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Reviews (N-Z)

Vapor Trail: Hyper Offence Formation

988 (1-2 Players; Simultaneous)



Overview and game play


“A city occupied by an (sic) unidentified forces...A network of air power has been built to recapture the city from both sea and air...The city of New York is also silent...” So begins the introductory animation of Vapor Trail: Hyper Offence Formation, a vertically scrolling shooter for 1-2 players, (simultaneous). One coin is required per player and when the game begins, a selection screen appears for a player to choose the aircraft they wish to use. There are three aircraft to choose from, each with its own unique attributes. Firstly, there is the Silph, a fighter/attacker with medium speed at Mach 2.2. The next aircraft is the Valkyrie, an attack aircraft with a lower speed of Mach 1.8. Finally there is the Seylen, a high-speed fighter capable of Mach 2.5. Players can select an aircraft by pushing up or down on the joystick and pressing their button 1.  



An animation then shows the players aircraft taking off from an aircraft carrier and mission 1 commences. Pressing button 1 while flying shoots bullets from the players craft. At the bottom of the screen is a gauge with 3 lines and a rectangle with the words “Roll ready”. This is the roll meter, a device used to indicate how many rolls the player has. Executing a roll is easy: just press button 2 when “roll ready” is written on the meter, and the players aircraft will spin around creating 2 copies of itself to escape danger for a short time. After a roll has been performed, the roll meter slowly refills and the player must wait until it is full before being permitted to execute another roll. Additional weapons and power-ups can be found floating around to add to the players firepower, and they vary according to what aircraft the player is flying. A nice touch is that when a player is killed and looses all of the 3 lives s/he starts with, a small menu appears allowing the player to continue and choose which aircraft s/he wants to use. This is a useful feature as each aircraft has separate attributes that are better suited to certain missions in the game. 


At the start of the game, a screen appears with an F.B.I. logo stating, ““Winners don’t use drugs”, William F. Sessions, Director, FBI”. This screen was used in several other games in the late 80’s as part of an anti-drugs campaign by the US government targeting the youth of the time and is not related to Vapor Trail or any other game. In-game advertisements at the time of Vapor Trail’s release mainly consisted of adverts promoting other games by the same manufacturer and this advertisement by the F.B.I was probably the first advertisement used by a government agency that was not game-related. The same advertisement appeared in several other games for a few years and may well have had some impact on players. 

After the advertisement is over an animated introduction plays which, although short, suffices to set the scene. The sprite graphics are well animated and varied, as are the backgrounds that the player must fly over. Aeroplanes of varying sizes; helicopters; tanks and ground based missile launchers all attack the player’s craft in predefined attack patterns. Submarines and boats attack the player from the sea and boss enemies (usually much larger than the average enemy and more difficult to kill) are impressive in their size and design. Some bosses are larger than the visible play area such as an enormous land-based aircraft carrier that trundles along the ground that the player flies over. Another impressive boss is a very large space rocket that launches and gathers speed to eventually fly past the player to release an on-board satellite that shoots death-rays at the player.




The quality of the design is good and similar attention to detail has been placed on the artwork of the background that the player flies over. Terrains vary from: city streets; the sea; airports; space; deserts and woodland where trains fire missiles and bullets at the player and disappear momentarily under the ground as they travel through a tunnel to reappear later attacking the player again. The interaction between boss characters and the environment they are in is a welcome sight, which adds to the realism and overall game play. A further example is of a ground-based boss that leaves tracks in sand as it traverses a desert terrain while shooting at the player. Parallax scrolling is used in Vapor Trail to add realism and depth to the background as well as to create the illusion of high speed when the player flies over certain areas.



Vapor Trail features superb in game music, which adds much to the game play. The tunes are reminiscent of those in good Amiga games and are pleasing to listen to while blasting all foes. The spot effects are equally good with explosions and voices over a radio sounding realistic and atmospheric.



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