Walker, a fast-paced shoot ’em up which puts you in control of a 30-foot human killing machine code-named the AG-9. Looking like a cross between ED-209 from Robocop and the huge mechanical transports seen in the Return of the Jedi movie, the towering machine is capable of spewing out an endless torrent of death from its twin machine guns mounted beneath its swiveling head. The dodgy sci-fit plot involved some nonsense about two warring factions attempting to destroy each other by travelling through time and wiping out each other’s civilisations. Leaving logic and the Space-Time continuum aside, it’s not the most stunning excuse for a bit of blasting I’ve ever read, but does give some variety to the proceedings as you blast your way through four different time zones. The aim of the game is simple: guide your Walker assault vehicle across a horizontally scrolling landscape blasting as much military hardware out of the skies as possible, while also taking care of the assorted ground battalions, mortar emplacements, tanks and other such obstacles. While not sounding very innovative, it’s the pace of the action that makes the game such a winner – it just doesn’t stop for a second. As soon as you’ve cleared one screen you’re right back in the thick of things as another legion of enemy sprites charge at you. The Walker pod and the innovative control method are probably the game’s most impressive features. More than 80 frames of animation have been used to depict the Walker, an impressive mechanical behemoth with two huge gun turrets mounted underneath its swiveling head. The high-tech beast is controlled by a combination of mouse and keyboard controls which might sound complicated but, in practice, they work a treat. Two keys control the backward and forward movements of the Walker as it moves about the screen while the mouse controls an on-screen crosshair. A click on the left mouse button unleashes a volley of shots in the direction of the crosshair, while holding down the right button locks the targetting system on anything that is near at the time. This is a much-needed option, as manually tracking some of the faster-moving enemy sprites is damn near impossible. It’s not just a fire-and-forget type game, though, as the machine guns can overheat and close down if you use the continuously, so short rapid bursts are the best way to make progress. There’s also an energy level which decreases depending on the amount of enemy fire you soak up. This starts at maximum strength, but quickly takes a nosedive, so you can’t just wade into the enemy and try and stomp them underneath your huge mechanical feet. It’s best to try and keep your distance and pick off the enemy sprites as soon as they rush onto the screen.
one of the best shoot ’em ups we’ve seen on the Commodore Amiga!
A quibble is the lack of any kind of power-ups or add-on armaments. It’s alright having an endless supply of small arms fire but where are the triple-way fire, smart bombs and bolt-on lasers? Merely slugging it out through each stage from a showdown with an end-of-level guardian gets a bit boring after a while, especially as the opposition possesses far greater firepower than your trumped up pea-shooters. I’d also question the difficulty level in places, especially when the screen is flooded with airborne-gliders – it’s almost impossible not to sustain crippling damage under such an attack. Thankfully, you begin the game with four lives and each stage has a number of restart points, but even so it’s a bit on the hard side. Walker is a curious game in many respects, but the weirdest thing about the game is that it actually works better on a bogstandard A500 than it does on the A1200. The faster processor of the latter machine makes everything move just a little too fast. The ground troops rush onto the screen at warp factor nine and the airborne vehicles swoop down onto the Walker like some sort of bird of prey. The in-game sound effects are just brilliant. The mechanical clunking noises as the Walker stomps across the screen are excellent, as is the rattle of the twin machine guns as they rake the landscape. Then there are the screams of the snipers as they fall to their death and the droning sounds of a squadron of bombers passing overhead. The game’s graphics are also a bit darned good. Although the miniature foot soldiers resemble Spectrum sprites at times and are even tinier than those use in Lemmings, they move realistically about the screen as they check their positions and run for cover once you left off a volley of shots in their direction. The war-ravaged scenery is quite spectacular, although the difference between levels isn’t that noticeable – one partially destroyed tower block looks suspiciously like the next, no matter which time zone you’re in. Where the graphics truly excel is in the depiction of all the various bits of military hardware, from the mortar emplacements and motorbike riders through to the armour-plated tanks and troop carriers to the absolutely huge Zeppelin that hovers ominously in the sky. The attention to detail is staggering and the copper effects used to illuminate the sky help lend an eerie look to the proceedings. All in all, Walker is a more-than-competent blaster with a novel control system and some fast and frantic gameplay. A few tricks have been missed that could have dramatically improved the game, but you’re still left with one of the best shoot ’em ups we’ve seen on the Commodore Amiga!