The eight-planet Hyturian system has long been surrounded by the Rubicon, a peacekeeping protective cube. Now the Rubicon has been breached by an aggressive ninth world which is popping fighters into space. Their progress must be halted.
You pilot the powerful fighter Starfox, looking into hostile space through the upper half of a horizontally-split screen. The lower portion consists of three small rear-facing scanners which alert you to approaching enemy space fighters and convoys.
The enemy can be engaged using Starfox's laser, and you can get updated weapons by travelling down a wormhole to a planet and carefully docking with the mothership which orbits it. Three weapons can be held at a time.
The mother ship can also repair damage sustained in alien attacks - damage is shown on the shield indicators in the cockpit window.
Starfox has limited fuel reserves, which fall dramatically when turbo boost is engaged - speed bars show the ships velocity. Extra supplies can be offloaded from a supply ship when you're notified it's in the area.
Two logs can be called up. A general log indicates the coordinates the of dangerous ice-crystal storms, the make-up of the weapon pack and details of attacking enemy craft. And the autopilot log points the ship in the right direction for travel to logged planets. Coordinates of planets, convoys and storms can be compared against present-position coordinates, shown on the centre crossbar of the main viewing screen.
When planets and enemy convoys are located, they're put on the holocube, a 3-D map of the universe which you can zoom in on or rotate to any angle.
At first your task is simply to destroy enemy fighters. At higher levels, more difficult missions are set. When all eight levels have been finished, the Hyturian system is safe.
Control keys: definable
Joysticks: Kempston, Sinclair
Use of colour. monochromatic
Sound: Spot FX
Screens: the view from the cockpit
'Starfox is impressive, to say the least. The graphics are good - easily matching, even bettering those of the classic Starstrike II, which is an accolade! There's playability and addictivity in bundles, and I'd recommend this shoot-'em-up to anyone.'
Despite the brains and neat ideas behind Starfox, it becomes boring once you've learned the basics. The combat phase is very slow and the controls are much too cumbersome to use effectively. Some features add to the gameplay, but the make it confusing too. I wouldn't recommend this - it's monotonous and unplayable.'
Starfox isn't instantly as playable as some Realtime games, such as Starstrike. But the graphics are better, with smooth-moving shaded 3-D spaceships. Yet again sound is limited to a few odd effects, though. And at first the many controls are a bit fiddly - like other space epics (Code Name Mat, Elite), Starfox has a lot in it but takes a while to master. Then it's a joy to play. The fight sequences are great, reminiscent of Elite - the odds are stacked against you and it can be a real battle of wits. And Starfox has some innovative features, such as the 3-D Holocube, which is useful for navigation if you know how the 3-D coordinates work. Starfox is very good if you put some effort into it.'