[Acorn Gaming]



[ 4/5 **** 4/5 ]

Originally scheduled for release almost two years ago, Paradise's second budget release is now finally available. Budget-priced at just £12.99, Overload is a horizontally-scrolling shoot-em-up. It has no connection with the identically-titled game that Clares Micros released several years ago.

[Main title screen]

Given that Overload is a shoot-em-up, there's not really a great deal of opportunity for originality in the gameplay - if you've played Planetoid or its arcade ilk then you know pretty much what to expect. This doesn't mean that Overload has no originality, however, because in terms of neat presentational touches it's bubbling over with enthusiasm. Despite this, however, the gameplay is simple - you fly left and right shooting aliens whilst collecting 'fuzzies' and delivering them back to your rocket, whilst collecting powerups and extra energy pods. At the bottom of the screen a wide 'radar' shows an overview of things happening just off-screen, although it doesn't show the entire level.

For what is basically a very simple game, Overload has a surprisingly intricate set of play mechanics. You have four separate sets of energy bars to keep an eye on, representing weapons, thrusters, radar power and oxygen. As you make different mistakes they become deplenished and you lose the ability to move quickly, to use the radar or to fire quickly. When all four bars are deplenished you lose a life, but you can collect various different coloured balls to replenish individual bars - these are sometimes released when enemies are killed. This system has the effect that as you do badly the game gets harder, which helps add to the tension although is arguably a little unfair. Despite this complex system the game isn't confusing to play - you can ignore the details pretty much with impunity. This is indicative of the nicely polished gameplay, which is also pleasingly smooth with a good sense of pace. The multi-level parallax scrolling runs at full-speed in 256 colours even on ARM 2 machines.


With the combined movement of the aliens and yourself the overall speed of the game can be extremely fast, and you move too slowly to avoid some of the faster enemies - it's sometimes a bit too fast. To help avoid this problem you have to watch both the onscreen radar (to give you warning of what's coming) and the main play area, which takes a little practice but isn't really that difficult. Many collisions are totally unavoidable, but once you realise that this is just part of the game you don't mind so much - luckily you can take a lot of hits before you die. As well as aliens there are also two different types of powerup to collect - to claim one you must destroy a particular craft and then catch a pod before it hits the ground. There are also refill podules dropped by destroyed craft, which get rarer as the game progresses.

There is a reasonable amount of variety built into the game, which consists of four separate 'worlds' plus a final boss, because each world is broken into five stages. The first is the basic game where you must rescue the 'fuzzies', whilst in the second you have to destroy some stronger boss ships (which are always the same). In the third you must just annihilate all the aliens, and the fourth sees you collecting crystals whilst avoiding bouncing asteroids and against a tight time limit. Bizarrely, you can't lose lives on this fourth stage, which makes it futile and totally pointless (although it's quite fun!). Finally, in a trivially easy fifth stage you fly at a fixed speed moving up and down in a rocket avoiding asteroids. It's a shame that the game structure is so rigid, because whilst the first time through these five different stages come as a pleasant surprise, by the fourth world the layout has become far too routine - it would have been much more exciting if the first world had consisted, for example, of just two different stages, and then the extra stages were revealed as the game progressed.


The graphics and attack patterns change from world to world, which is definitely a good thing, but the difficulty level is not as smoothly tuned as it could be. The first world is very easy to the point that you can complete it without really having a clue what you're doing, whilst the second isn't really much harder. The third world then comes as a bit of a shock, being massively harder than the preceding ones! Strangely, the fourth world then regresses and is notably easier than the third because the aliens move nowhere near as fast. Once all four worlds are finished you reach a final, boss world featuring a creature which is pretty easy to destroy, and then the game is completed. It only took me one and a half hours from my very first play to totally finish the game! You then get to play the game again in 'turbo' mode if you want, although if you ignore the Speed Control application the game comes with you could find yourself accidentally playing it at hyper-speed right from the very beginning! It's worth pointing out, though, that this ease of completion is possible due to the distribution of passwords at the end of each world (although they scroll off the screen far too quickly!) - if you play it as a pure arcade game, by not using the passwords, then it will represent much more of a challenge! In any case, you have to pretty good to finish the third world.


The presentation throughout the game is outstanding. The graphics are simple but highly polished, and the game is packed full of little graphical effects, such as 3D text explosions, which add to the manic arcade atmosphere of the game. Between levels you get given simple animations and story chunks, which are very nicely done, and the sound effects are also well-judged. The music is excellent, especially the superb soundtrack you are greeted with upon first loading the game, which helps build a suitable atmosphere. It's also worth commenting that the tiny little case the game comes in (on one floppy disc) is also very nicely presented, so it makes an excellent first impression.

Apart from the ease of playing through the game (although Paradise promise me that extra levels will be available for download from their website!), I really have almost no negative comments to make - the game is very much what you would expect of a relatively simple horizontally scrolling arcade shoot'em'up! If that's what you want to play then Overload is a good choice, and at £12.99 it's not overpriced, plus it is compatible with pretty much all machines. But the best recommendation of all is that it's great fun to play!

  • Download a demo version

    [ 4/5 **** 4/5 ]


    Overload is compatible with all RISC OS machines with RISC OS 3.1 or above and 2MB or more. It also works with StrongARMs and RISC OS 4.


    Overload is published by:

    38 Marlborough Drive, Sydenham, Leamington Spa, CV31 1GD
    Tel. (01926) 315907; Email info@paradise-uk.net

    ...this page last updated: 3/7/00...
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