SWIV has a helicopter and jeep working together, providing cover for each other, penetrating the vastness of enemy the terrain. But it's just sheer coincidence that Silkworm involved much the same thing. And yeah, they might be programmed by the same team who brought you Silkworm, but that is, as the Russians say, how the economy crumbles.
The story is that while converting the coin-op Silkworm to 16-bit, the programmers were tutting and moaning about how much better a game they could make of it. Unfortunately, they were working to a contract so the arcade had to be strictly adhered to.
So as they worked they steadily built up a reservoir of good ideas, improvements and new features. Finally when they could contain their ideas no longer, they desperately needed to 'spurt' them out into some vessel. That vessel happened to be SWIV and the rest, as Julio Iglesias would say, is biology.
SWIV would be a big step from Silkworm (if in truth they had anything to do with each other). For instance the original had the mountainous scenery scrolling right to left and the graphics were flat and two-dimensional. SWIV's huge playing area glides vertically this time, and the graphics are rounded, light sourced and have shadows to create an illusion of depth. The programmers have been a-leaping and a-bounding technological hurdles, and as a result this version poops on the original Silkworm from a great height. C'est, as the Swedish say, la vjurk.
It would be wrong to denounce SWIV and say it has 'levels'. Levels, as you know, are the bourgeois invention of subversive autocrats trying to undermine the democracy of this country by pigeon-holing the working class in social strata known as 'levels'. SWIV has one single massive unfurling carpet of a level. The programmers use their DLS (Dynamic Loading System) to ensure the game scrolls continuously and keeps the 234 landscape screens going for a full forty minutes. The 'carpet' is segmented into twelve zones. Each one is divided by a mega installation which must be totaled before you can progress. The segments are based loosely on landscape themes. Stage one is set in a ghost town, which spreads into desert that finishes as an airport. Other zones incorporate volcanoes, oceans and high-tech vistas.
The enemy change with the terrain. You have the usual cannon fodder (helicopters, tanks and such like) who are always present, and then there are the more specific enemies, designed to blend in with the scenery. For instance in the desert there are some pyramids looking nice and touristy. You fly over them, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Sphinx or Tutankhamun's Curse from the air, and splang! The tip of the pyramid slides open and a mass of missiles splinter out!
Also, making a guest star appearance is the goose-copter. If you remember the original, it arrived in flying segments and built up lego-like in the air. This time you get to see it from above, and thankfully it's no harder to destroy. It's also partnered with several inventions like dome bases which emerge from the sand and huge Jolly Green Giant motherships, which 'give birth' to thousands of deadly minatures.
Shooting any of the larger, bigger, fuller, faster muthas may well provide you with a floating power-up or a shield icon. Power-ups double, treble and expand your firepower in all sorts of way, while shields can be worn for obvious effect or shot for an apocalyptic smart-bomb effect.
In the first game controlling the jeep was akin to being elected to go up and ask the headmaster for "more" or being the first to pull your trousers down to the barmaid in an after rugby-match beer binge, i.e. a bit of bad luck (for the barmaid). Traveling along the ground and jumping to avoid hails of enemy fire was no easy task. In Swiv the jeep driver's lot has improved substantially. The copter and the car are now on equal terms. Both can now move in eight directions, although the jeep is still restricted by the scenery. But what are guns for if not blowing tremendously large holes in the landscape?
At first glance, the helicopter's role still seems to be a cushy one. After all, the sky is a completely empty place at the best of times, just the odd cloud or seagull here and there. Swiv's sky is a tad more cluttered than most. Flotillas of helicopters, waves of missiles, squadrons of jets, hails of bullets - and lots of other collective nouns. The time you're not swerving and twisting in mid-air to avoid the enemy, you're swerving and twisting in mid-air to avoid the enemy's bullets. You can't win.
Right from the start Silkworm was going to be a hard cookie to crumble. If it had flaws, you couldn't see them past the sweat that was covering your eyes after a couple of plays. I remember purposefully handing over the wrong joystick to my play-pal just so I could play the helicopter, while gullible chum had to play the booby jeep. Not that playing the jeep was crap, it was just harder than the heli, and besides you could make all the Airwolf noises you wanted to in the chopper.
Anyway, if you're in the heli you have more chance to admire the delicious scenery and graphics as they unfold. They are very detailed and have come in leaps and bounds since the arcade was converted. The programmers warp the palette all through the game so the colors slowly change and evolve the further you progress. The twelve mega installations at the end of each section are a sight for sore eyes (and yours will be - guaranteed). The sound is fairly standard: explosions, clanking metallic parts, gun shots. Each object seems to have a sound and there's so much on-screen at a time that the game actually roars as you play it.
The scrolling is quite slow and sedate, but you're distracted from this by the sheer velocity of the enemy attacks. They're completely remorseless. The action never stops and if it does it's because you're dead. The difficulty has been well staged so it's easy on the first couple of stages (to build confidence), a little more difficult on the next two (to make you sweat) and then nigh on impossible on the later sections (to teach you not be an arrogant git).
The sections aren't just simply an excuse to change the graphics and attack patterns, but really an excuse to slip in some rather neat features. For example, as you cross the airport, you see some rather vulnerable jets taxiing for take-off. If you blast one, a convoy of fire engines and ambulances race out across the airfield to douse the flames. If you feel remorseful and decide to spare the rest of the planes then don't. These 'vulnerable' planes take of and catch up with you later in the game.
Okay, so you've got the most joyously radiantly beautiful graphics in the universe (You like them then? Ed.) You've got a huge unfolding mattress of a level that is bound to keep you occupied for at least a month. You have all the massive explosive sounds you could ever wish for. And you have a wonderful voluptuous sexy two player mode (You like them as well I suppose? Ed.) The question is, what's the playability like?
If I said that once you start playing SWIV you will forget all plans of going for cinema-nooky with your girlfriend, that you will throw all your mortgage reminders out of the window, and that once you clap eyes on this game you will give four week luxury holiday to Florida away just so you can stay home and play it, then I'd be exaggerating. Badly. SWIV will probably leave you with sore eyes from staring at the screen for so long and a sore hand from wibbling your joystick so much (oo-bloody-er). You have been warned.
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