Air Apparent ZX

Author: Dave E
Publisher: Stephen Nichol
Machine: Spectrum 48K

Air Apparent Zx

It's a struggle to review Air Apparent ZX, the latest game from Stephen Nichol, because it's one of the most boring shoot-'em-ups I've ever had the misfortune to encounter.

Created with the aid of Jonathan Cauldwell's Shoot-'Em-Up Designer (published by Cronosoft), this is a smooth sideways-scrolling monochrome blaster in which you must face off against the forces of the evil Prince L'thargy. And no, I didn't make that last bit up. Whether it's the ponderous crawl of your bullets across the screen, the sound effects that seem to been sampled from the snap, crackle and pop of your morning bowl of Rice Krispies, the long pauses between the waves of attackers or simply the ridiculousness of blowing up if you collide with the clouds, Air Apparent Zx seems to have been designed to make your face contort. If you're anything like me, you'll sigh and you'll yawn throughout.

The basic premise is to shoot enemy planes out of the sky. The trouble is that Air Apparent's planes always fly in formation, and always in set patterns. All you need to do is to work out whereabouts on the screen will allow you to safely pick them off the fastest and stay there. The same strategy will also see you past at least the first of the game's "big boss fights" (I couldn't face the subsequent ones). There are shields, smart bombs and additional ammunition which hang in the air and can be collected. The shield and smart bomb are fired with additional keys, if you can be bothered to play long enough to need them.

A more bizarre inclusion is that of the music. Or, should I say, the lack of it. You commence a game not by pressing Fire, as you might expect, but by choosing a piece of music (1 for LZ2000 theme or 2 for Elicor Fanfare) - so it's a little surprising that the game then plays throughout with no music whatsoever. Only when you lose your last life (and the game is so easy that you'll probably only do so in a suicide smash into the clouds) will it play, against a completely stationary screen, until you press any key.

The music's about the only good thing about Air Apparent, and the game is actually so poor that I'd recommend Nichol just strips out the two tunes and releases them as Speccy music demos. Otherwise, most people will drop off after a few moments' play and never even encounter them.

Dave E

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