Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum
Publisher: Software Projects
Developer: Jonathan Smith / Keith Tinman
Submitted by: Gavin Eke
Cover tapes on the front of magazines are usually the signs of a formats impending demise. Towards the end of the 80's & onwards, Sinclairs wonder machine was heading for the door with more impressive formats such as the Amiga taking its place. Cover Tapes would usually be used by magazines to maintain their readership & often included popular games of yesteryear. However, this was not always the case as occasionally new unseen titles appear to grace their covers. One such title was Hyperactive, coded by Spectrum legend Jonathan Smith of Hypersports & Cobra fame.
Essentially a take on the classic arcade game Defender with your jet-man whizzing around an asteroid surface collecting energy pods dotted around the landscape & escorting them back to two cylindrical receptacles on the planet floor. However, things are never that easy & of course the planetary bodies surface is littered with nasties wanting to prevent your efforts. Your task is to assist your flying avatar to clear the level of enemies whilst collecting all the pods lying around. Achieve these two aims & it's off to the next level. Whilst it would've been easy just to repeat this first level but make it harder, Hyperactive did inject some variety into its shoot everything premise. Further levels would involve your character facing flying dragons which would need several hits to destroy & could inflict heavy damage if they hit home. Then there are the bonus levels which turn your character into a bomber rather than a shooter whilst other levels may just require you to clear all enemies & not worry about any pod collecting at all. One word of warning though, don't spend too long trying to complete a stage otherwise flying saucers will home in on your jet-man & constantly harry you until level completion or your demise whichever comes first!
Your character begins with three lives with gauges for shields & health. This is handy due to the one possible drawback of this title which is tied in with the control of your avatar who is very sensitive to your input. Mastering accurate shooting is tricky as movement is skittish & requires subtle handling. Even then, accurate shooting is difficult when surrounded by enemies buzzing around you. It was a shrewd move to implement gauges for health & shields since one hit deaths would have caused much frustration.
Despite this, Hyperactive is a very professionally produced title & what's more it was free on the cover of Sinclair User. Although Hyperactive would not have justified a full price tag, it certainly could've been released as a budget title. General presentation, from the title screen & music, to fast smooth scrolling of the planetary landscape with Joffa's well drawn graphics demonstrated what a talent he was.