by Christian F. Urquhart, Mike Smith, Steve Weston
Hewson Consultants Ltd
Crash Issue 41, Jun 1987   page(s) 34

Producer: Hewson
Retail Price: £7.95
Author: Christian Urquhart and Mike Smith

A distant ice-clad planet is under attack from the dreaded Destrovians, with its complex plutonium pipework being the saboteurs' prime target. Others have tried and failed to eradicate these attackers - now Gunrunner remains the only hope for this beleaguered world.

Each of the game's ten levels consists of a pipework landscape on a horizontally-scrolling screen. Gunrunner moves left and right through this, jumping and kneeling where necessary - collecting a jetpack allows him to fly up and down to greater heights and depths.

As he moves forward, groups of Destrovians attack from both left and right, moving in at varying speeds and heights. Contact removes one of 'Runner's three lives, with those remaining shown at the top right. On losing a life, our hero restarts from the beginning of the present level.

Gunrunner must also beware of dangerous gaps in the pipework; booby-trapped Destrovian supply domes; perilous, opening bomb doors: mines (against which there is no protection); and pedestal-mounted scanning orbs (unarmed but worth valuable points).

A blaster constitutes our hero's only protection at the beginning of each level. This destroys aliens and scanning orbs, with points awarded for each and a total shown at the top left. A bonus is added when 15,000 points have been earned.

To upgrade his weaponry, Gunrunner picks up equipment discarded by previous resistance fighters. This includes; a Multi-fire Unit which converts his blaster into a rapid-fire tri-directional weapon; a shield with finite energy reserves giving protection against contact with Destrovians (a status indicator shows remaining energy levels); a short duration jet-pack; and a poison device which eliminates all aliens in the immediate area - but only on limited occasions. This extra equipment is acquired by touch, and more than one piece can be carried simultaneously. An onscreen message indicates if a jet-pack, shield or poison is currently in our hero's possession. In the absence of a shield, contact with a Destrovian removes all of Gunrunner's collected equipment.

A level is completed upon reaching the striped emergency defence computer. Gunrunner then automatically receives a jetpack to help him fight his way to the next level within the specified time limit.


Control keys: definable
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Use of colour: background colours vary on generally monochrome playing area
Graphics: good definition, large, but lacking in variety
Sound: a bit thin on FX
Skill levels: one
Screens: ten scrolling landscapes of increasing difficulty

Hewson's considerable reputation led me to expect a great deal from Gunrunner. However, I was disappointed. While the packaging and general presentation are all that I expected, the game itself is not; although I'm sure that many companies would be proud of a shoot 'em up of this calibre. The graphics are reasonable despite the scrolling jerking occasionally, but I found ft lacking in gameplay, and consequently unaddictive. The format is becoming dated, and it's a bit much to ask £7.95 for an ordinary shoot 'em up.

Shoot 'em ups can be good if they're playable - but Gunrunner lacks any positive points, and to my mind is a failure due to its unfriendly feel. The graphics, which are the game's most attractive aspect, are too squarely drawn to be inspiring. Sound is also limited, being confined to a few neat in-game effects and an average title tune. Gunrunner is off-putting from the start, and once I had mastered it I could find nothing to make me have another go.

I'm disappointed, because this is the first unfortunate game Hewson has produced. The presentation is good, especially the loading screen with its scrolling message and excellent tune. However, the package is a little too similar to Uridium for my liking - the monochromatic playing area, the alien attack patterns and the aliens themselves all bear an uncanny resemblance to the aforementioned masterpiece. Gunrunner isn't compelling or playable enough to earn my recommendation.

Presentation: 86%
Graphics: 64%
Playability: 48%
Addictive Qualities: 49%
Value for Money: 52%
Overall: 55%

Summary: General Rating: Something of a surprise from Hewson, normally associated with high-content games - a rather ordinary and not very addictive shoot 'em up.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 64, May 1989   page(s) 31


Long ago in a galaxy far away, there was a Planet called Zero. The population were a peace loving race who used plutonium to heat their frozen world. But the evil Destrovians were attracted to Zero by its rich plutonium deposits, and began plundering the planet. Time to send for... The Gunrunner.

Produced by Christian Urquhart and Mike Smith you'd expect something pretty darn good, but apart from some nifty background graphics this is a dull and disappointing game. Your character, who looks and acts as if in a deep-sea diver's suit, must simply run to the right and shoot all in his path. Gunrunner is a mediocre shoot- 'em-up which may provide a couple of hours entertainment, but will soon end up gathering dust on the software shell.

Then: 55% Now: 50%

Overall: 50%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 18, Jun 1987   page(s) 94,95


Millions of years ago, when earth was just a cooling blob of molten custard (or was it Angel Delight? Science was never my strong point) the people of the planet Zero had a spot of local difficulty.

Living below their planet surface (it was a bit nippy upstairs - ice age and all that) they were prone to attack by the less than chummy Destrovians, who wished to blag their plutonium. Teams of saboteurs would disrupt the outer networks of tubes and piping (which carried the plutonium to the heating plants) and the Zeronians faced a chilly future.

Heroes had tried in the past, of course, to rid the pipeworks of their alien invaders - what else are heroes for? - but they hadn't lasted long. The Zero High Council was desperate. So desperate, in fact, that they chose you to have a go. You made your will, kissed your wife and 43 small children goodbye, and off you went, facing almost certain doom...

But what a doom! Ten scrolling networks of pipes, tubes and hi-tech knick-knacks! Lethal formations of flying aliens stinging you in the heretofores and wherewithals! Yup, we're in Shoot 'Em Up Land, that curious country where bullets never run out, bombs can be dodged and the aliens' idea of strategy is flying at you in a straight line. Gun Runner is a fine example of the species, combining elements of Cobra and Uridium to excellent effect.

The course runs from left to right, although the Destrovians come in both directions. Your target on each level is a tower to the far right - if you regain control of that the level is yours. On the way you can pick up several pieces of equipment. The Multifire gun blasts faster and in three directions, while Poison is Gun Runner's smart bomb equivalent. A Jet Pack lets you fly around the screen for a brief period, and a Shield protects you from everything for an even shorter time. If you're not shielded, you'll lose any equipment you've picked up if you hit a Destrovian - if you have no equipment, of course, you're deaded.

The Destrovians themselves attack usually in fours (if you knock some off, the usrviviors have another go) and in any of several formations. Some are slow enough to be picked off almost at your leisure, but others, randomly it would seem, are viciously fast, and if you're facing the wrong way you have no chance. Certainly it's these megaswift attacks that always cause my downfall.

Other bits and bobs for you to blast are the Destrovians'scanning orbs, which are otherwise harmless, and domes which contain the aliens'supplies. Be careful what you do with these 'cos they're often booby-trapped. Watch out also for bombs, which just have to be dodged, and bits of broken pipework.

It's all been neatly put together by Christian Urquhart and Mike Smith. In these post-Uridium days Gun Runner is scarcely original, but it's a fast, efficient and by no means easy shooter which Cobra fans particularly should take a look at. And at least there aren't any hamburgers!

Graphics: 8/10
Playability: 7/10
Value For Money: 8/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 41, May 1989   page(s) 51


Chirpy, chirpy, cheap, cheap, chirpy, chirpy, cheap, cheap, chirpy, chirpy, cheap, cheap, BLAM! Nuff of that it's time for another trip to Cheapsville, with Marcus "mothballs-in-the-wallet" Berkmann!

Reviewer: Marcus Berkmann

Now if it's HARD shoot em ups you're into, this is the business. Gunrunner first appeared from Hewson in 1987, and it hasn't aged a picosecond. The scenario's simple enough - you're another of those lone warriors protecting the universe against a load of alien thingies whose idea of strategy is flying around in a straight line, waiting to be picked off.

Running from left to right along a network of pipes and things on the surface of the planet Zero, you encounter some of the zappiest nasties this side of Mike Tyson, and all against a clear monochrome background. It's smooth, it's fast, it's different (a little like Uridium crossed with Cobra), and it's viciously hard - not to be tried by anyone who doesn't like a challenge. There are certain goodies you can pick up along the way - a jet pac, for instance, lets you fly around the screen for a brief period, while a shield grants you temporary invincibility - but essentially it's blast-and-avoid, blast-and-avoid. Cracking good fun, and another reason why a Hewson's Greatest Hits would be a memorable addition to anyone's software library. (So why haven't you done one, Andrew?)

Overall: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 63, Jun 1987   page(s) 38

Label: Hewson
Author: Christian Urquhart
Price: £7.95
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

Gunrunner is a tough game to review. It's not that it's particularly difficult. It's not that it's particularly fantastic. And it's certainly not atrocious. But you couldn't really get away with calling it mediocre either.

The storyline behind the game is simple. You (GunRunner) inhabit a planet by the name of Zero. Zero is cold, and its inhabitants protect themselves from the ice-age with nuclear power and a network of reactor-cooling hot pipes over the surface of the planet.

Alien worlds, in this case Destrovia, find the lure of the valuable plutonium that runs along the pipes from reactor to reactor too strong and take it upon themselves to steal some.

Obviously, this is bad news for Zero as the planet will be unable to fight against the ice age and things will become completely frozen and generally go downhill.

Something will have to be done and its you who's gotta do it. The only action to take - of course - is to get out on the planet's surface and annihilate every alien life-form in sight. You'd never have guessed, would you?

The game is essentially a scrolling side-on shoot-out with above-average graphics and a moderate amount of action. The biggest detraction from its appeal is the lack of speed. As you run/fly left and right, the screen moves in little jerks that I'm afraid fall well short of the promised of super-smooth scrolling. Partly because of this, also, the action just isn't very fast. Aliens attack in lethargic waves and you blast back in an equally unenthusiastic manner.

As you progress from left to right, you'll come across a number of useful things. First there is the three-directional blaster which enables you to fire three shots at once at a variety of angles. Then there is poison, which acts like a smart bomb, killing everything on the screen. The jet pack lets you fly around a bit while the shield provides a finite amount of invincibility.

Should you be hit by an alien, one of two things will happen. If you are holding any of the items above, you'll be robbed of them. If you aren't carrying anything, you'll lose a life.

Once the end of a wave is reached, you move on to the bonus section which takes place over a different coloured backdrop and where the sole objective is to wipe out as many aliens as possible for points.

After the bonus you find yourself on the next level (of which there are ten). Colour change here too, and more aliens.

Gunrunner is Hewson's first attempt at a middle-of-the-road shoot-out (Uridium doesn't count) and it doesn't quite work.

While it's lovely to look at, it's got very limited gameplay.

It has to be said though, that there are many inventive and pleasing touches, like the way the colour drains from the signs naming objects, indicating they're nearly used up. By no means a bad game, but nothing of any great excitement.

Overall: 4/5

Summary: Mainstream space adventure romp with a nice look and very little depth. Better than your average blast, but not up to Hewson's usual standard.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 68, Jun 1987   page(s) 25

MACHINES: Spectrum
PRICE: £7.95

Welcome to Zero. No it's not the lowest score C+VG has ever awarded to a game. Zero is a planet facing extinction following attacks by the war planet Destrovia. Live-saving supplies of plutonium have been badly damaged.

Enter the Gunrunner. That's you, in case you didn't know, and your mission is to save Zero from "termination".

You must fight your way across successive plutonium pipe network levels, destroying the alien saboteurs. Scattered throughout the levels are various pieces of equipment to help you. Complete each level and you fight your way to the next one via a bonus screen of fast jet-packing zooming action.

The game - by Christian Urquhart, perhaps best known as co-programmer of Daley Thompson's Decathlon - scrolls left and right but to get anywhere you have to keep heading right.

The Gunrunner starts out equipped with one gun. Along the way he will find the following:

Multi-fire - this converts the blaster to a tri-directional, quick fire weapon.

Poison -the noxious gas will wipe out all the aliens on the screen. It can only be used three times.

Jet-pack - this enables the Gunrunner to fly but it has limited fuel.

Shield - this gives the Gunrunner a limited immunity against the aliens.

It is possible to collect and carry all the weapons and devices at once. But contact with an alien may remove one of them from you instead of one of your three lives.

Graphically Gunrunner is very nice. Others may disagree but in some respects it reminded me a little of Dropzone. No? Okay.

Each time you lose a life you go back to the beginning of the level and have to start all over again. I would have like to have just picked up from where you die. Okay, so I like the easy life.

Gunrunner is not sufficiently different to set the world on fire.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Playability: 7/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue 38, Jun 1987   page(s) 58


Gunrunner has an instantly forgettable plot (save the planet from doom etc) but very memorable gameplay that will undoubtedly appeal to arcade players.

Even the basic gameplay idea sounds less than promising - it's a left to right scrolling game in which you manoeuvre your Gunrunner character over a pipe system, avoiding hovering scanning orbs, bombs, deadly domes and various lethal flying objects. The execution of the game, however, is superb, your character is remarkably mobile and very smoothly animated. When a string of flying gadgets appears behind you your character can duck down, turn and shoot in one fluid movement. But this is just one of his actions, he's just as good in the running and jumping departments too. All this agility is essential as the hazards appear very quickly and in no set order. If you go back to the beginning having lost one of your lives there's no telling how the defending hardware will have re-grouped for the next game.

Along the way there are objects to pick up extra firepower, poison shields and a jet pac. The poison allows you to clear the screen of nasties several times, the shield allows temporary invulnerability against direct hits and the jet pack will give you a short-lived airborne interlude.

If you manage to fight your way through a level you must look forward for a pedestal which will transport you to the next level. A good (but exasperating) touch occurs as you stand on the pedestal when a last minute wave of nasties can dispose of you before you are transported. In between levels there's a bonus shoot out, where hovering in your jet pack, you must pick off waves of hi-tech nasties until you are hit.

Gunrunner is a sophisticated shoot-em up with advanced animation, challenging gameplay and plenty of shoot-em-up action. Its ten levels of difficulty should provide enough strenuous ducking, dodging and blasting to satisfy even the most demanding arcade player.

Award: ZX Computing ZX Monster Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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