Thexder logo

IF the name Thexder means absolutely zilch to you then you obviously aren't one of the 500,000 Japanese gamers that have made it one of the best selling titles in the land of the rising son. If you believe the claims on the packaging, Thexder is a game that was designed for 16 bit processors, and its colourful animation and hypnotic music will seduce even the most jaded computer player.

Maybe so, but if you aren't brain dead you will quickly realise that Thexder has been converted form the PC by Sierra-on-Line, a company that wouldn't know how to make good use of a 16 bit processor if it leapt up and bit it.

Thexder is heavily derived form the world of Japanese comics and cartoons, which explains the paucity of plot. You are trapped in a world with 16 levels and must disable the central computer at the end of the road to escape.

As Thexder the robot you can change into Thexder the jet, and so fly over ground-hogging foes. The trouble is that while it is easy to turn into the jet, it is also far too easy to return to robot form, which usually happens when you least want it to. Like when you're flying over an acid pit.

For defence there's a shield to keep the riff-raff away from your shiny Thexder, while for offence there's an auto-aim laser cannon. One press of the fire button and laser fire shoots out at every enemy on screen in turn. Yes, even if one is right next to you you'll have to wait until the laser finds its way round to it.

Actually this laser fire gives the impression that Thexder is lashing the opposition with spaghetti, which might have been a good laugh if that had been implemented. As it is, it simply looks like third rate programming.

If you like classical music, specifically Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata then Sierra has torture in store for you. It accompanies the action, becoming more frenzied as things hot up. But unless you're deaf you'll have turned it off by then.

It all sounds like bad news so far, and that's because it is. But there is one small treat in store: The entire first level is not only mapped, but contains instructions on how to get through in one piece.

Apart from that, this is a pretty dismal offering with as much depth as a puddle and all the elegance of a Sumo wrestler.

Thexder logo


Billed as the best selling action game from Japan with over half a million units sold, Thexder is a little like living in Tokyo - space is scarce, the food alive, and the action frantic. Add to that the fact that you pilot a 'Hyper Dual-armor Robot Jet Transformer', armed with heat seeking lasers, battling hundreds of bizarre creatures and you might get an idea of how the Japanese deal with claustrophobia.

There are 20 different nasties inhabiting the 16 levels of caverns, tunnels and cargo holds comprising yet another of those forbidden worlds run by an evil computer. You have to trace the various mazes, dodge the booby traps and maintain your energy by, yes, you guessed it, killing things.

The most difficult stages are to be found at the beginnings and ends of levels, and as the Robot Jet Transformer does not do its transforming all that easily, you can find yourself unable to flip just when you most need to. Whether this is a feature or a bug is unclear. Also, the heat seeking lasers have a habit of hitting the nearest creature or lava pool to hand - even if it is the other side of a wall. However, when combat gets tight they are wonderful things to have. No need to aim - just blast.

It is a shame though that Thexder, like other games ported over to the Amiga, has not been spruced up more to make fuller use of the machine's facilities. The graphics on this one are adequate, with the sound made up of a simple melody with overlaid machine gun fire, and even Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata kicking around in there somewhere. Maybe it should have been the Ninth Symphony; it would still barely be enough time for you to get through all 16 levels of Thexder!

Thexder logo

Activision/Sierra On-line
Price: £19.95

If you ever wanted to see a classic example of the term 'hard sell' you would be well advised to take a look at the blurb on the packaging of Thexder, the latest release from Sierra via Activision.

So much space is used up to tell you how the game 'offers more music, animation and gameplay than you ever thought possible from a computer game' that there is very little room left to tell you what the game is all about! There is also the impressive claim that Thexder has sold half a million copies in Japan. However when you realise that many average a million the claim falls flat.

Thexder is a robot and one day, for some inexplicable reason it has decided to risk its cybernetic limbs and circuit board by venturing into a huge fortress inhabited by a variety of weird but not necessarily wonderful creatures. It is a case of Rolling Thunder meets Barbarian. Thexder runs from left to right through the futuristic complex, fighting off the hordes of nasties with his eyeball lasers (yes, they do fire out of his eyeballs!).

The lasers lock onto their target automatically, so no targeting skill is needed. You do however need to be quick on the draw (blink?) to wipe them out as they are infuriatingly fast and deplete your energy level equally quickly should they touch you.

It won't be long before you come across downward pathways which, if you wish to explore, require you to transmute into an airborne jet fighter (yes, it is Deceptions and Autobots time) by hitting the SHIFT key. It is then possible to fly deeper into the maze, and deeper into danger. The REALLY nasty nasties soon appear and range from mutant jellyfish to rotating hamburgers, all of which can sap your energy in a few seconds, should you stray into them.

If you can survive the meanies long enough, you can progress to the next level. And that, apart for the ability to shoot certain aliens to retrieve energy, is all there is to it. There are no real game objectives, apart from trying to get as far as you can into the complex.

There are not even any end-of-level guardians to fight. Coupled with the incredibly infuriating gameplay (watch in bewilderment as your energy drops from 100% to zero in less than three seconds) is what makes Thexder one of the least enjoyable and most tiresome Amiga games I have ever played.

Had the game possessed the amazing graphics and sound the packaging continually promised, it might have been more exciting to play, but it fails to deliver in these departments as well. The alien sprites are minute and poorly defined, with only a few frames of animation (even Thexder himself hobbles as if he is suffering from multiple verrukas) whilst the backdrops, if you can call them that are basic and badly coloured with little variation from level to level.

There is no improvement sonically either. An awful Spectrumesque 'tune' grates through the entire proceedings, with the only alternative being the weak and sparsely used sound effects. To make matters worse, there is an abomination of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on the title screen. I can hear the great man himself turning in his grave as I write. If that was not enough to make you invest in a pair of earplugs, the speech will. It is in Japanese!

Synergistic Software (the people responsible for the excellent Sidewinder) have done their best to convert this mediocre program to the Amiga, but after 30 minutes of play you are left wondering why they even bothered (if you are still awake). I suspect they were offered loadsayen.

A shame really, as games such as Wizball and the incredible Interceptor show what the Amiga is capable of, so why we are still receiving drivel such as this when it has been made quite clear that Amiga owners want and deserve much better is beyond me. This won't sell half-a-dozen on the Amiga let along half a million.