"Warning: Alien Craft Advancing!"

Platform: TI-99/4a
Genre: Sidescrolling Space Shoot 'Em Up
Developer/Publisher: Texas Instruments
Release Year: 1982

This is a fun little shmup that was, in many ways, head and shoulders above similar games of the era. Its graphics were far superior to the competition, with the spaceships and landscape well-defined and reasonably well-done; compare this to the quite blocky graphics of the Intellivision and Atari 2600. The game also made use of the TI-99/4a's optional "voice synthesizer", warning you of impending danger ("Asteroid Belt Ahead!"), complimenting your shooting or flying ("Laser On Target!"), as well as other little tidbits.

In the game you operate a green fighter ship, travelling across an unknown planet for unknown reasons. The landscape is a wasteland littered with silos, spaceships, and the occasional Texas Instruments logo. You can move the ship in the eight cardinal directions, and fire a laser beam forward. In a departure from similar games at the time, firing the laser too long will eventually cause your ship to overheat and explode (it will turn red as a warning); in addition, you have three speed settings, and a limited supply of fuel.

Each level progresses in much the same way. Alien kamikaze craft will approach you, and upon hitting the edge of the screen will scroll back around to the other edge, and stay until you destroy them. Then attack vessels will come, firing photon missiles at you at incredible speeds. This will repeat twice more, with fuel stations at certain intervals, until you reach an asteroid belt. Once you get through that, a new level will begin with much the same pattern.

Besides the repetitive nature of the game, there are a few other downsides. The attacking ships fire nearly as quickly as you do, making their missiles difficult to dodge. There is virtually no margin for error. This is also true of your fuel supply, which will usually be just about failing when you reach a fueling station. Then, too, it seems like the fueling stations were designed by sadists; they're all in cavernous, spiked tunnels that are very difficult to maneuver in.

If you own a TI-99/4a, you probably already have this game; it's one of the easiest to find, I believe. If you don't, there are several emulators around, but it's considerably harder to find ROMs for TI-99/4a games than many other systems, despite the fact that it had quite a large fan base even long after Texas Instruments abandoned it. Even so, however, I'm not sure how much fun it will be to someone who lacks nostalgia for it. Still, it's worth checking out if you enjoy shmups at all; in some ways, it's more complex than some of the shmups being made today.