Game Review: Bandits At Zero (Commodore 16 and Plus/4, MAD)

Bandits At Zero, Commodore 16 and Plus/4, MAD, MAD12
  • 7/10
    Score - 7/10


Bandits At Zero is a thoroughly enjoyable shoot-em-up in the Defender mould, with super silky scrolling, fast pace, and addictive gameplay that gradually gets more difficult.  Its playability really does shine through and the arcade feel during the day plus the added challenge of refuelling at night really adds the value to the game. Another winner from Shaun Southern.


User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Your perilous mission (which you have chosen to accept) is to seek and destroy the enemy aircraft carrier based at sea.  It may take several days to find the carrier, with enemies coming at you from all directions, and a radar scanner to help you detect the enemy planes.  At night you can meet up with a fuel plane which approaches alone – glide behind it and meet to refuel for the next day. That is the basic premise of the instructions for the Bandits At Zero, which loads speedily and greets you with some lovely parallax scrolling and a title theme which does sound slightly morose, but it does at least set the scene for the impending bitter war ahead.  You do need to press up and fire together to start, which the instructions do tell you, but those playing without those may be wondering if their joystick is in the wrong port.

Day One

You start the game with a background of the sea, which has some parallax scrolling effects to make it look further away.  At the bottom of the screen left to right is the score, what day you’re on, the radar to detect enemies, and the fuel and shields to the right.  You start with seven shields – lose all seven and there is an explosion and it is game over.  The first day itself isn’t too taxing – none of the enemy planes fire back at you, so in effect it’s ensuring that you dodge them and shoot them down to keep the radar empty.  You can go in either a left or right direction and steer up and down in the sky, with one weapon to fire.   Simple, but effective, as small mountains and islands in the sea pass you by.

The colour palette is well used here to transform the day towards dusk and then night.  Once it becomes night the sound effects fade in volume and the title theme comes back into play, and you head right towards the refuelling plane.  Make sure you line up behind it and when in line, the refuelling line shows and the fuel increases.  There is also one added incentive, if you fill up the fuel you can then be granted any extra shields you may have lost.  This gives you a chance to take stock and survive each day, provided that you can refuel, so mastering this is a requirement if you want to get far.

Days Two and Three

As you progress further, day two now adds the fact that the enemy planes can fire at you, either with a similar weapon to yours from the front, or a sneaky little bullet from behind.  Some of the planes also fly at increased speed which is where the radar and determining the flight path comes in really handy.  You may also want to avoid colliding with a plane, as that loses you a shield as well as taking a bullet, so keeping on the move is definitely a key thing here.   As the day turns to night some of the enemy fire gets more intense, and at the start of day three they will even try to interrupt the refuelling.

However, you have another big danger from this level onwards – the battle ships in the sea.  These will fire upwards towards you, and often the trick is to stay clear of those and keep your plane in between, but that does also put you at risk to be more of a sitting target from the planes.  It does become much more intense at this point, and you have to decide on your tactics.  This would be often when playing this game that I would lose all my shields, with an explosion of the plane depicted by noise and the skies turning to flame colours as well.  Nicely done.

Surviving To Day Eight

If you do get into further days, you will face more intense fire from the battle ships, the planes come at you at an increasing speed, and eventually you will get to see day eight, where your bullets are replaced with bombs to shoot down towards the large aircraft carrier.  This can take many shots and it fires plenty back at you, so skills and dexterity are required here.  Day nine then carries on the intense speed of the planes and the battle ships as more battling continues, effectively the game has looped and becomes a high score challenge at this point.

The scoring for the enemy planes starts at 10, 20 and 30 points depending on the speed of the plane, and this is multiplied by which day you are on up to day 7, then becomes 8 times on day 9 (as day 8 is the aircraft carrier.)  So, shooting the fast planes can rack up the score, but at the increased risk of colliding with the planes at speed and losing a shield, so there is a need to think tactical to survive and get a higher score.   The display is clear at the bottom, easy to read, the graphics are neat, and the scrolling smooth, with the sound effects being suitably meaty to get you into the game too.

Final Thoughts

Although it may not look the prettiest, there is some great gameplay to be had here, complete with fast scrolling and the parallax style working well, along with some well thought out levels of challenge so you can at least progress further each time.  There is also the added incentive of getting all the fuel and racking up some bonus shields to survive further, and learning that does help considerably.  No doubt about it: although only released for this format, I am sure it would have done well on the Commodore 64 also with better graphics and sound, but the same difficulty curve and well thought out gameplay.  It is one to show just how capable the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 series were in good hands, and comes very well recommended.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Mastertronic's Added Dimension (M.A.D) Checklist - Mastertronic Collectors Archive
  2. Commodore 16 Mastertronic Checklist - Mastertronic Collectors Archive
  3. Mastertronic Best Sellers - Mastertronic Collectors Archive
  4. A Mastertronic Range To Get MAD About... - Mastertronic Collectors Archive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.