship is destroyed.

The object of the game is to repel the onslaught as the timer, which is a bar at the top of the screen, runs out. If you can do this, then the level is won and you move on to the next “wave”.

In Wave 2 and on-wards, every so often, a “Pulsar Bomb” will appear. If you avoid getting hit by this bomb and blast it, it will destroy all of the Slambombers on the screen and give you a score bonus. If you can clear the screen of Slambombers before the timer runs out, you also get a score bonus.

Each level has it's own column grid and Lander launch pattern, which helps keep the game play challenging. My only complaint about this game is that, if your ship is destroyed, you have to replay the level from the very beginning. But, the games makes up for this by allowing you to start the game on which ever level you wish.

The graphics are really well done and colourful, and the sound effects are simple but sound very authentic to the 80's style space shooter genre. Most importantly, the game play is fast and the controls are very responsive. Playing a game like this, you would never know that the C128's VDC chip doesn't have hardware sprites.

This is a very challenging space shooter, but I like it; and being written specifically for the C128 in 80 column mode makes it even more special. The only way I can currently play this game on my real C128 is with the use of my composite RGBI cable. So, even though I lose the pleasantly bright colours of the game, it's perfectly playable in black and white.

It's too bad that I didn't have this game, “back in the day”, when my C128 was my main home PC. Oh well, at least I can enjoy it now.

Update

I have just discovered that this game was actually a cabinet video game, developed by Konami in 1979, called Astro Invaders, or Kamikaze in Japan. I never heard of this game before. From the looks of it, I would say that the C128 version is even better than the original.

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reviews/astra_128.txt · Last modified: 2018/11/11 16:39 by mastercontrol