Commodore User1st August 1988
Published in Commodore User #59
Shoot-'em-ups have come a long way since the days of Space Invaders. No longer do you control a primitive, single-shot laser base facing single screens of simplistic bomb-dropping aliens. Now we have super-slick heavily armed craft negotiating umpteen levels of parallax scrolling terrain occupied by gazillions of intelligent or extremely large aliens spewing death in almost every direction. There have been plenty of coin-ops and full-price conversions and clones, but few, if any, budget games of this type available. And certainly none of this quality.
Scorpius is straightforward, no messin' horizontally scrolling progressive shoot-'em-up in what's best described as the Nemesis/Salamander/Sidearms/R-Type mould. That's to say, it's got bits similar to these coin-op classics. There are four lengthy levels to battle through with hordes of despicable alien types to shoot or avoid. All the alien sprites are extremely well drawn and animated and make up for the comparatively bland backdrops and weak SFX.
Either one or two players can take up the challenge, with both players on-screen in two player mode, just like Side Arms or Salamander. If things get a little too hot when you're playing on your own you can always call on an orbital to give you a hand. A press of the Commodore key brings it on-screen, while a further press sends the orbital shooting across the screen, firing and bombing when you do. Extra weaponry comes in the form of letters which float on screen and are shot to change to type of weapon you acquire when you pick up the letter. For example, collecting an S speeds you up, but shoot it once and it turns into an R for rapid fire, and shoot it again to turn the letter into a D for downward firing bombs. As your arsenal increases, different letters appear, allowing you to collect more bullets, two types of shield, a beam weapon (shades of R-Type here), missiles which are launched up-screen, and plenty of other useful bits beside.
At the end of each level there's a really nasty alien to dispose of before you can progress. Sadly, these creatures aren't so large and interesting as they could have been, with little more to destroy than small, simplistic bomb-chucking sprites.
All in all, Scorpius represents excellent value for money. The gameplay is a mite repetitive at times, but generally busy enough to keep you on your tootsies. It's pleasantly surprising to see a piece of software of this professional quality at such a low price. Nice one, Silverbird.