Big K

Ad Astra

Publisher: Gargoyle Games
Machine: Spectrum 48K

Published in Big K #5

Ad Astra

Frantic interstellar shoot-'em-up distinguished by some superb large scale cartoon graphics. Ad Astra, or 'To The Stars' is the dashing motto of the Deep Space Patrol, and as a new recruit it's your dubious honour to patrol the shipping lanes between the distant Way Stations that mark the borderlines of Terran space.

Needless to say these shipping lanes literally crawl with hostile Xtros. There's the Pirate battle cruisers and their speedy droid scouts to contend with, the mammoth mine-layers of Mongo (or whatever) and interminable clouds of lethal space debris to avoid.

It's a good job there's a joystick option as my digits just couldn't take the pace. Space debris precedes each wave. Huge cratered globes spin towards you with dazzling smoothness. You can only hold your breath and dodge as they fly past - only to rocket straight into the eager maw of the alien force.

The animation throughout is superb and I was particularly impressed by the mammoth mine-layers (even if they caught me every time). Still, it's almost worth it for the megablast that ensues. I've yet to make a Way Station but I'm sure that, when I get there, it'll look grand. Of course, such animation has its price. The action takes place over a static background and to sparse musical accompaniment. Still, it's cheap for what you get. Space Cadets should enlist immediately.