Your Sinclair1st July 1990
Published in Your Sinclair #55
Astro Marine Corps
Yes, I thought AMC was some new hip hop artist from the Bronx too, but in fact it's Dinamic's latest scrolling shoot-'em-up, and fans of Dinamic's shoot-'em-ups will be delighted to hear that it's exactly like all Dinamics other scrolling shoot-'em-ups.
So where are we? What's going on? What am I looking at here? Good questions one and all, and after long and detailed research (reading the instructions) you soon discover that you're on the planet Dendar, a beautifully multi-hued world full of more than mildly deadly alien beings. You have, it transpires, been sent there by the AMCCB (short for Astro Marine Corps Central Base, part of the SOKK Federation). Why? Because you're the hot poop leading light in the AMC (Astro Marine Corps), and their best hope in defending - the planet from the notorious Deathbringers, a collection of sprites so evil that they plan to take over the galaxy. Well, why not? It's early Sunday afternoon, everything's shut - what else is there to do? But you, poor fool, must turn off McCloud and go and stop them.
This broadly involves running along the usual scrolling course trying to kill everything that moves. There are an awful lot of nasties - Assault Troops, Killer Worms, KL-234 Robots, AT-140 Mines and even XIAROS birds, and that's just for starters. Although the instructions tell you what these things do, they don't tell you what each of them looks like, which means you just have to guess when one of them crops up, by which time you are usually DEAD.Still, this makes for fast and action-packed gameplay, as Dinamic, after years of producing what essentially amounts to the same game, have refined it to a high art. Graphics are clear, colourful and quite hefty, while the actual game whiffles along at real speed. I'm not entirely convinced by the scrolling, which, when it moves up and down hills (hey, let's get multidimensional here) is a little jerky. But you soon get used to it. The game has many other odd idiosyncrasies - for instance, when you shoot your bullets on a level bit they'll carry on going level if the course slopes down. But if the course slopes up, the bullets follow it - which gives you a vital and entirely unfair advantage if you happen to be in a hollow.
Naturally the powers that be have left lots of goodies for you to collect - extra lives, more energy, better guns, shields. As you attempt to finish the first part of the game - yes, in true Dinamic tradition, this is a two-parter - you'll need every bit of help you can get, so don't spurn it. You'll also need a memory like an elephant's, because the controls - and we're only really talking about running, jumping, ducking and firing here - are devilishly complex. Want to advance shooting upwards? Then press Left or Right (whichever way you are going) and Fire, then Up and Fire, then Up. Or if you want to jump and shoot diagonal downward, press Left or Right and Up, then Fire and Down, releasing Up. Still, if you're still scratching your noggin over that, there's always the (newly translated) instructions to keep you amused. At one point, apparently, you'll be encountering AHE - or Authentically Huge Enemies, to you and me. And each version has been developed in full colour "without any mixage". "Phew!" is all I can say.
But the game, in the end, is so much like Army Moves, Freddy Hardest, Game Over and all the others that there's never any feeling that you're playing anything that you haven't seen a million times before. My guess is that it's not quite as hard as those earlier games - at least not at the beginning, where you are actually allowed to get beyond the first screen or so - but it's a refinement, not a development. What it desperately cries out for is an idea - just something new to lift it out of the morass of utter predictability. It's beautifully programmed, of course - Dinamic have improved enormously in this respect since their early titles - but it's desperately uninspired. Only if you're a hardened Dinamic fan (and you don't mind shelling out for the same game over and over again) should you really consider investing in it.
Pretty, well programmed but desperately uninnovative Dinamic shoot-'em-up.