A bit of a sleeper in its arcade form, Thunderjaws has finally made it to the Amiga after a six-month development time. Unfortunately, though, the premise set by the game's brilliant scenario isn't quite borne out by the game itself. Set in the not-too-distant future, the voluptuous but thoroughly evil Madame Q has set up a sprawling underwater base and is kidnapping thousands of beautiful babes for her unnatural experiments. Thus, with a shortage of well-rounded cuties about to hit the western hemisphere, the government has acted by sending in a team of experts to free the hostages and put an end to Madame Q's meddling.
Converted from the obscure Tengen coin-op. Thunderjaws is the work of Neil Harding and Lloyd Baker, who have been battling with the conversion since January. However, although the game-play has been recreated faithfully, it still comes across as tired and, frankly, far from exciting or addictive. These problems have been inherited from the coin-op, though, so fans of both the arcade parent and the Amiga version of Rolling Thunder (which Thunderjaws is the unofficial sequel to) should be happy with the conversion. In all, Madame Q's aquatic base spans thirteen areas, and standing between our two lantem-jawed heroes and the final face-off are a series of horizontally-scrolling stages featuring all manner of mutated and robotic nasties.
Before the game enters its familiar Rolling Thunder territory, the actual gameplay is split into two distinct gamestyles, with the two heroes initially left to swim through shark and mine-infested waters until they reach one of the bases. Starting out in the murky seas leading up to the first base, the diver (or divers in two-player mode) start the game armed with a trusty harpoon and an unlimited supply of spears. From either side of the screen, cybernetic sharks, enemy divers, and assorted mines and chemical spillage appear, and these must be avoided or one of your three lives will be lost. The coin-op's sprites were large and bold, with massive bio-mechanical sharks and suitably beefy divers pouncing on the unwitting player, and to say that the conversions' sprites are a little disappointing is a massive understatement. I understand that Domark were forced to reduce them so that the entire game could be squeezed into the Amiga, but the tiny divers and miniature sharks are far from impressive, can hardly be described as imposing or menacing and give the game an unfortunate 8-bit look.
Things start to look up on entering the base itself. The puny sprites of the underwater section are replaced by chunkier and more colourful characters, and there are some impressive end-of-level guardians. However, the animation undermines this initial good impression. As progress is made towards the wayward Madame Q, the levels start to expand with the addition of ladders which take the game away from the normally horizontally-scrolling area, and into a larger, eight-way-scrolling shoot 'em up. However, as he struggles up the ladder, the animation on the main character is nothing short of laughable, and mars an otherwise good section.
These two gamestyles are swapped between as the two heroes progress, and the levels get harder as the enemy's intelligence is raised. The original coin-op was very cash-intensive, with the enemy attacking in their droves, and the necessary extra weaponry rarely available (unless more cash was inserted). In the cause of good gameplay, though. Neil has incorporated a system where the weapons appear slightly before you'll need them, and this makes the game far more playable. I don't want to sound unnecessarily hard on Thunderjaws because, as conversions go it is more than satisfying. However, the disappointing graphics and animation let it down badly and make an otherwise playable game look worse than it is. The improvements that Neil has made over the coin-op make the game easier to get into and more addictive to play, but my overall impression is of a weak game.
A playable conversion, but one for die-hard fans of the coin-op and its predecessor only methinks.
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