Death is an expensive business

Gemini Wing logo

REVIEWERS' lives would be considerably more difficult - or less easy, depending on your honesty - if all games didn't come with a wildly fanciful plot. I mean, "waves of marauding aliens" sounds far better than "a row of four blitter-objects", doesn't it?
And in this department, Gemini Wing, is no excpetion. Especially when you can manage to use two of game reviewing worst cliches in the one (preceding sentence).

The humour in the tale behind the game is rather like early rhubarb - forced. It would seem that Earth people have become a little too xenophobic, and the rest of the universe's sentient beings have decided to teach us a lesson.
But of course there's the secret ship, which can show those slimy bug-eyes what for, and you are piloting it. Channel Z, or what? Possibly even Dullsville, South Dakota.

After playing Silkworm you are probably waiting for another amazing, slick and playable arcade conversion from Virgin. Well you can carry on waiting for Ninja Warriors. This wasn't programmed by Random Access, and it shows.

The format of the game is one you've definitely seen before. You are a small ship facing up a downwards scrolling landscape. Things come down the screen towards you, wobble a bit, perhaps shoot at you or drop something, and then are shot or disappear.
After a certain length of backdrop has scrolled by the small things vanish, to be replaced by one or two large things, which try to shot you a lot, and then they get shot, or you get shot.

That just about wraps up this paradigm of plainness (thank you, Dr Roget, wherever you are) but for a few small details. There can be two players simultaneously. Like, serious innovation, or what? Instead of the little capsules giving extra powers, they give one-shot super weapons. Am I getting old, or is the term smartbomb getting a little out of date?

Gemini Wing does have some new, innovative ideas, though> Having all the capsules you've collected trailing behind you is a bit one-careful owner in the car showroom that is computer gaming. Having them open to be nicked by the other player is a new idea, and can generate almost as much animosity as a Treasure Room with "Shots Now Stun" in Gauntlet.

Also, this game doesn't have the usual complement of bangs, pows, thwacks and zonks that every other mediocre shoot-' em-up has - it boasts a wide variety of rather clever tunes, but no real noise. Don;t know about you, but to me a shoot ' em-up without noise is like... is like something without something else pretty vital, at any rate.

At least the tunes are adequate, with an especially nice line in electro mock-Tudor on the highscore sheet. The first level's tune bears an uncanny resemblance to the first level tune from Space Harrier, so there could be a Sound-and-Feel case in it for Sega.

Most of the graphics suffer form being rather small, being frequently made up from units of two low-res pixels, which pushes them into the really quite exceptional (for an Amstrad CPC) league. There are times when there are so many ground emplacements and circling aliens that there isn't time to loose a smart bomb, so a rather frustrating death ensues.

Gemini Wing has a similar, though greatly inferior feel to Mission Genocide, a rather ancient 8 bit budget game. Where Mission Genocide squeezed every last ounce of speed from the Z80 machine to get an extended screen scroll, Gemini Wing seems to be barely ticking over on its tiny scrolling window. And as Gemini Wing is over 10 times the price, it's not worth to bother. You've seen all this before. With better presentation, sad to say.

Gemini Wing logo

VIRGIN MASTERTRONIC £19.99 * Joystick or Keyboard

The SoonDay Spirit newspaper has a good deal to answer for: not only are its endless 'Mutants Martians Turned My Son Roger Into A Hatstand' stories of a, shall we say, dubious nature, but now it's managed to upset the rest of the Universe with a particularly insidious example of the dubious art of hack journalism.

So, what do you when you're an alien with a grudge? You invade Earth and attempt to destroy it, naturally. Which is just what the rest of the sentient universe has decided to. But guess what? They hadn't figured on you being a pilot in the crack Gemini Wing space fighter squad.

Thus the scenario is set for this vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up involving one or two players. Duck, dive, bob and weave your way through stage after stage of invading aliens, dealing death to anything that happens to get in the way of your forward-firing lasers. Quite apart from the flying nasties, there are ground-based worm-like aliens that join in the hail of fire, so get in quick to destroy them before they obliterate you.

To make life a little easier you can pick up the occasional extra piece of fire-power called a Gunball, which some aliens drop when they're destroyed. Fly over these to collect them, after which they trail behind your craft until used. In a particularly tight spot, hold down the fire button and a Gunball is activated, functioning rather like a smart bomb. The effects, however, vary, for example, you have the Spiraling Circle of Death which explodes and takes out any aliens it hits as the discs fly away from your ship: then there's the awesome Windscreen Wiper of Death (a lovely, lovely name) which shoots out from both sides of your ship and destroys any aliens that get in its way as it cuts a swathe up the screen.

At the end of each stage there is an end-of-level guardian to dispose of before starting out on the next, more difficult, level. Just like its coin-op parent, Gemini Wing offers the player the chance to continue the game when all lives are used up, although only three restarts are allowed.


Colourful sprites that are smoothly animated and well-drawn backgrounds conspire to make the game look good. Sound is good too, with arcade jingles throughout and occasional spot effects.


Yet another vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up. All the bits are there - extra weapons, guardians and so on - but there's little that's at all new (the trailing Gunballs are nice but not revolutionary). It's about as difficult as you'd expect from a conversion (with the classic unreasonably difficult Stage Three) but the simultaneous two-player option increases the fun for a while.

Gemini Wing logo

Stirb, mutierter Weltraum-Abschaum!"- verständlich, daß diese Schlagzeile in der Galaktozeitung einigen Ärger beim Durchshnitts-Marsianer auslöste. Der Gemini Wing-Jäger, vollgestopft mit dem allerletzten Techno-Schrei aus Japan, ist auch längst einsatzbereit, um den bösen Worten ebensolche Taten folgen zu lassen.

Also nichts wie rein in den Fighter und hopp, hopp mal wieder die Erde gegen den Rest der Galaxis verteidigen. Man merkt schon, der 3759. Vertreter der Gattung "Horizontal-scrollendes Ballerspiel mit Extrawaffen" ist da!

Technisch ist Gemini Wing durchaus gelungen: Die Amiga-Programmierer haben sich viel Mühe gegeben, alle Features der Automatenversion (Tecmo) über zu bringen - mit Erfolg! Der Bildschirm scrollt sahneweich, und schier unglaubliche Sprite-Massen huschen über den Monitor. Die Grafik ist fast ebenso farbenfroh wie beim Arcade-Original, und die zahlreichen Musikstücke entschädigen für das Fehlen umwerfender Soundeffekte. Erwähnenswert sind auch die originellen Extrawaffen (wie z.B. der "Scheibenwischer des Todes") die man zudem beim Zwei-Spieler-Modus seinem Kollegen auch stibitzen kann - ein diebischer Spaß! Spielerisch reißt Gemini Wing allerdings keine großen Bäume aus. Die irren Extras überdecken eben nicht, daß das eigentliche Spiel meist nur mit der "Augen-zu-und-durch" Taktik zu bestehen ist.

Resümee: Eine gelungene Automatenadaption für mehrere Spieler, für Einzelkämpfer erscheint es mir dagegen hier und da zu wirr. (Frank Matzke)

Gemini Wing logo

C64, £9.99 cass
C64, £14.99 disk

Tabloid newspapers in the future won't be dissimilar to the ones we have now, according to the soothsayers at Virgin Mastertronic. Aliens from a far-off galaxy have been libelled by the 'Soon Day Spirit'. Will they sue? No - they are going to wipe out the Earth instead. Enter our last defences: the Gemini Wing.

What lies behind this strong contender for the 'Scenario of the Year' award is, in fact, a rather superior vertically scrolling shoot 'em up, with many of the usual features and a few unusual ones. The now standard collect-an-icon-to-upgrade-your-weapon system is still there, but has been altered slightly to create a 'gunball' system. When certain aliens are killed, they leave behind an icon, with up to six or seven hanging around waiting to be collected at any one time on screen. Naturally, with so many to collect, they do not all provide a better upgraded weapon. Each icon will provide a short burst of increased weapon fire, before your ship reverts to the standard weapon.

Unfortunately, this new system does not work as well as the more traditional tooling-up system. The availability and potency of the icons seems to be a fairly random event, which means you can get a long way with one game, and absolutely nowhere the next, because there are not any icons. This proves immensely frustrating, as it has little to do with skill, and a great deal to do with luck.

In addition, the fire button has to be held down for about a second before the upgraded weapon fire is released, and while a second is not very long, in the middle of a shoot 'em up it is plenty of time in which to die. Although over time you will learn to ration icons with a greater effect, it is still frustrating, and the more usual system is preferable.

As I have already mentioned, the action is incredibly fast and ferocious, with a myriad of different aliens attacking at once. Commendably, the speed of the game is maintained no matter how much is happening off screen, although the music slows a little. Sometimes there is just too much going on, with too many aliens and bullets heading your way, and the easiest way to get to the next section is to die and fly your next ship through while it is still at the usual 'flashing invincible' stage. I am sure that over time the player would become more adept at dodging so many aliens, but initially it is a little discouraging to die on such a regular basis. The sound is good, with a couple of nice tunes and sound effects, the graphics are blocky on occasion, and, at times, it is nigh on impossible to see what is going on.

This has, despite the power up problems, the makings of a good shoot' em up. It is just a shame that it is that little bit too frenetic and, visually, god-awful mess.

Gemini Wing logo

Virgin, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £19.99

The Soon-Day Spirit newspaper is the pinnacle of bad taste in the galaxy with its totally OTT headlines selling newspapers by the spacetruck load. Who can forget the classic 'Hitler was a Green Ninja Potato With A Custard Slice On Top' headline or the classic 'My Fiat Panda Started First Time' one liner - all unbelievable but sadly towards Earth events and current affairs.

The Soon-Day Journalists were particularly adept at avoiding the blame for their stories but it looks like they've overstepped the mark this time. With the 'Die Mutant Alien Scum' heading on the last issue they've really gone and riled up their alien readership good and proper. So much so, that yes, you've guessed it, they've gone to war. But the 'mutant alien scum' failed to notice of the Gemini Wing fighters and now they're about to regret it.

Lifting off, the fighters punch through the atmosphere destroying aliens ships in their way. Basic lasers are fine but by picking up the capsules left behind in the slimy alien wreckage the fighters can get powerful weapons like the Windscreen Wiper of Death and the Spiralling Circle of Death.

Of course, the aliens want to get in on the act and squash the Gemini Wing fighters flat. With the hordes of millipedes, spitting worms and narrow caverns as hazards they may just do it. Not only this but the big guns have been rolled out to combat the puny Earthlings - the giant walrus, firing deadly Smarties, or the rock creature with extendable eyes come out to play at level's end.

Robin Hogg Strange how the 64 version is a one-player game only (especially since the demo we saw last month had two fighters in it). Losing the two-player facility with its team spirit element is a serious disappointment, although the first few levels are playable and graphically attractive. If all you're looking for is a very playable blast, this isn't bad. On the Amiga there's the two-player mode, but the graphics are rather lacking in detail - the mother aliens are more cuddly than vicious and cruel. But like the C64 game it's all very playable, and there's some great music too.
Stuart Wynne While the Amiga graphics have a kind of naive charm, and there's an impressive variety of them, a serious attempt hasn't been made to do anything like a close coin-op conversion. The resulting game is an okayish two-player shoot-'em-up. Unlike the Amiga the C64 has had a vast quantity of smoothly-scrolling blasters written for it and sadly this just doesn't stand against such stiff competition as Armalyte.