Firebird's latest CPC blast won't win any prizes for historical accuracy, what with a WWII fighter plane fending off missiles and helicopters... but do we care? Stuff history, let's fight.
The action is immediate. As soon as your plane scrolls onto the screen, in screech German fighters eager to prang your kite. So spit on that trigger finger and join the fun because you're faster and more mobile than they are. First come the standard fighters, fol-lowed by helicopters, missiles, ack-ack guns, tanks and trains. You fly horizontally across the screen spreading German wreckage all over the countryside, blasting anything that moves into your path. The Op entails destroying eight enemy big boys, but you've got to battle your way to them first!
The plane's standard blaster is a forward-firing burst cannon, but that doesn't last for long. Soon you'll get a chance to blast one of the 'choppers, pick up its power-up pod and gain a special weapon. It could be anything from missiles to bombs to directional death frisbees. These are great fun and are retained until the next power-up, regardless of dying in the meantime. So grabbing anything on offer is an absolute necessity.
The first level sends you on a low-level raid, your mission being to blow a train from its rails. Whole wings of fighter aircraft swarm around, trying to intercept you before the target. To make matters more fraught, tanks and gun emplacements fire up at you. helicopters hover blocking your flight path, while the undulating ground proves to be a perilous, ever-present enemy.
Using the special weapons you eventually make it to the train, having picked up a consignment of 'tall boy' bombs just before it chugs into view. This ain't no run of the mill hostile rounds. There's one safe position, however, where you can sit to drop your payload and their weapons can't touch! Send the train to the scrap yard and you're on to the next mission.
Here your task is to catch a giant bomber and send it crashing down in flames, but the big danger is breathlessness not the super fortress. The whole level takes place above the clouds, with the rising sun in the background. Parallax cloud scrolling and vivid use of colour make this a level to remember. The game's as tough, with ever more fighters flying at you, and biggish mid-level guardians disguised cunningly as bombers.
It's the missiles here that cause the palms to sweat. Shortly after the battle commences, in fly literally hundreds of horizontal heat-seekers looking to catch you out with their sheer pace. Later, a flight of SAMs break through the clouds, racing diagonally across the screen and forcing you once again to work out where on the screen the one safe haven lies.
The final showdown with the bomber doesn't quite live up to the earlier promise of the level, but, by this stage you're glad of a rest. Level Three is more ground attack, with different backgrounds, targets and airborne antagonists. The weapons stay the same, but the amount of anarchy gets ever more intense, and survival even less likely, for this and the following five levels.
The challenge of P-47 comes from the speed of the scrolling, and the quickness of sprite reaction: touch that 'stick and you dive earthwards at an alarming pace. Throw in some imaginative, if historically inaccurate, sprites to shoot and you've a fresh and lively shoot-em-down that demands you play time after time.
Some of this power is drawn from the graphics, which are complex enough to gain your admiration, but they never overpower the main game itself. The sunset on level two is a minor masterpiece, the ground details on levels one and three detailed enough to catch out the first-time flier who's used to flat, non layered backgrounds. But. oh. the explosions when you or anything on screen blows up; the multi-coloured flames billowing out make napalm death look quite picturesque.
The P-47 glides about the screen banking when changing height or direction. The missiles travel at a speed that is disgusting and shouldn't be allowed - on the grounds that it's far too dangerous! And this version of the P-47 can fly backwards as easily as forwards. So when the flak starts to clog the airways you can weave around m a desperate hunt for an exit.
Sonically the game has limitations, mainly because so much of the machine is working overtime trying to keep the high-speed spites in action. There are explosions and fire noises, but in the heat of battle it sounds more like a raging thunderstorm. There's a tune too, but its jolly jingle qualities sound almost perfectly out of place. It does serve to keep your mind off things, though, while you work your way past the loading screens in order to get back to the game itself.
There are precious few really classy shoot-'em-ups on the CPC. Luckily their ranks have been swollen by P-47, which is simple but exceptional in its performance. The programmers haven't gone OTT trying to cram it full of accurate World War II planes and obstacles. They just used that as their starting point and then went wild.
Instantly addictive, you'll log many hours before you tire of P-47 and hang up your flying jacket. Get this kite's stick in your hands and you will soon know that you're in a for a thrill a minute ride. P-47 may not tell it how it really was, but after a scant few seconds playing you'll agree, it's the way it should have been.
Just another shoot-'em-up when all's said and done, but set apart from the crowd by its superb graphics and nice touches like the banking sprite.
P. Fantastically fast shoot-'em-down.
P. Great backdrops.
P. Tolerable tune.
N. Rumbling effects.
Grab Factor 88%
P. Instant addiction.
Staying Power 72%
P. Gets progressively harder.
P. Learn the tricks, beat the level!
A classic airborne blast.