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Ocean Software Ltd
1989
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£9.99
£3.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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102,103
Chris Jenkins
Chris Bourne

A DC10 en route from Paris to Boston has been hijacked! Fiendish Arab terrorists hold the passengers hostage in Africa! A rescue operation is swiftly launched, and there's only one man who can possibly pull it off - Clinton Jawgrinder! Unfortunately he's visiting his aunt Maude in Timperley, so the job falls to Roy Adams. Who? I thought he was the Minister of Herrings, or something, but no, he's the hero of coin-op classic Operation Wolf, and now the spectacular sequel, Operation Thunderbolt.

Now loads of people said "Naaah, Operation Wolf, it can't be converted, they'll never do it", but of course they were wrong, they did, and dead good it was too, dead being the operative word considering the truly sponditious amount of shooting involved. Although nothing could quite recapture the excitement of having your own Uzi sub-machinegun as mounted on the coin-op, the graphics were fab and the action non-stop. But Operation Thunderbolt with it's double machine guns and 3-D routines - HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY DO IT??!!

You'll be astonished to hear (unless you've seen last month's Megatape demo of Operation Thunderbolt, in which case you won't be a bit astonished) that this is an excellent conversion of the coin-op. OK, it's basically a reworking of Op Wolf rather than a whole new game, but the speed, the technical marvellousness and the sheer non-stop action make it a dead cert for the top of the charts.

Op Thunder (as it's known to its friends) has eight levels of staggering violence; on the 48K they load one at a time. In 128K the first five load in one go, and the others as you get to them.

Level One is mighty impressive - rather than the hordes of Arabs and helicopter gunships simply running from right to left, there's a perspective 3-D effect, soldiers, choppers and war-torn buildings moving past you as you press deeper and deeper into hostile territory. As with Op Wolf, the aim is simply to survive by gunning down everything that moves, including tokens which give you extra clips of ammunition, extra rockets, medical aid, and special weapons.

The main special weapons are laser sights and a bullet-proof vest. If you don't get the laser sights, you can't see where the hell you're shooting; your initial gunsight is a single pixel, and you can only tell its position by the location of the small explosions your shots cause. So stick to the bottom of the screen, watch out for the pistol representing the laser gunsight, and zap it as soon as you [OBVIOSULY TEXT MISSING HERE] the distance and your sight changes to a small circle, which makes it easier to deal the mayhem.

Frankly, although this element of the game is faithful to the coin-op, it's irritating to have to pick up a new laser sight each time you lose a life; it might have been better to START with the small circle, and move on to something more substantial.

Still, once you're tooled up, the carnage proceeds merrily. Keep an eye on your ammo counter, shooting magazines and rockets to refill, blast the helicopters a bunch at a time with your rockets, cut swathes through the soldiers and watch out for the cats. Cats? Yes, zap a passing moggy and it leaps realistically and more than likely leaves behind a bit of ammo or a power capsule.

Work your way through to level two and you'll find it pretty similar to Op Wolf, with the Arabs lurking in blockhouses, hopping out of windows to attack you with rockets. I particularly liked the little man in the background who throw huge menacing handgrenades which spin towards you. Level three sees you in a jeep; in level four you must shoot the locks off doors without killing hostages, and defeat a heavily-armed officer; level five takes place in a boat, and so on. I don't honestly see how one player will ever get this far; In two player mode, with one concentrating on the top half of the screen and one on the bottom, you might just manage it.

Between each level you get an assessment of your performance in terms of targets hit and percentage of good shots; I rarely got above 30%, so there's obviously room for improvement. In two player mode, if one player loses a life, he presses a restart button to re-enter the game at any point; joystick and key controls are very flexible, but it is a bit annoying having to neglect the joystick and hit the keyboard to fire a rocket at a crucial moment.

There's no real element of strategy to Op Thunder, unless you count the need to avoid running out of ammo by holding the fire button down and just shooting it all off in one long squirt.

Operation Thunderbolt is dead hard, not just in the "See you Jimmy you spilled my pint" sense, but also in the "really, really difficult" sense, so if you splash out on it you'll certainly get your money's worth.

Label: Ocean
Author: Andrew Deakin
Price: £8.95
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

JIM SEZ: 90% "Lovely lovely lovely, but I'm not too happy about this "invisible sights business".

Close as you like to the coin-op, a masterpiece of mayhem.

95%
80%
79%
95%
92%