Fort Apocalypse
| Fort Apocalypse

Ever since a pilot told me that if the engine fails in a helicopter it falls out of the sky like a stone, I've decided not to ever get in one unless my life depends on it. And possibly not even then.

Fortunately, my phobia doesn't extend to virtual choppers - obviously. Fortunate because, if it did, I wouldn't be playing Fort Apocalypse. And not playing it would mean missing out on a great game.

To sum up, Fort Apocalypse is a fairly straightforward left-to-right (or sometimes right-to-left) scrolling shooter. You control - as already indicated - one of those deathtraps which is a helicopter, pelting it through skies riddled with your enemy, the Kralthans.

On your quest to destroy this enemy's base, you need to get past a large number of these troops, who come at you both from the ground with tanks and missiles and from the sky in fighter jets and their own helicopters. They've also booby trapped a load of caverns with electricity that'll knock your chopper out of the sky with one zap and patrolling robot-type annoyances. If all of this isn't enough for one lowly helicopter, bosses regularly spring up which require all your dodging and tactical firing skills to take down.

Of course, I say you just have a lowly helicopter, but it's actually a pretty Vinnie Jones hard-as-nails one. The helicopter you start in automatically front-fires its guns as you go and most enemy targets only need a short burst of those before they blow up. You can also drop bombs at a touch of the number '5', which deal competently which those land-based attackers. Collectable upgrades meanwhile, some of which are dropped by enemies and some of which are left carelessly lying about, will - for a limited time - add a shield, cluster bombs and even a screen clearing plasma blast to your arsenal.

You also have a second helicopter that steps in when needed. It's smaller but no less impressive, and its introduction changes the gameplay a little so you can move back as well as forwards, and your guns are no longer firing automatically. The small chopper doesn't have have the bombs and the fancy gun upgrades, but it is far more manoeuvrable and the levels designed for it incorporate more tight-fit maze-like caverns and patrolling enemies to dodge instead of blow up.

So you've hopefully got a fair idea of what Fort Apocalypse is (those of you who missed the 1982 Atari original), which is essentially a very retro shooter, but one that's exceptionally pretty - especially in the blue-skied outside bits.

But while it might be the sort of game you've played plenty of times before, Fort Apocalypse stands out because it's a real adrenaline-charged roller-coaster of a shooter. It begins gently but builds up the action until you're eventually lunging and accelerating through skies crawling with firey bullets and heat-seeking missiles. Those not watching their high score can soar past them with slightly more ease than those wanting to take out absolutely everything, which means you can choose to make life easier for yourself. Thoughtfully placed checkpoints though mean you're unlikely to get too disheartened by your chopper bursting into flames for the tenth time.

It controls well, there's a ton of action and the two types of helicopter, not to mention your various different missions, mix things up a lot. And for real retro fans there's an original version of the Atari game included too. Personally we didn't fancy the block-tastic version, but no doubt some will. Fort Apocalypse's main game is more than enough on its own though - shooters don't come much better than this.

Fort Apocalypse

A brilliant side-scrolling shooter with multitudes of weapons, relentless enemies and power ups
Kath Brice
Kath Brice
Kath gave up a job working with animals five years ago to join the world of video game journalism, which now sees her running our DS section. With so many male work colleagues, many have asked if she notices any difference.