ZX Spectrum Airwolf
This was another tv tie-in license by (yep you guessed it) Elite software. Elite managed to produce mostly decent licensed arcade games such as Space Harrier, Bomb Jack and Commando, but this game recieved a mixed reaction.
Airwolf the arcade game was released in January of 1984 and had been hyped up prior to it's release due to the popularity of the TV Programme. The great Spectrum magazine Crash awarded it an overall score of 90% - the desired 'Crash Smash' status. Now let me tell you, Crash was my favourite ZX Spectrum magazine but this was one of the few occasions that I did not agree with them.
The aim of the game was to rescue five scientists who have been imprisoned in an underground base hidden beneath the Arizona desert. Only the destruction of the defence control boxes (strategically positioned within the bowels of the caverns) would allow you to descend into the heart of the base where the scientists were being held.
The action took place over several interlinked scrolling screens (starting with screens set 'above ground'). On the first two screens you were immediately faced with the defence fields; assembled boxes of blue which had to be shot away box by box with the Airwolf’s powerful front cannon.
The problem with this was the fact that the entire field regenerated itself within only a few seconds and you had to start shooting it all over again.
Gaining the passage took you along to the cavern entrance which was also guarded by a similar field. Now you had to shoot downwards to take out the blue boxes. Forgive me for being negative here, but shooting blue boxes is not great fun, and certainly never captured the spirit of Airwolf the TV programme.
From there on each cave was guarded by obstacles such as large guns and electric force fields, and the narrowness of the cavern passages made life VERY tough.
Airwolf was a state of the art helicopter and thus was difficult to handle. The machine had to be flown constantly to keep it airborne otherwise it would simply descend to the ground/cavern floor and crash.
It was a case of negotiating your way through the various screens, taking out the security controls (do disable force-fields, guns etc) and making your way to the screen where the scientist was being held. Once you picked the prisoner up, you had to backtrack all the way back out until you reached the screen from where you first took off.
You had to do this five times in total (only 1 scientist could be picked up at a time) to complete the game. Your humble reviewer here manged to rescue four way back in '84 and lost his last life on the way back with number five. Needless to say a few choice words were uttered in a 'loud manner'. The game was never loaded again.
This arcade style game was ultra difficult. Controlling the helicopter (which did not even resemble Airwolf!) was tricky, and flying, shooting boxes (yes boxes) in hard to reach places was never really that thrilling. You only had one weapon to fire too - the 'cannon' (which fired sort of star shaped projectiles - not satisfying). No mention of copperhead missiles here!
The game did well and plenty of copies were sold (perhaps many people who liked the show bought this game), and some found the game to be a good challenge.
Still, the fact that the helicopter looked nothing like Airwolf, had no choice of weapons, no turbo-boost and there was no mention of Stringfellow and Dominic annoyed some gamers. The fact that the famous theme tune had not been included was annoying too.
Opinions were split on this classic game and like Marmite, you either loved it or hated it. Some found it challenging, others found it frustrating. Still, it was released just as TV tie-ins were becoming more popular, and was still better than many other offerings (such as Night Rider and SreetHawk). Airwolf went on to do well and was a big hit. Most people did agree that the environment graphics were well drawn (the rocky caverns were effective) and created the right 'oppresive' atmosphere of being underground.
The test of time:
We here in the land of Spectrum games reckon you should play this classic game to remind yourself of how bloody hard it is. If you've got supehuman reflexes, co-ordination and patience you may just enjoy it. If you can complete it then celebrate as if you've won the lottery.
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download this game for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: January of 1984
RELEASED BY: Elite Software
DEVELOPER(S): Richard Wilcox
PRICE: £6.95 - UK
Not even flying ace Major Lawrence Bartle Frere can overcome the obstacles in this ultra hard arcade game.
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