No Excuses logo

THIS is something a little bit fresh in the world of shoot-'em-ups. Put at its simplest, No Excuses offers a large helping of manic mayhem which also demands more than a smidgeon of intelligence.

You control Strider, a plump blue robot with wide eyes, long stick insect-like legs, and a cannon that simultaneously fires vertically and horizontally. The playing area across which Strider roams - forwards, backwards, left and right - is a large three-dimensional grid. Hovering above it is a well distributed flock of aliens, green puddings with unpleasant faces and arms where their wings should be.

Like our old mates of Space Invader days, these flying fiends move lower with every pass of a width or length of the grid and one touch from them costs our hero a life.

But Strider doesn't have to wait until they've landed on the grid before blasting them - he can pick them off in mid-air when they zoom directly overhead, which is easier said than done.

Control could have been made a little smoother - changing direction is almost a two-stage job with a joystick.

In addition to the greenies, Strider must avoid the bombs which rain down. He has another trick up his sleeve, a quick press on the special panic button causes him to be enveloped ina temporary indestructible bubble.

Once he's blatted all the aliens, Strider must head for the single square containing a key symbol. Once he's done that, he moves on to a new grid. There are 50 levels, consequently oodles of alien annihilation to get your teeth into.

It's not only the aliens that cause problems for Strider. Some of the squares have different properties at the beginning of a stage or are given these properties by being hit by a special bomb.

A square might become sticky, radioactive, unstable or impassable. It might disappear altogether, become a deadly time bomb or impart fatal electric shocks. And that's but a few of the for instances.

It's not all bad news, some squares reward Strider with bonus lives, extra bubbles or lives' other impart special powers.

The graphics and animation are pretty good and the digitised spot effects add to the fun.

There's a choice of control devices - keyboard, mouse or joystick - and, if you prefer the keyboard, you can redefine it to your own taste.

Finally, there's a built-in construction set that's dead easy to use. Even the pre-supplied screens have random factors associated with them, so they are different every time you play.

No Excuses is good fare - varied, attractive, challenging, totally pointless but exceedingly addictive. Despite the controls, it's the sort of game that should get you playing well into the wee small hours and then coming back for more,.

No Excuses logo

Price: £19.95

Anybody out there remember Arcana? I know I do. If you're one of the people out there who's scratching your little head and saying 'I know that name from somewhere?' then here's a little memory jogger. They released one of the first Amiga games a while back by the name of Powerplay (The Game of the Gods). Quite good it was too.

No Excuses is, in as concise a way as I can put it an isometric 3D single screen puzzlegame with quite a lot of blasting and dodging. You play a little insect life form whose sole purpose in life is to destroy all the free-roaming aliens in each of his world's 50 planes (the flat kind not the airborne kind).

On each of the 50 levels, there are varying kinds and amounts of aliens. These vary from airborne greenies that swoop lower each time they pass, reach ground level then fly directly upwards and reappear somewhere else to do their amazing swooping trick again. Then there are the aliens that swoop down, land on the ground and sit waiting to be shot. Finally, there are the aliens that swoop,land and shoot at you from ground level.

As you wander about, you can attack in two ways. You can fire directly upward to shoot down the swooping aliens and you can shoot at ground level to take out the landed aliens. As the nasties swoop lower and lower, they reach a stage where they are no longer above you, but aren't quite at ground level. At this point they can't be shot.

There are two ways to get out of a situation like this. First, and probably the easiest, is to move out of the way. Pretty easy to do as the aliens move in straight lines only. If you should find yourself in a position where you simply haven't the time to move, or you haven't the reflexes, or you're eating your dinner, then you can activate one of your shields.

At the start of the game you have three to use wisely, and when activated via the keyboard, an impenetrable dome appears over the character which stops anything from getting in, but sadly also stops you from moving anywhere for a few seconds.

As you go on, the ground pattern gets more and more complex, and lots of different tiles appear. Some do all the usual things like slide you along, push you in the wrong direction, freeze you, blow you up, disappear, etc. My favourite one is the Superman brick. When you walk over this, you turn into the man of steel himself and don the old red cape with the 'S' on the back. This lets you run at double speed and gives you invincibility for a limited time.

The game also contains a comprehensive editor, which allows you to alter existing floor plans or create new ones, which includes putting down tiles and changes the number of aliens from 3 to 298 (x99).

Graphics are fine, and indeed they do serve their purpose. I couldn't help feeling that they were a little too simplistic. A little more detail perhaps would have helped the game out from its rather bland look.

The sound is fab. There's a multitude of really clear samples that have been expertly 'mucked about' with. The noise when you die is emphatically good.

No Excuses is fun, but when it comes down to it, it's really nothing more than 50 levels of stand on the right square, press fire, and then stand on this square, press fire, etc etc. That said, it's good for an hour or two.

No Excuses logo

Arcana, £19.95

The time is the future (isn't it always?). Psychologists and electro-scientists have got together to find a way of exploring the inner reaches of the mind. Unfortunately the system latched on the fears and hates of the objects using it, amplifying them into grotesque creatures from their group ID.

The scientists developed a probe named Strider, controlled by a person under deep hypnosis - a state at which they can reject any fears and anxieties - so that a battle could take place within the mind-grid. Aliens roam the grid and drop bombs which affect it in various ways, such as destroying a block or turning them to jelly. Yum yum.

Kati Hamza No Excuses has all the trademarks that are usually attributed to a budget game; simplistic graphics, iffy sound and unrewarding gameplay. The problem is that it costs 20 quid! Hardly a budget price, I'm sure you'll agree. The movement is thoroughly confusing and most of the time I couldn't tell which direction the Strider was facing. On completion of the first monotonous level, imagine my dismay on seeing that the next level played exactly the same. Agh! No Excuses is a dull game that has been priced way out of its league.
Maff Evans It's difficult to think of anything constructive to say about a game like No Excuses. You've got a grid designer, I suppose. But this doesn't help when all is't useful for is designing levels for a really dull game. After struggling with the controls for a few goes, I worked out what was going on. It was that it dawned to me that was no real game to speak of. Move a bit, turn, fire, move a bit, then fire... that's just about it. After releasing the best trivia game available (Powerplay), it's not a good idea to release a sub-standard blasting game such as this at £20! Come on!