Battlestorm logo

TITUS * £24.99 joystick

When it comes to bolshy little space-fighters blasting around the universe there has never really been the freedom to operate outside anything other than a horizontal or vertical corridor. But not anymore. In Battlestorm, thanks to some innovative multi-directional scrolling, you can loop-the-loop, zigzag and somersault just about anywhere you want.

Each level is laid out as a square, with gun emplacements set into the ground which spit bullets, while enemy fighters bombard you in droves. Once the last fighter of an attacking group is destroyed you collect extra lives by picking up the dainty pink pods they leave behind.

Every so often the speed, fire-power and all-round pluck of both you and your opponents is increased by the arrival of a mothership on the grid. An arrow signals her whereabouts so that you can go and do the business (look out, she leaves mines in her path) and pick up more pink pods.

Eventually the battle gets so fierce and an even bigger, badder battleship cruises in. Shortly you will either be dead or will have reached the second half of the level. Played over the same territory, but vertically scrolling, it sends you up screen to attack an end-of-level gun emplacement.

The initial problem with Battlestorm is its multi-directional scrolling and henceforth the odd joystick control systems. There are two types to choose from. The first, and most natural, is where 'down' corresponds to your fighter moving down the screen, while the second simulates how you'd be pushing and pulling the stick if you were actually sitting in the cockpit - nasty when you think about it, because pressing 'up' can make your ship do the exact opposite.

Get down ship
Once you've cracked the controls, though, the game comes to alive. The overhead view zips around with beautiful smoothness and clarity. There are three difficulty modes, but even the easiest is pitched at a demandingly high level, which ensures Battlestorm is always a challenge.

It's best not to dash around; take out the gun emplacements in one area and stay there. Then you don't have to put up with so much fire power being aimed at you and there's more time for thought in-between enemy attacks.

Extra dimensions
It may not have the breadth and grandeur of a game like SWIV - it remains a rather plain game to look at despite its silky scroll, and there could have been a bit more to it - but it does make up for this with the dimensions of its playing area. In fact, it may be setting a standard that other programmers could well be emulating in the not-too-distant future.

If you want the kind of relentless shoot-em-up that will have your stick clutched in a sweaty palm while you dart around the monitor then Battlestorm just about takes the biscuit.