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Reviews (0-9 / A-M)

Ajax

MANUFACTURER: KONAMI
1
988 (1-2 Players)


 

Overview and game play

Ajax by Konami is a challenging vertical scrolling shoot them up for one or two players. The objectives of the game are to destroy all enemy forces without being destroyed and accumulate the highest score possible. The player takes control of a helicopter capable of eight ways movement armed with an unlimited supply of bullets and bombs, each fired with a separate button. A third button detonates a limited supply of smart bombs that destroy most enemies within a certain radius of its detonation. When the 2 players option is selected, each player takes it in turn to play the game and the players score is recorded for the players to view after playing.

Like most games of the shoot them up genre in the late 1980’s, Ajax’s game play includes the collection of power ups design. Enemy aircraft fly along pre defined flight paths and fire bullets at your location, so continuous movement is necessary to avoid a short game. Sometimes a slow moving aircraft, such as a red helicopter, will appear on the screen. Shooting it enough times will destroy the craft and reveal a flashing icon that floats towards the edge of the screen. By steering your aircraft over the icon, a power up will be collected that enhances your firepower. By waiting before collecting the floating power up, the icon changes to a different, more powerful type of power up. Continue waiting and the icon continues to change into more powerful power ups. Waiting to collect more powerful power ups is nevertheless not always wise as ground based defence forces and installations are also attacking the players’ aircraft. Ground forces can be dispatched with bombs but accuracy is important as bombs have a small blast radius. Thus, a cross hair follows the players’ aircraft around the screen to show where the projected point of impact of a bomb will be. When a direct hit is possible on an enemy ground force or installation, the crosshair changes shape to indicate that. This feature is useful for targeting accurately and mastery of it is vital for progression to the later levels of Ajax.

 

 

The fixed enemy flight patterns in Ajax have from a game play point of view both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, if a player has good memory and/or they replay the game enough, they will be rewarded with further progression into its later levels. Replay value of an arcade game is an important objective of all arcade game manufacturers and so having fixed patterns to enable a player to learn the game may make a game more playable, although the trend in more modern games is to make elements more random and realistic as far as enemy artificial intelligence is concerned. Indeed, with practice it is possible in Ajax to fire at different points on the screen and kill all oncoming enemies who would follow in the pattern of the leader. Game developers continue to experiment at striking a balance between predictability and random elements in games and this experimentation often produces outstanding or poor results in new game releases. Games such as Ajax in the late 1980’s did not contain sophisticated enemy AI, but many shoot them ups at the time went on to become classic games despite being predictable.

 

Graphics

The graphics in Ajax are colourful and well detailed and the sprites look well designed. The first level begins with the game being played with a view above the players aircraft, which is the normal viewpoint for vertically scrolling shoot them ups. A pseudo 3D effect is used in stage 2 as the player must guide his aircraft down through clouds while avoiding enemy missiles and aircraft to bomb a military vessel. This stage is well implemented and the cloud graphics are used in the game play by obscuring oncoming enemy forces to keep the player under pressure. When some of the power ups are selected, it can sometimes be confusing to see where the enemy bullets are if a large number of objects is on the screen. This is regrettably true about several shoot them ups, but in most cases the game play does not suffer, including Ajax’s.

 

 

Sound

The music in Ajax is adequate but not memorable. The tunes play in the background and add very little to the game but are still competent technically, consisting of synthesized and digitized instruments instead of beeps and bangs. The sound effects are better: falling bombs, explosions and weapon fire are all recognizable and add a degree of realism to the game play.

 

 




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