Sinclair User27th August 1989
Published in Sinclair User #93
Vertically scrolling shoot 'em ups have been around for some time and although there has been some goodies, they're not exactly high scoring in the originality stakes anymore. So, for a game to succeed in this format it must be good and have an original element, or it needs to be a conversion of a popular coin-op. Action Fighter is taken from the Sega arcade machine and has you in the driving seat of the latest transforming vehicle. It's a plane, it's a car, it's a motorbike - and it's your mission to destroy the enemy's attack force, both on the ground and in the air.
Play begins with you on a motorcycle that's equipped with Koni suspension, full fairing and a single machine gun. The manoeuvrability is very good from left to right and acceleration is as brisk as one would expect from a motorbike. It's remarkable similarity to a bike unfortunately extends to its complete lack of protection as you will find to your cost if something hits you from behind and bike and rider become a large patch of strawberry Jam.
The roads you must follow in the beginning are populated with enemy cars, motorbikes and the odd ambulance. You must shoot the enemy and for every six that you vape, an icon labeled from A to E will float down the screen and by driving over it, you will light up the appropriate letter at the top of the screen as you pick up each 'part'. Collect four parts (labeled from A to D) and you can them change the bike into a car at the press of the spacebar. The car doesn't accelerate or handle like the bike but it is more resilient to the odd bash. So why not just stay as the car? Ah ha, well there's a helicopter that whirls onto the screen every now and again and it will try to destroy the car. Change back to the motorbike and it will sail past completely ignoring the scruffy little throttle jockey.
Every now and then a lorry marked SEGA will appear on the screen, mysteriously clearing the road of any enemy vehicles. This is a mobile mechanic with a difference. Pull up to the back of it with the car or the bike and it will draw your vehicle inside and attach double fire power, missiles, reverse firing or even a limited invulnerability. If you crash or are killed however it's back to spaz fire so it's a good idea to watch the indicator at the top of the screen that warns you how the road ahead is going to turn. When you see the Y shape it means the ramps are coming so watch out!
Once you've collected up to the F icon you turn automatically into the jet car. Once in the air, you fly at one of two speeds, beginning at crawler pace and speeding up when the flying bonus is collected. You continue on to your mission objective as given at the beginning of the stage, with target being either shot or bombed depending on their altitude. When flying, the mobile mechanic will still make the odd call to equip you with add-ons. but at this point they've traded in the lorry for a large helicopter.
Great first stage but lacking in lasting appeal.