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A boss is approaching. Aside from the siren, here’s how you know:

An alarm message confirm the high energy core immediately change the main reactor to hyper drive

but better still,

Release hyper drive and return to normal drive mode to get out of warp set up destination in real time

These nonsensical, gibberish lines from Blazeon are absolute gemsódiamonds of kitsch in the rough that is the rest of the game. With headings in the manual like “Tranquilander” and “Hijacking a Cyborg”, I thought I was in for more funnies, but instead I was met with a tedious, sleep-inducing game that defies shooter logic and comes out the worse for wear for it.

This is the nondescript shooter story: Earth launches a united space force, called the Imperial Earth Army into outer space. Inevitably, the forces become corrupt (don’t they always?) and create Bio-Cyborgs to “oppress society.” This is where you come in. Because the resistance movement is well aware that their prototype spacecraft, the Garland (yes, thatís the actual name) is a weak ass plaything, they have equipped it with a TRANQUILANDER gun, which you can fire at Bio-Cyborgs. To TRANQUILize a Bio-Cyborg, you must LAND enough shots to freeze it (theyíll actually turn blue), thus enabling you to take control of ‘ER.

Here is what might be the understatement of the year, directly from the exciting manual: “The Garland is a recent development and not yet perfect.” They weren’t kidding. The Garland is as slow as old, drying up maple syrup with none of the sweetness. Yet its rate of fire is actually better than that of the hulking Bio-Cyborgs that you are encouraged to capture. But, not surprisingly, there is a problem with it; a rather irksome interrupt in the stream of your fire that leaves you open to the little whelps that fly in your face (as well as in the face of quality).

Though the seven available cyborgs look decent, have unique characteristics, and are, ostensibly, your ace in the hole, using the Garland to freeze them is useful only in that it allows you to take a few hits before the borg is destroyed and youíre back to your puny piece of experimental excrement. There is even a problem with thisóa veritable problem within a problemówhen you use the borgs as shields in this way, and lose them to enemy fire, or wall-scraping (more on the latter, later) the game doesnít give you enough invincibility time to recover. “Dammit, there goes my borg. Wait, Iím flashiódammit, there goes my Garland.”

Endure with me a level-by-level account of the rubbish that sometimes just touches the heights of mediocrity, like a child jumping up at the ceiling.

Level One: You donít expect much from level one, and itís a good thing. But the boss music is good! This leads you to believe that better things are in store ahead.

Level Two: You were led astray. This stage is boring as hell. Hereís where you first discover that your borgs are too large to dodge bullet spreads and navigate passageways. The latter is what I call wall-scraping. Get used to it; it’s a very popular event in Blazeon. Soon, the elevator music and overwhelming lack of opposition will have you nodding off. Itís actually a possibility that you might really nod off, have time to scratch yourself, make any necessary adjustments, and return to gameplay without missing a beat. After an eternity of empty space, a red, pulpy monstrosity creeps onto the screen, resembling ketchup on well-worked chewing gum. Its introduction heralds the onset of another clichÈd R-Type battleship encounter, only here, itís boring and crappy.

Level Three: Blazeon starts to look like a shooter here. There is a bit of ugly parallax, more enemies, and the screen even speeds up to introduce a magenta menace of a midboss. His attacks are hard to see and cheap, sure, but at least in his nastiness, he represents a real shooter element. He will soon make way for another R-Type boss, the one with three parts that break away from each other. They came complete with the bubbly ëweak spotsí directly from IREMís Clone Manufacturing Plant.

Level Four: New and better graphics begin here! There are also a few new uninspired enemies and some more sad music. Things are still singularly slow, even at this stage in the proceedingsóI wanted to cry. But there is a highlight in level four. A coolóif uglyómidboss emerges from the junk beneath and gives you a fair, though easy fight that borders on exciting! He is followed by another, tougher midboss (can there be more than one midpoint to something?). Before long you encounter the first really decent thing the game has to offeróand it only took four levels! A massive, vibrant blinking eye convinces you quickly that itís only fun and games after someone loses an eye.

Level Five: The moment weíve all been waiting for is close at handóthe end, naturally. Nasty mustard and blood-red backdrops scroll by even slower than in the earlier levels. To finish things off, youíll go eye hunting againóthis time the target is an decrepit elephant with his brain exposed. What a finale!

There are few redeeming factors to be found in this strange game, where the first level is the most exciting. Truly, it is all downhill from there. To be fair, the boss music is great, that fourth level boss encounter is nice, and most of the characters donít look too bad. Unfortunately, thatís not nearly enough to make even an average shooter out of Blazeon. Far too much of the game feels like a typical shooter ending. Slow-scrolling screens prompt you to put down your controller and watch the poorly drawn graphics fill the panorama. Often the only indication that itís not just a bad cinematic sequence is that you can still shoot.

The unbelievably languorous, lethargic pace of the game, the horribly unwieldy size of the Bio-Cyborgs, and the uncertain, frail, and feeble Garland spacecraft add up to impart upon the player an unflattering combination of boredom and frustration.

All this talk of garland makes me think of trimming the Christmas tree in particular, and of Christmastime in general. Maybe Iíll save Blazeon, wrap it, and send it to someone I donít like.

2 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2003.

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