Every Sunday, Tyler Wilde publishes a classic PC Gamer review from the '90s or early 2000s, with his context and commentary followed by the full, original text from the archived issue. This week, Apogee shmup Stargunner is reviewed in the June 1997 issue of PC Gamer US. More classic reviews here .
I seem to have kicked off an Apogee shareware streak. While this quick half-page review of a '90s shmup isn't bursting with historical significance, I did just notice that Stargunner is free on GOG . It's plenty of fun for an hour, especially when you assume the mindset of someone trying to review the game in 1997, when 2D games—shmups in particular—were on the decline in favor of crude 3D games like Die Hard Trilogy (which we gave an 84% in the same issue, but that'll be a future From the Archives).
Required: Double-speed CD-ROM drive; 486; 8MB RAM; DOS 5.0 or later
We Recommend: 4x CD drive; Pentium 90+; 16MB RAM; Speed compensating joystick card
A lot can be said for simple arcade blast-away-with-your-bad-ass-spaceship amusement. The relentless twitch of the trigger finger and constant demand on your reflexes can prove to be an enjoyable diversion. And when a game provides good, crisp graphics, smooth gameplay, and a variety of foes to devastate, it makes it all the more fun.
That's what Apogee brings us with Stargunner. There's nothing fancy here. It's a simple side-scrolling shoot-'em-up with, as the name implies, a starship blasting away at everything. And there's a good deal of blasting to do. There are four main episodes to choose from, each comprised of a series of stages. Before each stage, you outfit your ship with a wide variety of blasters, bombs, and other uniquer features. Of course, all of these improvements cost money, which you obtain by blowing stuff up. The further you progress, the more powerful the equipment you can afford. The background for each episode are all unique, and, along with the more than 70 different enemies, help to keep things fresh. And that's important, as all shooters become repetitive after a while.
Though this type of game has been done before—many times—Stargunner's take on the arcade side-scroller is a good one, although it is pretty tough to beat, even on the easy setting. So if you're in the mood for some challenging arcade fun, you can't go wrong with this one. There's currently a shareware version available which can be downloaded at the www.apogee1.com/catalog/stargunner/ web site. [ www.3drealms.com/stargunner/ ] — Joseph Novicki
Highs : A good, pure, arcade-shooter; clean, crisp graphics
Lows: The game may be too hard, even on the easy settings.