This could probably be called a real "pacemaker"

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Electronic Zoo * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

There are definite downsides to this job. One of them is trying to pad out a six hundred word review of a shoot 'em up when you know full well that everyone in the entire universe knows exactly what the scenario is. Allow me to reproduce the Industry Standard Shoot-'Em-Up Scenario Creator, free with Amiga Gamer...

The year is (insert four number here, the first one must be higher than 2). The human race is being threatened by the evil (insert name of alien race here, word must have ratio of one vowel to every four consonants to be realistic). You must pilot the new breed of starship (insert name of starship here, must start with an X or Z or sound like a Fifties Ford car), designed to be (insert hyperbole here). But things go tragically wrong, as you and your fleet fly into the night (hum dramatic music here and make some gratuitous comment about wives weeping as they depart), they are ambushed by the (insert alien name here), and you are the only one left (waffle for a paragraph about how only you can do it and that no-one else is strong enough to face the challenge). Conclude with something along the lines of "Have you the skill, with and reflexes to do the job?".

That's about it really. Any names you think of or any little nuances can be incorporated into that little template. Brilliant, isn't it? But, fair play to ' em, the Zoo have included a wee novella in the manual to pad it out a bit. Actually, it is the manual. It's reasonable, but hardly original. Electronic Zoo claim this is the fastest two-way scrolling shoot-' em-up game to date. They're not wrong, it does scroll brilliantly fast - the only problem is that most of the time you'd rather just sit there and fire and not have to worry about flying into things.

The majority of the aliens, you see, have very static patterns moving in a formation about a fixed point, so the last thing you want to be doing is racing back and forth like the proverbial yo-yo.

But if you like needless speed then this could be the thing for you. The gameplay is simplistic - most levels are played against the clock, giving you a set length of time to defeat a series of aliens, or you don't make it on to the next level - and as you defeat each one, the ship is powered up to the next level of firepower. If you die, you lose one level of power-up. Graphically it is very simple, but if it had to be so it could cope with the rate of scrolling without going up in smoke. There are very few sprites onscreen at once, There's only one basic landscaping at top and bottom, and nothing in between to give you any idea of speed when you move off the edge of the landscape.

This is often crucial as you may have to move off, turn around and come back on to attack, but if you don't know how fast you are going then it may all go tragically wrong.

The sound relies all too heavily on one Uzi sample for the gun, but the tune is ace, and sounds like a chill-out room at a rave. What more could you want after a heavy blasting session?

Playability isn't as bad as you might think. It's good fun and quite a challenge, but it just doesn't add up to all it should This is probably because they couldn't animate the sprites as fast as the ship. It will provide a new twist for shoot-' em-up fans, but only the real addicts. Ah well, not a bad try lads.

cardiax logo holds barred blasting as Team 17 revamp to good effect.

As marketing strategies go, Team 17 seem to have the gaming industry sussed - take all your old products and, after listening to the criticism of the reviewers and gaming public, revamp them and toss them out at silly prices.
If you examine the budget charts of recent months, you'll see a whole stream of Team 17 products: an enhanced version of Project X, Alien Breed Special Edition and a remixed Assassin have all sold in boxloads.
They've also found tremendous success with their selection of recent cheap priced new releases like F-17 Challenge and Qwak. Both of these products feature smart play at less than half the price of other software companies.
This is as neat a juncture as is necessary to meet their latest product to receive the Team 17 energy injection.

Cardiaxx was originally released by Electronic Zoo some time ago, receiving mixed reviews and featuring little in the way of true action. The boys from Wakefield saw potential and have given it the treatment.

Cardiaxx is a no nonsense blaster set strangely enough in space in the future. Taking on the role of Pope (a hardened Han Solo type astro-jack), you blast off from the surface of the planet surface to take on the might of an alien fleet. The scales are tipped heavily out of your favour, but if anyone can perform miracles then it's you - or so the manual would have you believe.

After a short intro sequence, it's straight into the action. Cardiaxx is an horizontal bi-directional scroller that moves at a fair old rate of knots - 50 Hz to be technically correct.

You respond to the enemy via your on board droid who passes an audio message informing you where exactly the foes are. There's also a nice little graphical arrow which points you in the right direction in case you're like me and can't tell your right from your left.

Once you're in the thick of it, not only do you have to use your skill to knock those nasty, bully "gang up on one little space ship would you" aliens, but it's all against the clock.
If you take too long over the task in hand it's curtains for you and your ship is destroyed.

Unlikely many space shoot-'em-ups where your ship can absorb only one enemy shot or be involved in one collision, Cardiaxx is made of sterner stuff.

Although your spaceship has a finite amount of energy, you can take a number of hits, the damage being reflected by an ever-diminishing energy bar. Once you've seen off various types of centipede and other suchlike aliens, there's a minx of a level guardian to contend with.
Also at the end of each level there's a special Deep-Space bonus zone where the aim is to eradicate as many of the pesky vermin as possible in a given time.

Your ship also has the ability to have its weapon system upgraded, which is quite useful, as many of the nasties require special hits or large scale damage.

Along with the power ups, there are also bonuses in the shape of extra time which prove very handy as time is extremely tight throughout. On the whole Cardiaxx isn't a bad update into the nineties, although it's not the best thing to come out of the Team 17 stable. The graphics are presentable and pretty smooth, but they're never going to make you drool over your monitor like Project-X did.

However, for the budget price of a tad under a tenner I don't think anyone got any grounds for complaint. Cardiaxx plays fairly well and could never be described as a slow paced affair.
In fact, if there's one slight criticism it's a little too fast and the control never enables you to render your ship motionless. Attempting to slow results in it inverting to travel in the opposite direction, which can be quite annoying until you master your stick control.

Cardiaxx reminds me very much of the shoot-'em-ups from the eighties: straightforward, no hold barred blasting with few complications and strategies. Though it's not their fest effort of late, for a tenner it's got to be worth it.

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Consider the following piece of text and see whether you think you'd want to hear the rest of this gripping space drama: "The shuttle drifted towards Halfway with the grace of a pregnant duck. Strips of navigation lights winked blue and green along the sides of the craft as the pilot aimed the vessel towards the empty bay. The retros blasted briefly - soundless rockets firing into space, slowing the approach of the freighter".

Not exactly, awe-inspiring prose is it? That piece is from the beginning of the novella which Electronic Zoo have padded their manual out with. However, as bad as that cliche ridden story is, five minutes spent wading through its tetchy grammar is far preferable to the same amount of time spent playing their latest 'game' Cardiaxx.

You see, the Zoo have bunged a 'story' in their manual so that you don't need any instructions to play; the joystick moves your spaceship around and fire unleashes a bullet. Why gloss things up? Cardiaxx is a shoot-em-up not a prospective Pullitzer prize winner.

Would it win any prizes?
There is nothing more satisfying than sitting down for half-an-hour, with a well written blaster and destroying zillions of alien sprites. However, mindless blasting games, more than any other kind of computer game have got to be playable; rob them of this vital ingredient and what you've got is a waste of a perfectly good floppy disk.

It is essentially a Defender clone, Cardiaxx could be up there with the best. You can't go far wrong with some swift direction changing, high fire-power, spaceship antics. Well it seems you can here.

This game verges on the unplayable. The craft you're meant to destroy alien ships with has the most frustrating inertia ever installed on a ship. One tiny nudge of the joystick and your craft goes hurtling across the screen, straight through alien, bouncing off walls and inevitably killing you. Tap the joystick in the other direction to reduce speed and you end up doing exactly the same only in the opposite direction. It is possible, with the lightest of nudges to move slowly, but these take so much concentration that you end up going slowly into the nearest wall. To top it all, the aliens have been placed in the most difficult-to-hit places imaginable. Here it's like being dropped bott first into a cage of starving, rabid Pitbulls.

It can't be that bad... can it?
From a technical point of view Cardiaxx is fine. The graphics are relatively colourful, the sound's chunky and it all scrolls around smoothly. The trouble is all these good aspects never gel together as a game. It's as if someone set out to design a smooth scrolling routine and as an afterthought decided to bung a few sprites in.

The levels are arranged so that you have to shoot entire attack waves to progress further. The next attack wave might be to the left or right of your position and so you have to go over old ground. To aid you, a sampled voice instructs you that there are aliens to the left or the right and you thus travel in either direction where you shoot at said aliens.

After 10 minutes of this game you'll have had more than enough. The difficulty with the spaceship control is it ups the already considerable difficult to near unplayable levels. The disparate elements are not brought together at any stage. The Defender style of the gameplay Cardiaxx tries to emulate never materialises. And much like the game itself, it feels just like the ship: you're going back and forth, getting nowhere, incredibly fast!

Popularly perceived as the dominant computer game, shoot outs are actually rare(ish) on the Amiga. Good shoot-em-ups test joystick dexterity and hand/eye coordination. The thrill comes from dodging waves of bullets, escaping from death by pixels and the massive fire-power gained from the power-ups. The skill comes from learning and predicting the form of the alien waves who fly directly at you!

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Team 17 * £10.99 * Reviewed AF31 37%

The shoot-em-up is one of my favourite genres. In fact, I can't think of anybody in the AF office who doesn't like flying high and having a blast. Team 18, nice picture on the box, Cardiaxx spelled with two x's, a tablespoon of flour - sounds like the right ingredients for some tremendous fun.

But no. This is not a good shoot-em-up. Can't complain about the sound or graphics - very competent. It's just not a playable game. Every time you touch the joystick the ship veers off across the screen, the baddies hide in difficult-to-get-pits, and you keep having to turn around and go back on yourself, which is brilliant in Defender but doesn't work quite as successfully in Cardiaxx.

Die volle Härte!

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Wer erinnert sich noch an "Uridium"? Vermutlich, jeder der einen 64er samt Joystick besessen hat, schließlich ist das Teil ein Baller-Klassiker! Electronic Zoo hat nun für eine Neu-auflage gesorgt: schneller, schöner, aber leider fast unspielbar...

Worum geht es? Worum es immer geht: Zum 2847sten Mal bedrohen Außerirdische die Menschheit, rette sich wer kann - Witwen, Waisen und Joker-Redakteure zuerst.

Wir klettern also in unseren Raumjäger und... Überraschung! Genau wie bei der (inoffiziellen) Vorlage düst man durch eine Raumstation, die nicht bloß von links nach rechts scrollt, sondern, sofern man seinen Flieger wendet, auch umgekehrt.

Der Feindflug im "Defender"-Stil gerät jedoch bald zum puren Streß, Cardiaxx ist höllisch schnell und teuflisch schwer! Die Feindformationen (Walker, Technoschlangen, Raumschiffe, etc.) sind einerseits zwar ziemlich einfallslos, anderseits tauchen sie in einem solchen Irrsinntempo auf, daß an Ausweichmanöver kaum zu denken ist.

Wer hier überleben will, braucht viel Glück und ein gutes Gedächtnis, denn obwohl das Raumschiff ein paar Kollisionen übersteht, sind drei Leben einfach viel zu wenig - besonders, da man auch noch gegen ein Zeitlimit kämpfen muß. Die besseren Waffen und die großen Endgegner werden daher bestenfalls ausgebuffte Ballerprofis zu sehen bekommen; die letzten der insgesamt sieben Level kennen vermutlich überhaupt nur die Programmierer...

Schade um die etwas blasse, aber makellos scrollende Hintergrundgrafik, schade um die Massen von völlig ruckfrei animierten Sprites, schade um den tollen Heavy-Metal-Gametrack und die ordentliche Steuerung. Tja, schade. (rl)

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"Life in the fast lane", claims the box. Myself, I live life more in the bus lane, but in the interests of higher living I thought I might as well give this a go. It's a horizontally-scrolling shoot-'em-up which owes more to Defender than it does to R-Type, at least in as much as the action scrolls in two directions. You hurtle at high speed through a sparse landscape until an arrow points you in the direction of a cluster of aliens. Shoot them and you win a power-up, then another arrow points you at the next lot. Lose all your energy or run out of time and the game's up. The other revolutionary feature of the game is that you can choose to have the score information take up about a quarter of the screen - novel, if pointless.

So, to the action. Frankly, this is a bit of a chore to play. Your spaceship is so sensitive to joystick movements that the slightest touch sends it flying off uncontrollably into enemies and walls.

Being unable to fly your ship through unobstructed passageways simply because the game deems you not to have got that far yet is annoying and illogical, and the background graphics are too featureless to give an impression of progress. If there's a mitigating factor it's the sound, which comprises a solid and arcade-like rock soundtrack and some pleasingly illegible speech, but if you're looking for gameplay you should be looking someplace else. I'd like to say that the makers of this game should be arrested (Cardiaxx - arrested - geddit?), but it's not quite that bad. Then again, it's not that good either.

Its heart's in the right place, but its playability hasn't turned up to the party.

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Sorry, Team 17. It's me again. Anyone else might not have noticed, but I'm sad enough to remember Cardiaxx the first time round. It was an old Electronic Zoo game we reviewed back in issue nine, and without going and looking it up I reckon it scored somewhere around the 59% mark. Oh, what the hell, let's go back and look it up anyway. (SOUND F/X: Riffling sounds from dingy corner of the office).
Hey! 59%! Truly, I am the Master Of Memory! Er, anyway, the as now

Cardiaxx is a horizontally-scrolling shoot-'em-up which differs from the norm in that, rather than chunking wave after wave of baddies at you, you take them on one at a time. Blow a wave away, and the screen tells you whether to go left or right to find the next wave, and you have to do each level against a pretty tight time limit.

Team 17 have made in buying this one up for budget release have mostly been improvements in your ship's handling and control (as well as slowing down the game's slightly unmanageable pace a bit), which means that most of Cardiaxx's major design flaws are still wedged in there like big enormous spanners in the gameplay works.

The biggest problem with it is that very little seems to be happening most of the time, and you still have to do a ridiculous amount of faffing around with your ship in order to shoot the same baddie about 800 times.

The scenery is featureless, so you're forced to wonder hy you have to search around in it instead of just meeting the meanies in some sensible kind of way, and there's nothing in the graphics or sound to entice you to bother. Cardiaxx tries to pay tribute to the Defender genre, but you're better off sticking with the original, frankly.

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Whilst everyone wants their shoot 'em ups to be fast, Cardiaxx goes from the sublime to the Cor Blimey! It is obvious from the minimal gameplay that Electronic Zoo have seen how fast the Amiga can scroll and based a game around it. The result is a frenetic and relatively playable blast which, sadly, doesn't contain enough meat to keep the player interested. A variant on the Armalyte theme, Cardiaxx pits the player against the might of the Cardiaxx empire within a two-way-scrolling play area. Within this area a series of alien attack waves and guardians appear and these must be taken out before the ever-decreasing time-limit expires. And that, dear reader, is Cardiaxx.

The game is split into four areas, within which the player must exercise their trigger finger and reflexes, whilst leaving their brain in neutral. These levels, despite the addition of bas-relief or organic backdrops, are pretty much alike with the player destroying one wave of Cardiaxx fighters before using their on-screen indicators to locate the next.

I have a feeling that Electronic Zoo were hoping that the nail-biting speed of the game would trick the player into ignoring the lack of variety, but it actually has the opposite effect. Providing that the player survives the almost inevitable energy-sapping collisions with the enemy, they eventually reach a pair of guardians (who remain the same throughout the game - whatever happened to variety?) and who block access to the next level. Following a short space-bound sequence, the next level is then entered.

Like so many games from the shoot'em up genre, Cardiaxx is intially very playable, and the urge to have another crack is akin to all those 8-bit games we so fondly remember. However, once the first level has been beaten and the ensuing space scene passed, the repetitive levels erode any further interest. If larger space bases or extra background detail was added, perhaps this would have helped, but I suspect that this would have slowed it down considerably. As a budget release, I would have no hesitation recommending Cardiaxx as it is perfectly suited for the odd blast whenever the need to do some damage arises.

Unfortunately, as it stands, twenty-six quid is too much to pay for such limited carnage.

FAST'N'FURIOUS Creating a good balance between speed and longevity within the limitations of the shoot 'em up is extremely tricky. With Cardiaxx, it is only the lack of variety that causes the problems and, to date, only a few blasters have bridged the gap. The C64 was choc-a-bloc with top-notch shoot 'em ups, with Andrew Braybrook's Uridium and Cyberdyne Systems' Armalyte regarded as true classics.

Thus, with the Amiga's faster processing speed and far superior capabilities surely we should be up to our necks in speedy blasters? Nope. The problem apparently lies with shifting backdrops and numerous sprites at speed, as even the Amiga has problems doing that. Thus, it is far easier to slow the games down and concentrate on the game's look rather than opt for a sparse but fast game.

However, this is by no means a bad thing as past hits such as Z-Out and Denaris prove.