You can't expect much in the way of sustained entertainment from budget games, but the good ones should keep you occupied at least until Bob's Full House has finished. And Starlifter fits the bill perfectly.
It's one of those two-way horizontal scrolling jobs in which you blast anything that moves, that's if you can survive the storm of bullets that seem to appear from nowhere, flying across the screen in both directions.
Since Mastertronic are usually pretty good with their stories, I'll let you in on the scenario, which involves the evil Peradusians who are slugging it out with the allies on the forgotten planets of Farantoo and Seratzo. My view on this is, if they're forgotten, they can't really be worth all this blasting, but 2150AD politics were never my strong point.Anyway, you have to destroy their cargo vessels which, like the convoys in the Gulf, are protected by fighters. Cargo vessels blow you up if you touch them, but the fighters blast back at you, so the best strategy is to blast both of them without dithering about which is which.
You are set a target of vessels to blast in each level, indicated at the bottom of the screen. Sixteen is the first target, and you go up in jumps of four on successive levels. Every 5,000 points you get another life. Pretty standard stuff really. I was hoping for more blasting power as my points total went up but it looks as though a single-fire laser cannon was all the allies could muster. Maybe the Peradusians have slapped on an arms embargo.
As I said, the screen scrolls in both directions with a backdrop of large spaceships lined up in a row, looking rather like an interstellar traffic jam. Your one-man fighter (it looks like an astronaut with a jetpack on) can fly both ways, as do the nasties.
Cargo ship nasties are bigger, slower and easier to hit because they fly more in group formations. Fighters are a bit brighter than this, and will do pretty dodgy manoeuvres. Some of them, funnily enough, look just like your own ship. On higher levels, you have to blast all the fighters before more cargo ships will appear.
That's it really. The backdrop traffic jam changes a little on each level, as do the colours shapes and formations of the nasties. The only real challenge is making the high score that gets you another extra life. But for two sovs, who's complaining? I liked Starlifter, it's well up to Mastertronic's cheapo standards.