Blue Lightning

Blue Lightning started life on the Atari Lynx, and is one of the most highly respected shooters on that system. Its kind of like Atari's answer to Sega's After Burner - you choose a fighter plane or a bomber and fly through missions taking out enemy ground and air units with guns, bombs, missiles, sharp sticks and harsh language. The Lynx game in particular impressed me with it's graphics, which are really quite good for a handheld system of that generation - massive sprites, smooth scrolling, fluid gameplay. All ingredients for a great gaming experience. So then, what of the (slightly) more recent Blue Lightning on the Jaguar CD? Blue Lightning CD was a pack-in game for the system, and I can imagine that it was used as a showcase for what the CD medium was capable of. In this respect, it really shines - there are lots of cool video clips (the picture quality of which is far superior to anything I've seen on the Mega CD) and loads of speech. To be honest, there is probably a little bit too much in the way of FMV - every menu advancement leads to a video clip...but these can be skipped if you get bored of them. Clearly, Atari were keen to promote the CD unit's ability to do video...and Blue Lightning is a very good advert for those capabilities.

FMV aside, how does Blue Lightning fare in other areas? Well...quite good if I'm honest. I had only ever seen static screens of Blue Lightning prior to actually owning it, and it does look a little ropey...but once you see it move I'm sure you'll agree that it does look impressive for the time. Granted, the engine is hardly dealing with polygons or complex visual effects, but what it does do (throw sprites around), it does very well indeed. The sprite scaling is smooth, the planes move well, the way background objects appear on the horizon and sort of 'grow' as you approach them is quite a cool effect. And even though the gameplay is rather basic in that you simply fly forwards into the screen shooting stuff, avoiding enemy fire and dropping bombs (and flying over and around buildings and mountains) it can get quite frantic as your health meter dwindles and you're getting close to finishing a stage. Music is the usual 'Top Gun' style guitar-heavy rock music...but it fits perfectly with the style of the game.

When it comes to actually playing, you can jump in 'instant action' style and just play random stages from the game, but in this mode you only get one life and is really only a way of sampling the game I guess. The main gameplay mode though, is a sort of 'career,' where you must first complete a selection of training missions and then be assigned to the blue Lightning squadron before being shown a world map from which campaigns are chosen. Successfully completing missions (which vary between escort missions or blowing up ground targets etc) allows you to unlock better planes which in turn have more abilities (for example you can unlock a Harrier which has the ability to hover on the spot). When I sat down to play Blue Lightning with a view to creating this article, I didn't expect to be playing for long as the game generally gets pretty poor reviews...but I found myself getting quite engrossed. It definitely has that rare 'one more go' factor, and the variety of planes and mission types, as well as a multitude of different environments in which to blow shit up helps to make it a pretty engaging arcade shooter. It's certainly not up there with After Burner, but as a free pack-in game, I've seen and played much, much worse than Blue Lightning. Oh, and it also features the voice acting of Rob Brydon. So that's two Jaguar games he features in, and counting...

1 comment:

  1. Great article, right on the money. Game is tons of fun with lots of challenges.