Good sequels are an art form – and Sales Curve have produced a masterpiece in SWIV, an original game ‘follow up’ to Silkworm, their 1988 smash arcade conversion. Though great as a one-player game, SWIV works best with a partner. Player one controls a helicopter, while number two runs around the screen in a tank. Each vehicle comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The helicopter doesn’t have to worry about crashing into ground targets, but it can only fire in one direction. The tank, however, is the complete opposite. A rotatable turret allows you a shoot in a 360 degrees arc, but has plenty of buildings and gun emplacements to avoid. By making it vertically scrolling its programmers leapt back some years in game design. The trend for the modern shoot ’em up is to use incredibly technical scroll routines, which tend to cloud the products gameplay. But, although it might sound old fashioned, SWIV’s coding certainly isn’t simple. It’s the clever technical features that you don’t instantly notice which really make the difference. All sprites and background graphics are loaded in while you play. This means there’s no loading between levels, so you can go from start to finish without stopping. Clever sprite routines are used giving dozens of enemy craft on screen without the game slowing down. It’s these tricks that give SWIV a genuine arcade feel. Next to the lives counter there’s a star rating. The higher this is, the more weapons you can keep should you die. Initially, this is set at two so you only keep the second power-up level, although it does increase by one for every six bonus icons collected.

It looks good, sounds wonderful and contains some of the most frantic action yet seen in a shoot-em-up. So get it and try pumping some lead!

Why anyone hasn’t thought of this before? It’s so incredibly useful. Enemy superbases lie in wait for you at the end of each level. These buildings are built up from several component parts which need to be destroyed separately before the building finally goes belly up. By way of tribute, the programmers admit they’ve borrowed ideas from older shoot ’em ups. Level three is almost identical to Xevious, which is a nice blast from the past for crumbly old journos like me. Some of the enemy craft are particularly innovative. On level three a hovercraft drifts on, releasing a craft which spews out homing missiles. Missile launchers, guns and tank silos are built into the background, surprising the unwary player. Ideas like these are what separate SWIV from the ten-a-penny blasts which periodically return to haunt the Amiga. A number of things have been carried over from Silkworm, in particular the awesomely-armed Goosecopter. Its component parts drift onto the screen then form into a helicopter that’s ten times bigger than the player vehicles. When it explodes, it leaves behind several bonus icons which can be collected for extra points or firepower. SWIV difficulty level is set according to how well the player is doing. If you’ve gone straight through to the second level without losing a life the alien attack waves intensify, as do their rate of fire. Should you find yourself struggling on level one the aliens will be firing infrequently and there’ll be a lot less of them. This is one of the elite band of Amiga shoot ’em ups which is truly arcade quality. The graphics are outstanding, it plays very well and the presentation is top notch. Exactly the sort of game Amiga owners have been crying out for. A classic follow up to a classic game.

More news: Generation Amiga magazine