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Battle Squadron logo Amiga Computing Supreme Award

WHEN it comes to vertical scrolling shoot-'em-ups, the words "veritable plethora" would adequately describe the number of them for The Machine That Does It Better. If we limit the search to really good ones, there's two that spring to mind. Battle Squadron isn't one of these two - it neatly sidesteps the competition and comes in number one by the fabled long chalk.

Now you might think these are mighty big words - indeed, most of them have more than five letters - but Battle Squadron doesn't deign to be the sequel to any other game, even though the same folks did Hybris, which is also in the top three.

Nor does it have a rather insipid tune licensed from somewhere else. Battle Squadron shows that there's plenty of new tricks in the old shoot-'em-up dog.

Style permeates this fabulous production. In homage to the age old tradition, Battle Squadron sports a plot of such horrific inconsequences that it would gag a gameshow host.

Yea, it is written that Commanders Mayer and Bergin were returning from a successful reconnaissance mission deep into the heart of the Barrax Empire. And lo, a great big huge ginormous flying thing did appear close by. And the good commanders saw it had very large guns and had "Barrax" written on its side and generally could be considered by all and sundry as a bummer.

And from this great big huge ginormous flying thing there appear a tractor beam, and we're not talking Massey-Fergusons here. And it did proceed to draw the commanders' ship towards it and the commanders were a wee bit worried. But in the last garbled message they did manage to say that it won't be much fun getting us out, so you'd better send something pretty zappy.

Back in the real world (now the coffee's worn off) your elegant little ship is moved about in the time honoured way via joystick, or mouse if you're feeling silly or are player two. Or both.

The play area is a full 256-line, 64-colour (or 32-colour and some extremely clever shading) scroller, with tiny strips shaved off the side to give it the perfect arcade aspect ratio. Your weapons can be upgraded through more than 25 levels to a degree that the only way the flying nasties can get to you is from the sides. They know the trick, and they use it.

There are some phenomenally cunning enemies that can turn well nigh invisible before trying to catch you unawares. There are also some incredibly stupid ones which have to rely on very thick armour and a very high rate of fire. Both work out equally nasty...

If you took an Amiga running Battle Squadron, put it in a large wooden box and put it in an arcade, it would complete on level terms with dedicated machines with really fast processors and more memory than you could shake a stick at.

The attract mode is very pleasantly noisy, and the fine in-game effects don't seem to suffer any when you have the equally fine tune running. These people really know how to make the Amiga sing.

Everyone went gaga over Xenon II and rightly so - it was the best available then. But now Battle Squadron is the best. Xenon II scored the perfect 100 per cent. How can we express that Battle Squadron is even better? Hmmm. I'll show you how...