Commodore User

Shadow Skimmer
By The Edge
Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #46

Shadow Skimmer

When Shadow Skimmer made its dramatic debut on the Spectrum a few months back, it was greeted with ecstasy by drooling reviewers. Much was made of its smooth scrolling, and lack of dreaded attribute clash,

But often what appears astounding on the Spectrum seems pretty run of the mill when converted to the C64, where games of this standard have been around for ages. Shadow Skimmer isn't even in the same league as Uridium, for instance.

Plotwise the game is unexceptional. You're a flight officer on a largish interstellar liner, and you've just popped out in your nifty Skimmer craft to do a quick recce on the liner's hull.

Shadow Skimmer

Sadly, the on-board computer chooses that moment to throw a total wobbly, and won't let you back in. The only entrance is the main hatch at the far end of the hull, and to reach it you've got to battle past the security and defence systems, which now regard you as a hostile intruder.

Like Uridium, then, the gameplay involves travelling over the ship's exterior, avoiding all the knobbly bits and shooting up the meanies. Unlike Uridium, the exterior is maze-like, so that your Skimmer has to fly between the protrusions rather than over them.

And that's the crunch. For all its smooth scrolling and great graphics, Shadow Skimmer is little more than a maze game, and after four or more years of such things, the concept is beginning to wear a bit thin.

The screen shows an overhead view (yawn!) of the playing area, with the Skimmer always dead centre. The slightest movement in any direction causes the screen to scroll appropriately. The scrolling is so fast that rapid motion - especially when you're careering back and forth between obstacles - being on a graphic epileptic attack.

Still, with some practice you'll cope with the sensitive controls and soon have your craft zipping down the alleyways with ease. Just as well, because every collision damages your energy shields, and you've only got three of them. After they're gone, you're dead.

Some of the hall structures can only be passed by flipping the Skimmer and flying beneath them. Trouble is, when you're upside-down your speed is halved and you're more vulnerable.

The maze is split into four sections, and to get through them all means destroying the 'key defence gizmo' in each. Blasting the hell out of it won't go any good, so you'll have to descend into the hold of the liner and take out the similar-looking object that you'll find down there. Then you fly back outside again, and nip along the path that is now unobstructed.

Simple enough, but entering the hold is a bitch. The hatchways are almost always opposite one of those funnel outlets which is spewing forth nasties, so that you have to hover directly in their line of fire.

This kind of tricky manoeuvring is just one of the things which makes Shadow Skimmer almost impossible to complete with the meagre three lives you've got. The Edge presumably think so too, because they're hidden an infinite lives option (not hidden very well actually; you'll probably discover it if you sleep on it).

With infinite lives, the game isn't just easier, it's a doddle and you can finish it in under ten minutes. So the choice is yours: play it the hard way and give up in frustration, or cheat and just go through the motions. Either way the game's a lemon.

Superbly programmed, with a good tune and some impressive action, Shadow Skimmer fails on the C64 because it's instantly forgettable. Isn't it time that maze games were relegated to the bin?

Bill Scolding

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