Shadow Skimmer
By The Edge
Commodore 64

Published in Zzap #28

Shadow Skimmer

A routine inspection of the exterior of an interstellar liner goes disastrously wrong. The liner's computers malfunction and the ship's second officer is trapped outside in his personal scout craft - the Shadow Skimmer. To return to the safety of the main ship he needs to make his way to the main personal hatch, at the far end of the mothership. That means avoiding the ship's security and defence systems, systems which cannot be closed down by Galactic Command.

The hull of an interstellar liner is a complicated, and hostile environment. Radar controlled defences sweep the ship's face for intruding meteors and asteroids, aided by robot craft which roam across the ship's skin. These sytems are non-selective, so the Shadow Skimmer stranded outside the mother craft is now treated as an intruder. Survival is only possible if the Shadow Skimmer can be piloted across each section of the ship's hull and its defences countered. No easy task, as each system is designed to be almost undetectable and virtually indestructible.

The Shadow Skimmer is flown left, right, up and down, and can even flip over and fly on its back in order to negotiate obstacles and barriers which would otherwise be too low. However, when in this flying mode, it is more vulnerable to attack, and manoeuvres must be sharper and quicker.

Shadow Skimmer

The Skimmer isn't totally defenceless. Three energy shields help, but they're destroyed by repeated blasts from protecting robot craft or radar systems - when all three are gone, so is the game. Even if the Skimmer's shields are not breached, the craft is easily thrown out of control by blast impact, or on hitting a patrolling robot craft. A display indicates how many shields remain, with a Damage Report panel signalling how close you are to losing one.

Powerful pulse lasers are capable of destroying weapons systems found in the mothership's three hull sectors. In each sector, the defence system must be destroyed before progress is made to the next. This task is achieved by identifying crucial defence objectives and blasting them with a laser pulse. This done, previously impassable barriers no longer cause a problem, and the Skimmer can move on.

Forays under the outer skin of the hull are occasionally necessary. Here, the heart of the defence system is located and destroyed before returning to the 'surface'. Access is gained by hovering above a hatchway, opening fire, and moving through.

When the third sector of the mothership's hull is reached, the main personal hatch is found and through this entry made into the mothership... and safety.


Shadow Skimmer looks and sounds really smart, and has obviously had a fair amount of attention lavished on it. The graphics create a great feeling of depth and the final effect is very polished.

When it comes to playability, I'm not particularly keen on the precision needed to control your Skimmer, which tends to make things more difficult than necessary and is very frustrating.

The action also tends to come in spurts, and usually results in your demise - which is a little disconcerting. Minor niggles noted, Shadow Skimmer is an otherwise good product, and should still provide a fair challenge for those prepared to stick at it.


Having played and completed Shadow Skimmer I can only say that the success of the Spectrum version must have been down to its technical merits, as there's nothing remotely spectacular about the gameplay. In fact, the quote on the back of the packaging only really boasts about the smooth scrolling!

Shadow Skimmer on the C64 is unbelievably dull. It's basically a tedious maze game with a bit of shooting thrown in for good measure. There are only four levels to negotiate, with no more than an uninspiring congratulatory message on completion. Technically accomplished and polished it may be, but this isn't enough to make a decent game.


This has just fallen short of being a very good game, all it needed was a little more taxing gameplay, a rigorous play-testing and some neat in-game presentation and it could have made the grade. As it stands though, Shadow Skimmer is just another moderately frustrating game with questionable lasting appeal.

There are some outstanding features, including the neat way in which your craft glides around the playing area and the impressive sound - the title tune is excellent and the effects during play are more than adequate. The main problem is that, for each point in its favour, there seems to be something against to balance it out - a pity really, as it came so close.


Presentation 76%
A poor set of instructions detracts from an otherwise well-presented product.

Graphics 79%
Accomplished and smoothly scrolling, but could have been more varied.

Sound 73%
A pleasant title tune followed by adequate (if slightly irritating) spot effects.

Hookability 58%
Initially frustrating, with death occurring all too frequently during the opening stages.

Lastability 41%
The four levels are completed relatively quickly, placing some doubt on its lasting appeal.

Overall 57%
A highly-polished and technically proficient product, sadly lacking in substantial gameplay.