Hellbent logo

IN the year 3530 Captain Drak Hellbent carried out a feat of daring and bravery that has yet to be surpassed. Single-handedly he annihilated the Kraellian usurpers of Aldonicha, displaying to all and sundry the absolute supremacy of the Stellarfleet empire. Hellbent, a vertical scrolling shoot-'em-up, is a computer simulation of this historic event.

The Aldonichian landscape is divided into 10 regions and your objective is to destroy enough of the ground forces in each to be allowed to enter the next region.

Ground targets can only be destroyed by laser blasts, which are fired at an altitude of no more than a few feet above the ground. This means that much of your time will be spent flying between buildings - a difficult feat under ideal conditions, a monumental task on the battlefield.

On level one a steady stream of enemy fighters attempts to shoot or ram your ship. Thankfully their efforts can be largely ignored. The main obstacle en route to success is your own heavy handedness.

Your fighter has a phenomenal turn of speed, accelerating form 0 to 60 in milliseconds. Combine this thrust with a twisting path through the built-up regions and you have a recipe for disaster. Your first few sorties will be short ones.

Fuel consumption is the second game-limiting factor. I had scrolled no more than a foot before the Fuel Low indicator began to flash.

Stocks of fuel can be replenished by flying over the small grey silos that have thoughtfully been labelled with a large letter F. Similarly your shields can be recharged by flying over an S. Another features of these two types of silo is their ability to provide the skilful pilot with bonus points and lives.

As the last target crumbles to dust you are prompted to exit via the north gate and move on to region two. This second zone is far less hospitable than the first - enemy activity has doubled and loss of shields is now a very real threat.

A feature that soon becomes apparent is the fact that you can no longer fly over the ground targets unharmed - you must blast your way through a veritable forest of obstacles. On top of all this the aliens have installed laser fences that activate at regular intervals, preventing your further progress.

Hellbent logo

Price: £19.99

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but an Amiga is as far a step up the ladder to a Spectrum as a full sit down Galaxy Force II cabinet is to Space Wars console. If this is the case, then why has Novagen added a most Spectrumlike opening to their fairly mediocre shoot-'em-up, complete with a little sound effect that made everybody in the office look at their digital watches with alarm?

The game is nothing but the most basic of vertical scrolling blasters. The idea on each level is to blow up as many ground targets as possible without (a) running out of fuel (b) getting shot down or (c) crashing into anything.

Control is very similar to that used in Uridium. Pushing the joystick in the direction you're travelling (either up or down) results in you accelerating in that direction. Pushing the joystick in the opposite direction results in your decelerating and just when you think you can go no slower, you flip over and start flying in the opposite direction.

The problem here is, even if you are flying at the slowest possible speed, it still takes an age to flip and so you invariably hit the obstacle you were trying to flip away from.

The other thing that ruins the game is the rate at which you lose fuel. It drops at an alarming rate when you're moving slowly, but when you pick up speed, it's impossible to get anywhere.

Graphics are relatively well defined but it's all a bit samey. The scrolling is fairly smooth, but that's no saving grace when the game's no good.

Sound is poor, very poor indeed. It opens, as I said, with a Spectrumlike series of ascending beeps. All the usual explosive sound effects that used to be good are there, but come on, they're a bit old hat now. The title tune is awful.

Generally a terrible game. Boring graphics, sad sound and an almost complete lack of any playability or addictiveness. This kind of game does Novagen no good at all.

Hellbent logo

Novagen, £19.95

Drak Hellbent was a storyteller. He went around bragging about his exploits, especially the one when he 'totally annihilated the Kraellian usurpers throughout Aldonicha'.

'Ooh, there was millions of 'em son,' he would groan, 'comin' at me from all directions. But I showed 'em who was the boss! Oh yessirree!'

He would burble on in this vein for quite a while, until someone had the idea of recreating his adventures on a computer. Eventually the simulation was ready, taken from the pieces of information gleaned from Drak's stories. Unfortunately in each version of the story, everything would look different, so the programmers included them all on seperate planes. The time came for the testing - and who better than Drak Hellbent to carry it out?

'I'll show you how it's done,' he bellowed, only for his ship to explode on screen within a few seconds. When last seen he was walking away, shaking and muttering 'Hot, sweet tea' over and over again. The children began to have doubts...

Gordon Houghton I think the graphics in Hellbent are brilliant. I also think the sound's brilliant, I think the gameplay's brilliant, and I think I'm lying. We have come to expect more than this from Novagen, especially with games like Backlash and Mercenary to their credit, but Hellbent appears as a very dark blot on their copy-book. Graphics are mediocre, sound is terrible, and gameplay is... frustrating. £20 to spare? Buy something else.
Maff Evans Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a sucker for a shoot 'em up. Boom-blast-bang and I'm happy. However, I've got to draw the line somewhere, and Hellbent appears well below that line. The graphics are OK, everything else is terrible. The sound is extremely infuriating, going bleepity-beep-beep for ages (I even heard a few samples from a 64, for godsake) and the gameplay is as much fun as wading through treacle. One of the worst shoot 'em ups I've seen for a long time.
Zzap's Drunken Thing: Ignore me! I'm p****d!