Raptor: Call of the Shadows (PC) – Think You Can Beat It?

In the future, there is only one way to make big bucks, and it doesn’t involve paperounds or painting fences – nope, it’s all about high-octane dogfights. Raptor: Call of the Shadows was created by Cygnus Studios and published by Apogee Software in 1994, a time when side-scrollers and scrolling-shooters were pretty common. So, how does this one fare against the competition of yesteryear?

Plot-wise, all you need to know is that you’re a mercenary with a Raptor jet, and you gotta shoot bad guys for handfuls of cash. Simple as. It’s just you versus them, all-out, guns-blazing. You’ll be treated with some superb visuals in Raptor: Call of the Shadows. The colours are bright, the backgrounds are detailed, and there are plenty of fiery explosions to greet you in your gun-toting adventures. It has a pretty catchy MIDI soundtrack and some nice, crisp sound effects alongside to boot. All in all, it looks and sounds lovely-jubbily.

The game is divided between three different sectors made up of nine levels each, though beginners will want to stick to the first zone on account of how tricky the others are. Once you beat a sector, you to replay it again at a higher difficulty. Enemy aircraft and ground vehicles will gradually appear, some of which move in predetermined paths while others float around at their own accord. Destroying these – as well as buildings, turrets and boats – will earn you small morsels of money. Seriously, you could probably earn more from fishing for coins in water fountains than in this game.

In each level, the objective is to make it to the end of the level in one piece while blowing up as many baddies as possible. Beware, though – if you die, you must load a previous save. Bosses will appear at the end of stages, but they’re just bullet-sponges that spam you with fireballs and missiles while pausing briefly in between each barrage.

Having to manoeuvre around volleys of rockets and fireballs will make you sweat, but it’s addictive stuff. You’ll struggle if you’re not used to ‘bullet-hell’ sorts of games. Good thing that there’s a wide variety of satisfying weapons that can hit airborne and/or ground targets, as well as nifty gadgets like auto-aim lasers and ship disruptors. Only one main weapon can be fired at a time, but you can cycle through your inventory at the press of a button. Side-weapons can be fired alongside your Raptor’s standard machine-guns, thus ramping up the firepower. All of these vary in accuracy, firepower, and firing rate, too – experimenting with these is great fun.

Any maniacal mercenary will want to stock up on supplies or sell some guns at Harold’s Death Emporium. Its owner is a tight-fisted git cuz his prices are pretty damn steep; it can be tough to make a profit, especially if you take too much damage and spending cash to keep your aircraft in one piece. Pro tip: only save if you’ve got enough cash to prep yourself for the next battle.

What is odd is how both forgiving and punishing Raptor: Call of the Shadows is. Unlike most ‘scrollers, you have a health bar. Shield replenishes can, on rare occasions, be found and collected in levels. Extra-shields are available for purchase, but at a hefty price. Still, compared to other scroller-shooters, it makes it a lot more accessible and enjoyable in the long run since you won’t be hitting that game over animation as often.

What’s irritating is that quitting a sector will sacrifice all your earned cash. Plus, if you’re at death’s door and decide to escape back to the hangar, you’ll lose almost all of your weapons. It’s like being kicked in the backside after falling into a muddy puddle full of glass shards. On the flip-side, any guns you find will stay with you, meaning it’s possible to revisit and quit levels to collect the same weapon again and sell it back repeatedly. Sure, it may be beneficial exploit, but one hand doesn’t wash the other – the prices are steep, cash is hard to rack up without grinding, and losing your arsenal after receiving heavy-damage is just stingy.  If Raptor: Call of the Shadows was some sort of food, it would be a toffee apple – it may be tough to get your teeth into at first, but it’s packed with sweet, fulfilling content. Despite its difficulty spike while you’re starting off, its high-octane gameplay is still challenging enough to grip you for hours on end. Blessed with some crisp visuals, sweet sounds and great controls to top it all off, anyone with an itch for an unforgiving yet oh-so-satisfying shoot-’em-up should definitely consider answering the call from this one.

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