When you take on one of the biggest, flashiest, zippiest, bangiest coin-ops around, you can expect the computer version to be either an unqualified success or a massive failure. Weeeellll.... It's very hard to say whether UN Squadron is a success or not.
It's very colourful. It's very detailed, it's very busy. But is it actually playable, or is it just a screenful of sprites zipping around making fools of themselves?
In case you don't know the plot (and heaven knows you should, we've previewed it often enough), the game involves three fearless aviators taking their death-dealing airy-planes into action against a ruthless cartel of international drugs dealers. This must all take place slightly in the future, because although the hardware is fairly contemporary (A10 attack aircraft and so on), in this game UN pilots have to dig into their pocket money to pay for extra weapons. Privatisation gone mad!
The three pilots, Shin, Mike and, er, someone else, each have a peculiar haircut and an enviable reputation for dealing death and mayhem in the service of humanity. It doesn't much matter which you choose to play, though; their planes perform in very much the same way, and the optional weapons available tor each mission are the same. You start off with a simple cannon, and on the icon-controlled gun-shop screen you can pick up extras such as multi-way firers, energy pods and shields. Some of these are particularly suited for specific missions - on one level, for instance, you have to napalm away a forest to reveal the enemy fortifications. But what you can add on all depends on what you can afford, and of course you accumulate dollars by zapping enemy targets on each mission.
The horizontally-scrolling mission screens are monochrome, with displays showing your special weapons, money, energy and level at top and bottom. Your aircraft banks nicely as you move up and down, and the enemy tanks, aircraft and land installations are nicely depicted, but the main problem with the game is that the screen just gets too busy - with fourteen helicopters, four tanks and eleven missiles flying at you at a time, there's not much skill involved. You just have to keep the fire button held down, shoot off all your smart bombs and hope for the best.
Each level - there are ten in all - features a megabaddie - on the first, a giant tank, the second a stealth bomber, the third a jungle fortress, the fourth a super land-carrier, and so on. Taking them on successfully is largely a matter of having enough special weapons left at the end of the level.
There's plenty to like about UN Squadron, but if you forget the nice crew and weapon selection screens and the impressive megabaddies, all you have left is a rather busy horizontally-scrolling shoot-'em up. Not a bad conversion, but the coin-op itself is a bit short on originality.
Label: US Gold
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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