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In which Andy Smith flies through the sky and changes shape. He's obviously been on the 'Crazy Shooting Powder' again...

Shoot-em-ups are, fortunately, an addiction that won't generally lose you friends, family and self-esteem. But then again... naw, they're harmless stuff and can be a great blast when you're in the mood. They've been the backbone games genre since, well, since people started playing games.

This particularly little bundle's a sideways-scrolling affair, taking you through six levels of the usual shoot-em-up adversaries - flying baddies, ground baddies, and end of level baddies - where you simply try to survive for as long as possible.

Everything about the game is stunningly average or worse. There are a couple of nice graphic effects, like the shimmering windows on the office blocks you're flying past, but for the most part it looks decidedly home-made. It's worse, because they've made it extremely difficult to see the little red dots that the enemies fire at you in amongst the general background mess.

Powder has no new ideas and only manages to lift itself slightly from mediocrity by allowing the player to change weapons. You start the game with only a three-way gun and two credits. However, by moving left and right on the joystick (which, incredibly, you have to do anyway to avoid the shots fired at you_ you can highlight different weapon icons at the bottom of the screen. Then, by either rotating the joystick(!) or hitting the space bar, you can change your ship and your weapon

Everything about the game is stunningly average or worse... for the most part it looks decidedly home-made

Some weapons are more effective against certain targets that others so the general idea's to change weapon when you've reached a certain part of the level and then change again when you're onto the next wave or whatever.

Sadly though, you can't just change when you want to because your ability to morph is dictated by the size of your credit balance and that's controlled by the number of points you score.

There's also not a great deal of difference between the weapons. You might think the one with the small laser and homing missiles is better than the powerful laser but it's not really. By the time your homing missiles have wandered all around the screen, you've probably zipped about and destroyed the target they were aiming for anyway.

Shoot-em-ups may be the mainstay of simple, addictive gaming but they really need to be fun and enjoyable to be worth spending more than the cost of a blank disk on.

Powder just isn't worth spending any money on at all, and about the only thing I could really say about it is to just say 'No'.