This wasn't my first choice today. I was going to play Datastorm, but I loaded it up and discovered a problem with corrupted graphics, a bit like the problem I had with Wings of Fury, but worse. So I knocked that one on the head and turned to another Defender-inspired game, StarRay.
I wasn't sure about this one at first. It looks very nice, with lovely, big, colourful graphics, but that also seemed like a bit of a flaw... I wondered if it was possible to zoom around the landscape like you can in Defender, without smashing into everything in sight.
A small amount of play answered that... it's not a problem at all. For having such a big ship, it's very manoeuverable, and although there's plenty to shoot I think that the game has been cleverly designed so that it doesn't feel claustrophobic in the slightest.
The game echoes Defender in all the ways you'd expect... you start off flying left and right above a spacey landscape, with drone ships attacking your "installations" (the game's equivalent of Defender's Humanoids). You blast them before they can destroy the installations, and all is well. As you move on, different enemies are thrown at you to keep things fresh.
And then, after the third wave, the game kicks you out of your comfort zone by throwing you onto a lush, forest-covered planet, with bees and insects in among the spaceships. It jars you a little bit, for this isn't what you'd expect from a Defender game. But this is good.
Progress reveals several different planet types, meaning that StarRay manages to stand alone from Defender as a cracking game in its own right. I was going to make do with that, but then when I finished my game, the high score table appeared... populated fully by "STE", the mate that gave me the Amiga in the first place.
Weeelllll... we can't have that, can we? It's like a red rag to a bull for any of us dyed-in-the-wool arcade game players. And so I spent the next half an hour making sure that the name at the top of the table was not "STE", but "MOY". Those are my arcade initials. And there they sit, proudly, in the Number 1 position.
StarRay is a great Defender-style game. I'm not going to say it's better than Defender... just a bit different to play. If, like me, you're a bit too cack-handed to get to grips with Defender properly, I'd highly recommend StarRay, as it gives you similar gameplay but without being quite such a bastard to the novice. I think it's great fun.