OK, so the Russians are now our friends. World War Two finished nearly fifty years ago, and we haven't yet discovered anyone in space to start a conflict with. Who is there left to kill in violent games? Oh, of course. The countries of the Middle East.
So it's there that we head. In order to sort out the peoples of that war-torn region for once and for all, a squadron comprising three men in three different aircraft is sent. Greg flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II. He maintains stoutly that it's ideal for ground attack. His pal Micky flies the F14 Tomcat, pretending to be Tom Cruise (taking a cushion to sit on so that he can see out of the cockpit). And their mate Shin (from Japan) stooges around in a F20 Tigershark, not pretending to be anything.
You choose which guy (and plane) you want, then fix yourself up with some weapons. There are a great many of these to choose from, but the best ones cost a lot of dosh, so you won't be seeing those for a while.
Then it's time to take off. Once you're into the game, UN Squadron turns out to be a right-to-left scrolling shoot-'em-up. You must, quite simply, destroy everything. This idea and format isn't new. The enemy aircraft attack in waves from both sides, and there are tanks and artillery blasting shells up at you.
Avoid, shoot, bomb. That's all you need to do. Holding the Fire button down causes a stream of lead to be ejected from your front end; dabbing it allows you to fire the special weapons you've bought. These might be napalm bombs, Phoenix homing missiles or 16-direction protection rockets. There are eleven such devices, so you're spoiled for choice.
As you chug along, spraying steel-jacketed death at all and sundry, you get extra money points for your kills, as well as tokens which enhance your shields or give you more firepower. Sooner or later you'll reach your objective. You'll have been briefed about this earlier. It might be a fortress, a huge armoured vehicle or a tracked aircraft carrier rolling through the desert. Once you reach it, you must pour a withering stream of fire into it. Once it's destroyed, you move on to the next level.
UN Squadron has a lot of attention to detail. Your choice of pilot, weapon selection and briefing is done very nicely. The planes are actually recognisable when you're controlling them, and the weapons are varied and interesting, as are the enemies.
The graphics and sound are very good. There are a great many colours, a lot of nicely-drawn sprites, and some super exploding noises. A tune also adds to the atmosphere engendered by the sound and graphics. The whole lot is let down somewhat, though, by the game's slowness. The scrolling is jerky and the response of your fighter is slow. This does tend to make the first two or three levels easy.
Luckily, when things get crowded on-screen, there is no further loss of speed. Surprisingly, perhaps, you will need to think fast and move as quickly as you can in order to get out of some situations. Things can get pretty frantic but this is solely due to the number of Middle-Eastern baddies swarming around, rather than the speed they are all moving.
There is extensive use of colour in the game. So much so that it gets hard to distinguish your craft from the enemy, and from the very picturesque scenery you are helping to destroy. It's like an explosion in a paint factory (caused, no doubt, by one of your smart bombs).
So, overall, UN Squadron is certainly topical. F14s and A-10s in the Middle Eastern desert is an uncomfortable reality. But does it have the playability of the real thing? The missions you are briefed to fly are pretty similar to each other. Blast your way through the hordes of defenders, take on several hard-to-kill mega-planes (or tanks) and then, if your wings are still attached, go for the big target.
The further on you get the better weaponry and defence equipment you can afford. And trying to see what the next mission will be is all part of the fun. So it's a nice rendition of an old idea. But it's too slow.
Graphically it's fine to look at, but it's too slow and jerky to make a really good shoot-'em-up. You can't say it's not topical, though!
Complete the first three missions.
P. They certainly look big and colourful.
N. Perhaps too colourful and difficult to see.
P. Explosions, firepower, mayhem.
P. And a jolly tune, too.
Grab Factor 75%
P. It's easy to begin with.
P. But, although slow, gets harder on later missions.
Staying Power 73%
N. Too slow to be really exciting!
P. But you won't finish it too soon, either.
P. A good, nice-looking arcade game. Unfortunately, it is too slow and jerky to be a Rave.