Originally released only a year ago in America by Synapse Software Company, it is perhaps some indication of the regard in which this program was held when less than twelve months later British Atari and C64 owners are afforded the opportunity of enjoying it also. This 'Blue Max' of the twenty-first century, whilst holding faith with the original of the same name, is closer to Zaxxon in game play - and that in itself is almost recommendation enough.
In the program you are Max Chatsworth IX following in the footsteps of your illustrious ancestor. The evil Furxx empire have established a base on one of earth's colonies and are threatening to spread throughout the galaxy with the ultimate aim of capturing earth itself - needless to say, what your role is to be!
Supplied with an advanced hovercraft (which looks surprisingly like an anaemic 'Tuc' biscuit) armed with annihilator bombs and a gravonic penetrator (laser) your mission begins. Flying over enemy hoverfields having penetrated their outer defences the action continues until finally, should dexterity and good fortune favour, you destroy the symbol upon which the Furxx empire is based.
All the action occurs within one screen width and the screen scrolling, which is very smooth indeed, moves diagonally downwards. With speed and omni-directional control your hovercraft begins its attack run swooping down upon radar installations, transport, bridges and encampments bombing and strafing as you go.
With a shadow beneath your craft and the cratered landscape all around the picture is superbly drawn with very high resolution graphics. Sustaining hits from ground and air based forces is reflected through colour codings both within your craft and along the status bar which occupies the lowest few inches of screen display; these will leave you in no doubt of the wisdom in the strategic placement of rebel supply dumps at which you can land and replenish as required.
The two most outstanding features in this program are the imaginative graphics and the thought which has obviously been given to technical detail, both of which give rise to a realism which could see a cult following develop in a very short time.
The graphics will most adequately speak for themselves and the technicalities, such as specific strafing height, fuel leaks, damaged bomb gear and reduced manoeuvrability when damaged to mention but a few, will cause even the most hardened Zaxxon disciple to sit up and take notice.
Everything from the selection from the multi-option display to the total control of your craft is with the joystick, the only exceptions being to commence battle and the very useful freeze option. A good joystick is definitely recommended as not only vertical and horizontal movements, but diagonal as well, across the scrolling playing arena are required; therefore the more ably the joystick can differentiate between then the more successful you will be.
Another must has to be that of a colour TV or monitor, so much information is given through the use of colour that, although a black and white set may not prove to make your task impossible, it will certainly place the odds even more with your already capable adversary.
A word of two of advice when starting may be useful, as the one life allotted to you may be otherwise quite brief; select to 'land' on the 'Terrain Sequencer' rather than 'bomb' it as dive-bombing is quite a skillful art and the encouragement given by encountering a seascape terrain as opposed to a land based one may well serve to revitalise aching brain and muscle.
The yellow aerial alien will become your most hated and frustrating opponent, so destroy him whenever you can, plus he carries a high score with him.
It's unfortunate that the customary high-score table is missing and that the program is quite difficult even in the early stages but at least you leave with a posthumous grading according to your success... I'm sure that someone can beat my 2,300 pts, Space Cadet Class III (deceased).
This is one of the all-too-few occasions when innovation both technical and especially graphical cannot be adequately described in a few words on paper so I hope it is sufficient to conclude by saying that Blue Max 2001 by Rob Polin would be a very valuable acquisition for even the most discerning games player.