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Review by Malcolm Laurie, creator of shmups

Reviewed by Malc

Trounced by an 11-year old game. I didn't believe it. Me, the saviour of the known universe, pulped silly by Flying Shark, and it was set on EASY!!! (Must be getting old I think)

Let me take you back in time... cue wooh wooh Dr.Who types noises... to a place filled with smoke and bleeps, and teenagers spending their pocket-money bashing the hell out of expensive machines. You're in my favourite arcade in Glasgow, Scotland, circa 1987, a place called the Treasure Island. Flying Shark sat in between Terra Cresta and UFO Robo Dangar (never heard of it? me neither since!) and this trio constituted my favourite games at the time. These games had something that very few since have managed to embody - an addictive playability that DEMANDED total concentration - it was either that or die horribly. I actually got pick-pocketed playing Dangar, it was that mind-consuming!

You've probably looked at the score and wondered why on earth such a plain looking old game got 9 out of 10. It wasn't the graphics or sound that mattered, I mean, I've just played Taito's G Darius - probably the most wonderful graphics and music yet in a shooter - and it isn't as playable as this game. Flying Shark is extremely fine tuned, there are no flashy extra bits to distract. Take the powerups - the bombs appear exactly at the point you've run out and are desperate for them, and the weapon upgrades are modest, yet pleasingly welcome when they appear. Compare Batsugun to Flying Shark - they're at opposite ends of the shooter spectrum... where Batsugun has got SO much firepower it spoils the game, Flying Shark has got so little you need total skill to get through it. The powerups swirl about, teasing you to catch them through the myriads of fast-shooting planes whirling around the screen, often leading the unsuspecting player to their death.

The enemies are equally fine tuned. There isn't much variety in them, but they always surprise - they have the uncanny knack of shooting right where you're plane is going to be in 2 seconds. I don't know how many times I've flown right into a speeding bullet! The bosses are generally small tanks and battleships, bristling with gun emplacements, and pose a serious threat to your survival, as the normal planes and tanks don't go away when they're about, unlike other shooters I could mention. Other surprises are the way you blow buildings up and accidentally reveal hidden tanks inside just as you're about to fly over it (nasty!) and large bomber planes flying from behind you, making you zoom up the screen to get away from the bullets you know are going to follow, and crashing right into a squadron coming from the side. Tanks also hide in the trees so you can barely see them, meaning you become very wary of wooded areas. Downright evil these designers;)

Once you put your money in, apart from the refuelling points, there was not a single chance to take a break throughout - one slip and you were history. Many gamers used to the contemporary style of shootemup - overloaded with frequent weapons, confusingly complex graphics and continue-where-you-died points will not like this game at all. They're used to fast progression through the levels without having to work at it. That's what I was doing with G Darius, ( a great game, but more of a graphical showpiece than a real shooter) - just watching the lovely graphics and coasting through it pretty quickly.

It's almost not worth showing you screenshots of Flying Shark, as they're really nothing special, but this would be a rather boring page without them! Major Kudos to Magnus for emulating this game, a very nice choice indeed!

SCORE: 9/10

Flying Shark Smartbomb action
You'll be using these bombs a lot at first in sheer desperation. It's the only way to survive until you work it out. Sometimes you panic completely and fire them off at the slighest movement too!

Flying Shark big ship
See how the game throws everything at you at once? Small ships, big ships, small planes, big bombers... the whole lot unforgivingly flung at your ship without a break. The only breaks you will get are when you die and have to restart!

Flying Shark game over screen
You'll be seeing this screen an awful lot! Get used to it!

Flying Shark Level 2 smartbomb action
Keep them for moments when hell is just about to break loose. Moments where you can tell a bunch of baddies are just sitting there pregnant with bullets way past their due dates. If you leave it a second too late, forget it!

Flying Shark desert and tanks
Shooting certain buildings and rocks reveals baddies within, ready to tan your hide. Be on the lookout for traps like this. It's a bit like doing a quiz and you KNOW there's a trick question in there somewhere!

Flying Shark ship boss flashing
One of the later battleships, notice the yellow bit at the top you're supposed to shoot at. Funny how all bosses flash in shooters eh?

You'll note with a faint sense of unease the way the gun turrets rotate to follow your ship.

Review from shmups

Review, shmups art Malcolm Laurie. Used with permission from the original author.
All images copyright of their respective holders.

Malcolm Laurie is creating a new celebration of Shoot'em-up-games - find it at http://www.shmups.com !