Once again the Earth is under threat of extermination, this time from a megalomaniacal alien called Bozon.
The fate of our world lies in the astro-gauntlets of Lieutenant Henry and Sergeant Sanders - a pair of crack robo-ship pilots who've been ordered to enter Bozon's huge underground empire. Here they brave level after level of increasingly ferocious attacks as they fly through the weapon-filled caverns.
Side Arms is played either solo or as a two-man team. As the space warriors progress across the horizontally scrolling landscapes, they're attached by aliens in no less than fifteen guises. As well as yielding points when shot, some hostiles also leave behind a POW symbol which is collected to increase the speed of shot by up to three times. Alternatively, they're blasted, causing them to change from POW to WOP (which decreases shot speed), and then into a small graphic representing one of four other weapons: MBL is a heavy-duty Mega Bazooka Launcher; 3-Way shot releases a volley of fire; Tail Gun fires rearward, and Auto is a rotating device which unleashes multiple laser beams in all directions. Each weapon obtained is then selected individually by using the SHIFT key to cycle through the arsenal.
The Alpha/Beta symbol is also picked up for improved individual firepower, or to enable the combination of ships into one, more powerful vessel, which lasts until the controlling player is destroyed.
Eight separately loaded levels are negotiated in order to reach
Go!'s version of Side Arms bears little relationship to the arcade game I've played, except for the fact that there are two controllable blobs on screen at the same time.
Gone are the vertically scrolling sections and the lovely R-Type-style graphics. Instead, we're left with a monotonous one-way scroller across some pale and unrelated landscapes, set to an inept version of the arcade soundtrack. The multi-load system is a real pain - especially when all it sees to do is load more of the same. The two-player mode is moderately enjoyable, but there are plenty of other shoot-'em-ups more deserving of your hard-earned cash.
Side Arms is the second game to appear on the Go! label this month and is, in my opinion, the better of the two. Graphically, it's good: scrolling is smooth, and both the character sprites and backgrounds are colourful and well drawn (although the backdrops do tend to be a bit psychedelic at times, and the wearing of dark glasses is recommended).
Sound consists of a thin and instantly forgettable tune plus average effects. Despite the arduous multi-load, Side Arms is fun to play and has enough in it to keep ardent zappers happy for a while, although unfortunately I found that the final screen was all too easy to reach.
Overall, a fun, if rather standard, shoot-'em-up.
Intrusive multi-load, but retains the arcade's two-player option and has three skill levels.
Unadventurous but adequate sprites and backdrops.
Appropriate blasting noises, but a pathetically weak and reedy soundtrack.
Simple and addictive laser carnage.
The mission is long, but the action is repetitive.
A playable conversion let down by the omission of some of the arcade's more appealing features.