SOME companies are renowned for their shoot-'em-ups. Some are admired for their graphics. Some companies are even celebrated because of their artwork they use on the packaging. Then there is The Edge. To some people, The Edge's ability to produce a game which excels in all three departments mentioned above is akin to the ability of a small lettuce to write a dissertation on quantum physics.
Darius is a sideways scrolling shoot-'em-up that Taito produced in 1987. It performed quite modestly in the arcades and isn't really a household name. Darius+ is a conversion of that coin-op by The Edge, the plus sign signifying that the version running on your Amiga is significantly better than the arcade original. Unfortunately for all concerened, it isn't. That's not to say the game reaches the depths of certain of The Edge's recent releases, but the artwork on the box depicting a submarine is an inadvertent giveaway. Half way through loading there is an intermission in which the person responsible for the music demonstrates his knowledge of samplers and arrangement. Then it is time to press the space bar and continue loading.
The game arrives with a serviceable fanfare, and in the blink of an eye the first of the 28 levels begins scrolling towards your ship from right to left. The initial problem is one of firepower. The enemy has it, and you do not. A secondary problem is the size of the playing area. The screen has been reduced and the playing area is made even smaller by virtue of the scrolling scenery. A parallax effect is created by having a very dull blue background slowly moving by. Pulsing stars put in periodic appearances and, if collected, add firepower to the current control centre. There is only one firepower centre to start with - your ship - but by collecting the other type of pulsing star, a droid and two cannons can be added and the upgraded.
Unfortunately there is a slight coordination problem here. Pressing F1-F4 signifies where the next power-up will have an effect, but there isn't that much spare time for keyboard pressing unless you have a joystick with sticky feet. Incidentally, an auto-fire joystick is essential. Further key pressing is needed to send the droid out and about in true R-Type fashion. Another press on the spacebar recalls it, while fingering the left and right cursor keys will manoeuvre it behind and in front of your ship.
After a few practices, and probably a couple of lives, you will encounter the end-of-level fish, which loads in especially to fight you. To defeat this mother of all fish it is necessary to eliminate its appendages one by one. Should you not possess the free swimming droid, which can be sent out to do just this job then it is most likely that you will die. Should you have some other form of particularly virulent firepower, your chances improve to marginal. If and when the fish is removed, a branching network of choices spreads out in front of you. These are the remaining 27 levels.
Darius+ is an entirely adequate product. The scrolling is slow, but this does not make things easier because the playing area is so small and your ship is so large. This combination makes the game rather too difficult.