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Gremlin, 4.99 cassette, 5.99 disk
Reviewed in ZZAP! issue 84, May 1992

Sample games | Rating

10 PRINT, erm, what's next? Maybe, er, 20 GOTO erm, oh sod it - IAN OSBORNE just isn't cut out for programming, so we give him the Shoot-'Em-Up Construction Kit.

We all start out with good intentions, don't we? We all say we're not just going to use our C64 as a games machine; no, we'll learn to program it, write a couple of awesome games, make a fast fortune and retire to sunnier climes!

Trouble is it's too damned difficult - most people get as far as writing their names all the way down the screen, maybe scrolling it or making it flash on and off if they're really clever, then decide it's all too much hassle and go back to playing Space Invaders!

Well fret no more, 'cos Gremlin Graphics have re-released Sensible Software's Shoot-'Em-Up Construction Kit at a give-away bargain basement price, so now even the most inept would-be programmers can create exciting and original games... any of which can be sold directly to the public (or a major software house if it's that smeggin' good) without having to pay Gremlin a penny in royalties. Ha!

Cor, look at all the things you can do from the main menu:
you can even use a cheat mode to test your game!

Yah boo, SEUCKs to you!

Before you get down to business (fnarr) your first task is to decide just what kind of game you want to create. The SEUCK offers three different styles of play, all of them, sadly, vertically scrolling. Having a horizontal option would, presumably, have gobbled up too much memory.

So, your masterpiece is going to have to be either a straightforward (upward?) vertically scrolling blast (with a choice of fast or faster still but both supremely smooth), a single flip-screen affair or a 'push-scrolling' jobbie where the screen scrolls in accordance with the main sprite. Thankfully all three approaches can be combined in a single game, adding that all-important commodity we like to call VARIETY!

The program is utilised through a well-set-out menu system. From the main menu you can access any of the nine sub-menus controlling the editable features. Arguably the most interesting is the sprite editor, which allows you to create up to 128 sprites, 12 x 21 pixels large (plenty big enough to satisfy even Miss Whiplash's wanton needs!). Up to three colours can be used, but once chosen you are stuck with two of them for all your sprites so plan your colours carefully. You can also create a mirror image of a sprite, slide it about, (very useful if you go off the edge of the box), and even copy and alter it - animation has never been so framing easy!

Having created some spiffing sprites it's time give them some sort of a setting on which to do battle - that's where the background editor comes in. Each screen is made up of 254 characters, which are painted using exactly the same method as for the sprites. This is a fairly laborious task, but it is made easier by copy options.

SEUCK it to 'em

To define a sprite's role in the game, you use the object editor. Using its changeable colour option you can change the variable colour for each sprite, so if you want a series of similar sprites to make a simultaneous attack, they don't have to look the same. They don't have to move the same either - use the attack wave editor to send them zapping across the screen any which way you like!

Sprite 011 in Slap 'n' Tickle

Editing sprites is easy when they're magnified.
Just look at this erm, Ian Osborne nasal hair.

So much for the baddies, what about the good guys? The player limitations menu allows you to adjust the number of lives, speed, blasting power, and everything else you need. You can even create a two-player simultaneous option! To make your game really stand out from the crowd, change the character font - now your control panel and in-game messages can look exactly how you want them to. And while you're at it, don't forget to add some appropriate sound effects using the couldn't-be-simpler sonic sub-screen!

The dragon - sprite 048And now at actual sizeThe Sound FX edit screen

With SEUCK, even the most talentless git can create great graphics and sizzling sound FX. Well done, Ian!

Every utility has its drawbacks, and SEUCK's is that it can't handle power-ups. I can't think why this has been left out. They're damned near ubiquitous in shoot-'em-upsville, and wouldn't have been hard to accommodate either - just create a routine whereby collecting an icon or blasting a specific baddie automatically adjusts the player limitation menu. If your game gives an extra life for scoring a certain number of points you can offer a huge score for killing a specific alien, effectively creating a 1UP, but you can never increase your sprite's abilities. Defining icons is a little awkward too - you have to create 'static' aliens that explode on contact, doing no damage whatsoever.


Still not convinced? Well Gremlin have included a couple of sample games as part of the package. Created using SEUCK, they're a fine example of what the program can do in the hands of an imaginative programmer.

Slap & Tickle

Oo-er missus - with a title like this, I had trouble believing it was a shoot-'em-up! Not that I was disappointed - it was rather fabby! A vertically scrolling blaster, you control a neat little spacecraft that bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Star Trek logo! Boasting a huge variety of baddies, Slap & Tickle will tax your dodge-and-shoot skills to the full, and it gets harder as it goes! Silky smooth scrolling and excellent joystick response make Slap & Tickle a real winner.

Purple platform alert
A tricky bit on level 1Galaxy Quest

A little bit of Slap & Tickle can be fun:
this ready-made game is well worth playing when you're fed up of SEUCKing.

Blood Bullets

Unlike its forward-firing predecessor, Blood Bullets is a multi-directional blaster in the Commando/Ikari Warriors mould. Another polished performer, it's amazing just how good the backgrounds and animation can be. Unfortunately it's another vertical scroller. I can't help feeling that the second demo game should utilise another aspect of the creator, like push scrolling or flip-screen. Still, it's great fun to play, and a marvellous example of what the SEUCK can do.

Can anyone confirm that the GBH/Gremlin re-release on the C64 came with Blood Bullets? I was aware that it was one of the Amiga SEUCK demo games.

The best thing about these demos is that they can be altered in any way you like, using the kit itself - if you get stuck, just load up a demo game and see how the professionals do it! Like all SEUCK games, an automatic infinite lives cheat is included while still in the data base, invaluable when testing it.

So long, SEUCKers!

Despite these gripes, Shoot-'Em-Up Construction Kit is a brilliant program. Never before has there been a utility that allows you to create such fabby games - unlike previous games where they all looked and played the same. SEUCK games are limited only by your imagination. Pandering to all your needs, it's difficult to see how it could be any better - complicated animation routines are catered for, you can define multiple sprite baddies, and best of all when you save out your completed game it can be loaded and played independently of its parent program. At last, a game kit that lets you give copies to your friends, and don't forget to send one for the ZZAP! Megatape! We wouldn't be averse to paying for them either, if they manage to cut the mustard of course!

SEUCK is incredibly simple to use, but is not a magic wand - don't expect to create brilliant games within seconds of loading up. Even so, with a bit of forward planning and intelligent game design, there's no reason why your game shouldn't be good enough to publish. Give it a go - it's fun!


Screenshots in this review have been re-created in the VICE emulator

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