"If you have a 48K Spectrum, then you must have Penetrator." So says the 'blurb' on the cover of this most amazing game. It is another version of 'Scramble', but with graphics rarey seen on a Spectrum. I must admit, I'm not an arcade fan, but having Penetrator has given me a better flavour of true arcade games. (I mean, 20p per game? It's silly!)
Even during loading, the graphics are stunning. The title page is an exact replica of the cover illustration. The code takes time to load (very poetic!) but this time can be spent comparing the cover to the screen. When the loading is finished, pressing any key will present yet more stunning graphics in the form of a crescendo of coloured fireworks (I think!) which rise and explode with amazing smoothness. After this, the program begins to draw (or write) the word 'Penetrator' across the screen in large joined-up letters. This can be speeded up by pressing ENTER. When this is done, the menu will be displayed.
The menu could be laid out better, however, giving some indication as to what keys should be used during a game. The options available are: one- or two-player game, training mode, edit mode, save or oad a landscape, and disable sirens.
The one- or two-player game is self-explanatory and the training mode can place you in any of the five stages for a game with a number of lives (Usually five!). Edit mode allows you to design your own landscape and/or remove or add missiles and radars to your own ability. One flaw, or 'bug' in the program, is when you are on the return trip through the five stages (after bombing the neutron bomb store), the missiles which come onto the screen from the right tend to gather at the side. As overlapping missiles or radars automatically explode, all you need to do is control your ship through the tunnel. This is only a minor bug but it does rather take some of the fun away.
The next two commands on the menu allow your landscapes to be saved or loaded.
If no key is pressed during the menu then the computer will play a demo game (and very well I might add) but does not recognise a customised landscape and so the ship crashes.
As I have said before, the graphics are stunning (even the radar dishes rotate separately!) and the edit facility makes game variations endless.
I need only mention one minor quirk and that is the control keys are difficult to master and no option for a joystick to be used is given. Having a joystick would improve the game greatly.
As it stands, the game is extremely good value for money and can really 'show off' the Spectrum to other, more expensive, computers.
Penetrator is produced by Melbourne House at a price of £6.95.