30 Games Of April – Day 18

SWIV
Factfile
Developed by: Random Access
Published by: The Sales Curve
Released:  1991
Format played: Amiga 500

Quick, name your top 3 Shmups. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…ding! Time’s up.

What did you plump for? R-Type? Gradius? Uridium? From my own gaming library I would chuck in St Dragon and Project X. And what do all of these games have in common? There are all horizontal scrollers. It seems the side on viewpoint has historically been more conducive to the shmup genre.

Not that vertical shooters haven’t had their moments of course. 1942, Banshee and our old friend Xenon 2 are worth a shout. But generally speaking, it seems developers have found more success on the horizontal plane.

 

SWIV itself started life in the same way, in a manner of speaking. Whilst not a direct sequel, The Sales Curve were responsible for porting arcade classic Silkworm to the home machines, a unique horizontal shooter that gave you the option to pilot either a craft or an armoured jeep, the 2 player option assigning you one of each.

Inspired by this as well as other blasters of the day, SWIV retained the plane / jeep combination but spun the action on its axis, turning this into a vertical shooter. And to this day it remains one of the absolute standout examples of the genre. We took a quick look at it here in our summary of the greatest games ever released on the Amiga but a game of this magnitude deserves a longer play.

Set across one giant, sprawling, constantly loading level, SWIV takes you into a dirty, grimy battle zone. There is no background music, no little cute asides, just the thrum of your engine, the ‘whoosh’ that signals another missile incoming and the deep, resounding boom of another successful explosion. Enemies take all different shapes and sizes; ground based tanks and trains, gun placements, looping ships, fast moving planes and occasional mini-bosses. Your standard weapon is a simple looking but fairly effective single stream blaster but upgrades are available once you dispatch one of the mini-bosses, allowing a spread of fire or a beefed up, concentrated burst. Periodically there are shield pick ups too. Grab one for a brief respite or, if you prefer, blast it to create an explosion that takes out all enemies on screen.

Although unfurling across a single level, the scene changes as you progress, moving from a grubby brown battlefield, through a mechanised fort and onto lush green grass, the foliage offering little in the way of serenity. Make no mistake, this is brutally hard, although never unfair. As is traditional with the genre, enemies move in pre-determined attack patterns. Fixed gun placements and tanks will generally announce themselves on the scene before opening fire, giving you a chance to set yourself, move out of the way or even crack a shot off before they do the same to you. What this means is that, in theory, you have a chance to prepare, allowing the most skilled players to navigate their way through. For the rest of us mere mortals, hit that pause button and whack NCC-1701 (yes, that’s right my fellow Trekkies) into the keyboard and revel in the power of unlimited lives.

This is supreme game making. There are no wonky pixels, no unfair difficulty spikes and no game breaking bugs. It looks terrific all these years later but, even more importantly, remains one of the most satisfying shmups in the history of the genre.

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