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EMU 2.0 ARTICLE - February 1997

The second of the major multi-game emulators to be written for the PC, Neil Bradley's EMU belies its uninspiring title with some exceptionally impressive coding of some of the most popular vector-graphics coin-ops of the 80s. (Support for non-vector games is also built into EMU, but is still at a comparatively primitive level.)

Discounting the buggy emulations of the Space Invaders family, eight games are covered here, namely Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battle Zone, Black Widow, Gravitar, Lunar Lander, Red Baron and Space Duel. The first three are the best-known and should need no introduction to EDGE readers, but there's much of interest in the others also.

Lunar Lander was one of the very earliest coin-ops, and probably remains the simplest one of all time - "land your ship safely on the moon's surface" is the entire plot and game structure, and your controls are limited to rotating and thrusting in an attempt to alight safely on one of the tiny flat areas on the craggy lunar landscape. The game is eerily atmospheric, though, loaded with tension in the near-total silence, and it still provides a challenge.

Gravitar took Lunar Lander a logical stage further on, and pioneered the Thrust genre which would later prove hugely popular on home computers (and give birth to Oids on the Atari ST, one of the greatest lost classics ever). The nerve required to battle through later stages with reverse gravity and invisible planet surfaces is phenomenal.

Black Widow predates Robotron with its two-joystick all-out blasting action, and the spider's-web setting suits the graphic style perfectly. Red Baron is a straightforward biplane dogfighting game, and bringing up the rear (in the alphabetical sense only) is Space Duel, an extremely obscure old Atari game which can be played at its most basic as a single-player Asteroids-style shoot-'em-up. The fascinating aspects, though, are found in the other modes available, in which one player can control two ships joined by an elastic band, or two players can control two joined ships independently. Excellent co-ordination and a good understanding of physics are required to make any progress, and the game's rewarding but demanding gameplay was probably responsible for its total commercial failure.

This is a near-flawless emulator (some of the games don't have full sound yet), loaded with options (for controls, display, and all the coin-op dipswitches) and, like Dave Spicer's Sparcade, is available for download from the Internet completely free of charge (and even if you're not connected yourself, a trip to the local net café with a single floppy disk will enable you to come away with the whole thing in your pocket). You'd be daft to miss it.

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