FOR a vertical scrolling alien zapper to make any waves now it has to have something a bit special. Atax does have a lower price than the average game, but that is about all it has going for it.
The drab title screen says a lot about the game. On the left, a bland bas-relief score panel occupies about a third of the screen with info on your score, lives and the name of the current level. A tiny ship moves around the smooth scrolling backgrounds to the right. Some games have you shooting slimy creatures, others accost you with fleets of hightech space craft, but the author of Atax has settled for something far more menacing: circles! Circles of a different kind (glowing this time) float down the screen now and then. These can be picked up to add drone pods to your ship that follow in your tracks, shooting when you do. The problem with these is that they often drift down the edge of the screen over deadly scenery where collecting them is an impossibility.
Control of your ship is very finicky and worsened by the cramped play area. The traditional mega-aliens that usually sit at the ends of levels have been replaced in Atax with far more mundane defences. Everything is so puny in this game! Your ship is minute, your lasers are nothing but dots and the aliens rate as some of the weediest ever seen! When the Amiga was in its early days, these were the kinds of irritants we had to put up with if we wanted a shoot 'em up. Things have changed drastically since then and a lot of progress has been made in this area. Sidewinder, for example, retails at a fiver less and wipes the floor with this.
Anyone on the lookout for a shoot 'em up of the vertically scrolling variety should either hunt down a copy of Sidewinder or Xenon, or hang around for Outlaw's Shoot 'em Up Construction Kit, all of which will serve you far better than this.
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