Nintendo's short-lived Virtual Boy device only had about two dozen games released in its library, and this is one of them. T&E Soft's 1995 release Red Alarm (aka Red Alert during development) tells the story of a planet under siege by the now-sentient KOS (Killer Operating System). When KOS achieved sentience, SkyNet-like, it renamed itself KAOS and turned the planet's machines against the humans. Your mission is to take the last StarFox-esque fighter ship and engage KAOS and its minions in a StarFox-style space shooter game consisting of six levels with a plot similar to Vertical Force. Each level is a long, closed tube and although you can steer the ship in three dimensions, there's really no place to go but forward during the main levels. Boss arenas at the end of each level are a small all-range-mode type environment where the free flight ability of the game finally makes a useful appearance.

What makes Red Alarm stand out, for better or for worse, is its wire frame graphics. There are no textures, sprites, or shades in the game. Every object is constructed of wire frame graphics that fall apart when destroyed. Blasted enemies collapse into a pile of floating red lines, damaged parts of your ship dissolve into nothingness, and onscreen messages float in and out of your field of view. The look of the game can get a little confusing at times, what with all those red lines moving around, but if you stay focused on your ship you shouldn't have much trouble seeing what's going on. There are four different points of view to cycle through with the Select button: behind the ship, in front, way behind, and quarter angle. As for the ship's controls, they are thankfully easy to get the hang of. The left control pad steers the ship, while the right control pad handles "evasive maneuvers" (quick dashes to the left, right, up, or down). Shooting is done with the L and R buttons, while the A buttons controls your acceleration (five different speeds: reverse, stop, first gear, second gear, and turbo) and the B button decreases it. Item upgrades include bonus points, homing missiles, and the turbo booster.

In the end there's nothing amazingly awesome about Red Alarm, but for what it is it's rather fun. It's definitely one of the Virtual Boy games worth playing and luckily it's common on the online auctions such as eBay so it turns up fairly often. If you're a fan of StarFox-style games you'll definitely enjoy it, although it does get old rather fast. Nevertheless it's a fun diversion for $10 including shipping.


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