Toaplan, developing a coin-operated shoot-'em-up? With their reputation? Vimana is a 1992 vertically-scrolling space shooter from the developers of Hellfire and Zero Wing.

It has a simple weapon system: tapping the primary fire button releases a narrow volley of shots, holding it down charges it up, R-Type style, except the length of time the button is pressed determines the spread of the shot. The secondary fire button generates a circling shield of eight glowing orbs, which one by one will home in on any nearby threat. These shields are in limited supply (three per life, with the occasional collectable). Power-up items increase the size (and strength) of your primary fire globules.

The game is not split into seperate stages. All of the enemies and backgrounds are quite detailed (and benefit from having 256 colours to use). Some cool enemies include a type of ship that causes other ships to grow in size if they pass through it, some burrowing vehicles in an asteroid, and a small ship that transforms into a massive boss vessel. Many of the backgrounds are impressive (such as some huge underwater vines), and there is at one point that hoary old chestnut of a multi-stage rocket that you have to blow up a piece at a time (here expanded to a huge space platform).

So is it any good? Well, it's a scrolling shooter from 1992. Something that does what it sets out to do but hardly has any surprises up its sleeve. It is rock hard though, not that that counts for much in this age of unlimited credits.

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