Search and Destroy
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The plots added to these Phoenix games never fail to amuse me. I admire their efforts, and they somehow even manage to make at least a tenuous form of sense when compared to the game they’re for, but why bother? Perhaps it’s just a sign that they really do care about bringing “quality product to the market”, as they say in the company profile on their website. For the record, the plot to “Search and Destroy” is as follows:

2050AD
Two groups are fighting for an artifact.
Your group is teleported into the enemy camp to capture the artifact. The mission is completed, but you are the only survivor.
Your goal is to get out of there alive.

Not exactly “Dune” or “Stranger in a Strange Land”, is it? But it struck me as interesting that they set the game after the climactic event, and the game is the escape – it certainly makes sense for a vertical shooter, explains why there’s just one of you, and avoids the usual clichés. Am I the only one wondering why in all those other shooters, you were chosen as the only ship to achieve the mission, or that the rest of your planet’s forces were destroyed, or what have you?

Yes, you’re right, I’m thinking way too much about this, but my point (and I do have one) is that someone at Phoenix games, or at least the developer of the game, cared enough to at least try and say something different, and did so with a minimum of extra bushwa. Certainly not something I’ve achieved here!

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Love in the middle of a fire fight. Go Iggy.

“Search and Destroy” is a vertically scrolling shooter with the ability to move a fair distance left and right as well (like “Raiden”, for example). The 3D effect of the ground you’re scrolling over is very well implemented, too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very generic – and I could swear one of the ground textures in the third level was a scan of a slice of wholemeal bread – but the illusion of flying over a real landscape is more successful than I’ve seen in many other games. As a matter of fact, for a while there I was almost tempted to believe I was flying over the landscapes from "Turbo Trucks" – I’m sure I recognized smaller versions of those cheesy cactus shapes, for example, and some of the colour choices were awfully familiar!

It’s only necessary to shoot things flying at you from the top and sides of the screen – although some enemies do fly up from the bottom in a lower plane, and then loop around to fly at you. Most of the patterns are pretty straightforward, although there’s the occasional bit of cheapness where planes fly at you far faster than you could have a hope to destroy them – at least with the initially weaker weapons. The weapons can be powered up a few times – three way spread, shots that arc out from the sides of your ship and curve forward, that kind of thing. It can prove to be a bit of a challenge to get your weapons to full power, at least while you’re initially getting used to things, but once you do, the feeling of power is tangible. You can also collect shields, which will last you a few hits.

“Search and Destroy” is far more forgiving than “Shadow of Ganymede”, and seemed, at least to me, to have a pretty decent balance of difficulty vs cheap deaths vs interest level. Hell, I was even quite surprised by something that happens at Level 5, got as far as Level 7 before stopping to write this review (which was about 40 minutes of play, perhaps less), and that’s out of a total of 15 levels.

“Gigawing” or “Raiden” this isn’t, but it’s most certainly a bit of fun. Also, yes, surprisingly enough the music is terrific too – high energy techno tracks (OK, maybe not that high) keep you going through each level. The sound effects are particularly dire, though – the sound effect for your bullets hitting enemy ships sound like someone running a metal pipe along a chain link fence. However, it is amusing that they used the sound of a .357 Magnum firing for the most powerful power up.

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