Where's J.R. Hartley when you need him?

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DOMARK * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

What a rum old place the sea is. It's big. It's wet and it's full of slimy creatures that bite and sting you. And it's cold. And it's infested with cyborg sharks, lizard women and murderous frogmen. Is it? Well, it is if you happen to be swimming near Madame Q's underwater hide-out. And what's Thunder Jaws about? Swimming into Madame Q's underwater hide-out, that's what. Yikes.

So who is Madame Q? Well, not only is she a heartless and pesky super villainess, but she's also the first person in the 'Q' section in the phonebook. Someone, somewhere has got mighty annoyed with Ms. Q - possibly the people who compile the phone book - and they've sent a crack commando squad to get her. Guess who controls said commando team? Yus, 'this you. So we've heard the story a million times before, but that never stopped them making six Police Academy films did it? Thankfully though, Thunder Jaws is nowhere near as biz as Police Academy. Thank Hovis for that, eh pop pickers?

What we have here, for those who haven't guessed, is a scrolling shoot-'em-up. What a fabulous surprise! We haven't had one of these in the office since, ooh, yesterday.
But, lo and behold, it's a bit of a "spanker". Let's put on our dayglo' beach shorts and wade in deeper... The game is split into two main sections. An underwater swimmy bit, and a nice dry indoors shooty bit. As you make your way towards Madame Q's base, it alternates between the two.

So at the end of each underwater bit you'll reach an indoors section to shoot your way in to, and at the end of each indoors section you'll find, wait for it, a big end-of-level nasty guarding the hatchway to the next underwater bit.

It's a nice concept and it makes the gameplay a little less repetitive. Personally I found the underwater bits a tad easier, but that doesn't mean that they're merely there to fill space between the indoor bits. On both sections the difficulty level is set so that just when you think you've got the hang of it something bigger and meaner comes along and stomps on your head. It makes for some pretty addictive gameplay, I can tell you.

There's the essential two player mode, which makes things easier, and of course you get the collectable weapons which are pretty good, actually. All the usual features from a shooty game but with enough nibbly bits to make it fun, basically.

The graphics are average, but some of the animation on the sharks is verging on the "very dodgy indeed" side. On the indoors section things look up with some much bigger graphics, and much more varied opponents. Unfortunately the pace of the game doesn't seem to have left our heroes any time to change out of their wetsuits, so they tromp through the section looking like outcasts from Rainbow.

Sound is well catered for, with an atmospheric Jaws-type tune playing during the opening animation - which is pretty good, if totally irrelevant - and some thumping tunes and FX to spice up the actual game. Nothing spectacular, but nothing too distressing either. Bravo!

So there you have it, Thunder Jaws is a pretty good shoot-'em-up with a little bit of variety. And lots of fish.

Big Weapons
What big weapons these Thunder Jaws fellas have! Here's what they are and what they do...
ThunderjawsThe Uzi 9mm doesn't just inspire countless Arnie impersonations, it also gives you a rapid stream of bullets. ThunderjawsThe rocket launcher allows you to fire massively destructive torpedoes. Yum yum. ThunderjawsThe flame thrower is the best weapon. It releases a huge jet flame which toasts the enemy. Wahey! ThunderjawsNo shoot-'em-up would be complete without three-way bullets so, er, here they are. ThunderjawsThe heat seekers will hunt down the enemy even if they're above you. Isn't that gorgeous?

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Domark £25.99

A horizontal scrolling scuba diving shoot-'em-up and a leaping platform romp. You swim through a nest of nasties to reach a platform section then go back into the water.

It is a multi-level, multi-style game that stresses joystick action above cerebral functions. Bright and colourful graphics that animate. That is being polite.

Thunderjaws lacks real bite as the action offers little variety despite the regular changes of environment. There is no real spectacle and little threat. Thunderjaws was a weak arcade and not surprisingly the computer version fares little better.

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Domarks Umsetzungen von Tengen-Automaten sind manchmal eine etwas verwaschene Angelegenheit, am Amiga sind ja jüngst erst "Hydra" und "Stun Runner" baden gegangen. Und wie's aussieht, sind auch die Donnerhaie eher ein Schlag ins Wasser.

...oder vielmehr ein Sturm im Wasserglas: Madame Q entführt harmlose Schwimmerinnen in ihr Tiefseelabor, um sie als Versuchskarnickel für ihre Gen-Experimente zu mißbrauchen. So geht es natürlich nicht, also zwängen sich ein oder zwei Spieler in die Gummihaut und nehmen den Kampf gegen bissige Haie und schießwütige Taucher auf.

Unter Wasser ruckelt der Meeresgrund horizontal durchs Bild, Freund und Feind bewegen sich ausgesprochen träge - das mag ja realistisch sein, besonders amüsant ist es nicht. So paddelt man also dahin, killt die Gegner mit der Harpune und sammelt ihre Hinterlassenschaft (Energiepillen und wenig hilfreiche Extrawaffen) ein.

Nicht weiter schwierig, schon bald ist der Eingang zu Madame Q's erster Höhle erreicht, wo es im Laufschritt Cyber-Punks und Techno-Spinnen an den Kragen geht. Allerdings tauchen oft so viele Gegner gleichzeitig auf, daß es hier ebenso schnell den eigenen fünf Leben an den Kragen geht!

Tja, und so wechselt sich halt fades Tauchen mit unfairen Fußmärschen ab, für ein bißchen Abwechslung sorgen allein die Zwischengegner. Dabei geriet die technische Ausführung fast so schlampig, wie das Gameplay einfallslos ist: mittelprächtige Grafik, 08/15-Musik und FX, mangelhafte Kollisionsabfrage und endlose Wartezeiten. Nö, Thunderjaws ist wirklich zu dünn (flüßig), da gucken wir doch lieber unserem Goldfisch zu... (rl)

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Reviewing For Beginners, Lesson One. "Thunderjaws exhibits everything that's bad in the field of coin-op conversions." Discuss.

Reviewing For Beginners, Lesson Two. In your own words, describe fully (giving examples where necessary) why flimsy, characterless graphics, blippy sound effects, slow, shallow and tedious gameplay which adds nothing to the creaky old Rolling Thunder genre (which wasn't exactly groundbreaking when it first appeared about four years ago anyway), and a finished product with serious bugs still in it (such as losing a life, then re-appearing in the middle of a floor and immediately losing all your lives without being able to do anything about it) are unacceptable characteristics of a full-price Amiga game in 1991.

Reviewing For Beginners, Lesson Three. In two hundred words or less, formulate a convincing explanation to support the statement "I'd rather have my liver pierced with a rusty fork and undergo a particularly unpleasant series of rabies inoculations than have to play this quite disgracefully boring and incompetent production-line conversion job every again."

Reviewing For Beginners, Lesson Four. Arrange the following words into a well-known phrase or sentence: crap load Thunderjaws is a.

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A bit of a sleeper in its arcade form, Thunderjaws has finally made it to the Amiga after a six-month development time.

Unfortunately, though, the premise set by the game's brilliant scenario isn't quite borne out by the game itself. Set in the not-too-distant future, the voluptuous but thoroughly evil Madame Q has set up a sprawling underwater base and is kidnapping thousands of beautiful babes for her unnatural experiments. Thus, with a shortage of well-rounded cuties about to hit the western hemisphere, the government has acted by sending in a team of experts to free the hostages and put an end to Madame Q's meddling.

Converted from the obscure Tengen coin-op, Thunderjaws is the work of Neil Harding and Lloyd Baker, who have been battling with the conversion since January. However, although the gameplay has been recreated faithfully, it still comes across as tired and, frankly, far from exciting or addictive. These problems have been inherited from the coin-op, though, so fans of both the arcade parent and the Amiga version of Rolling Thunder (which Thunderjaws is the unofficial sequel to) should be happy with the conversion. In all, Madame Q's aquatic base spans thirteen areas, and standing between our two lantern-jawed heroes and the final face-off are a series of horizontally-scrolling stages featuring all manner of mutated and robotic nasties.

Before the game enters its familiar Rolling Thunder territory, the actual gameplay is split into two distinct gamestyles, with the two heroes initially left to swim through shark and mine-infested waters until they reach one of the bases.

Starting out in the murky seas leading up to the first base, the diver (or divers in two-player mode) start the game armed with a trusty harpoon and an unlimited supply of spears. From either side of the screen, cybernetic sharks, enemy divers, and assorted mines appear, and these must be avoided or one of your three lives will be lost.

The coin-op's sprites were large and bold, with massive bio-mechanical sharks and suitably beefy divers pouncing on the unwitting player, and to say that the conversions' sprites are a little disappointing is a massive understatement. I understand that Domark were forced to reduce them so that the entire game could be squeezed into the Amiga, but the tiny divers and miniature sharks are far from impressive and can hardly be described as imposing or menacing and give the game an unfortunate 8-bit look.

Things start to look up on entering the base itself. The puny sprites of the underwater section are replaced by chunkier and more colourful characters, and there are some impressive end-of-level guardians. However, the animation undermines this initial good impression. As progress is made towards the wayward Madame Q, the levels start to expand with the addition of ladders which take the game away from the normally horizontally-scrolling area, and into a large, eight-way-scrolling shoot 'em up. However, as he struggles up the ladder, the animation on the main character is nothing short of laughable, and mars an otherwise good section.

These two gamestyles are swapped between as the two heroes progress, and the levels get harder as the enemy's intelligence is raised. The original coin-op was very cash-intensive, with the enemy attacking in their droves, and the necessary extra weaponry rarely available (unless more cash was inserted). In the cause of good gameplay, though, Neil has incorporated a system where the weapons appear slightly before you need them, and this makes the game far more playable. I don't want to sound unnecessarily hard on Thunderjaws because as conversions go it is more than satisfying.

However, the disappointing graphics and animation let it down badly and make an otherwise playable game look worse than it is. The improvements that Neil has made over the coin-op make the game easier to get into and more addictive to play, but my overall impression is of a weak game.

A playable conversion, but one for die-hard fans of the coin-op and its predecessor only methinks.

DRAWING THE LINE... The recent batch of arcade machines enable the player to complete them simply by pumping wads of cash into them. And whilst these massive beasts feature incredible graphics, the added difficulty means they are far from playable. This particularly affects conversions, too, and just recently a line has had to be drawn so that a good balance between playability and difficulty is kept, whilst ensuring that the changes don't impair the gameplay at all. Thunderjaws is a perfect example of this, and the original coin-op's extra weapons were scattered liberally through the game and would expire just when they were needed the most. However, The Kremlin's John Kavanagh (the leader of the Thunderjaws team) wanted to make the game as playable as possible, and asked Neil to come up with a better system. And the result does actually make a difference without sacrificing the closeness of the conversion.