Life is tough in outer space, ignore those Star Trek re-runs where the universe is a happy place and they all boldly go because it's far more rugged than that, more like George Peppard's space cowboy in Battle Beyond The Stars but possibly without the singing. One such designer-stubbled hero is the fabulously named Mansfield Rough, bounty hunter, cyborg and hero for hire, who bravely blasted off into uncharted space and promptly managed to stuff up the manly image by getting kidnapped by the mysterious aliens who occupy the previously un-explored planet Dragonia 6809. What's probably going to be even more embarrassing for him is that it's his daughter Shipley who'll be coming to the rescue; certainly not something the average hardened space farer like Mansfield will be admitting to fellow ruffians over a pint in a seedy bar is it?
Although Shipley Rough is a bit of a novice and has only just got a full license, she's more than ready to wade into the thick of things looking for dear old daddy and has come armed to the teeth in a shiny new Interceptor 010. Which is a good thing really, because Dragonia 6809 is heavily populated by nasty aliens whose touch is fatal, littered with missiles triggered by a foreign body's proximity and power relays that arc electricity across the caverns. Along with the standard forward-firing lasers, for which there are easily obtained power-ups knocking around in some of the storage crates that litter the levels, the Interceptor can also lob a slow moving but deadly bouncing bomb that wanders around the screen and gives a slapping to almost anything nasty that gets in it's way.
ONE WOMAN CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Rough Justice is based, generally speaking, on the Raffaele Cecco blaster Cybernoid, the player is plonked into the first screen and proceeds to work their way through each area in turn heading for the teleporter to the next level in the final screen. Although the action is hardcore blasting, there are elements of strategy involved since each screen needs a little thought if Shipley is to make it through without being reduced to a bunch of pixels. Similarly, the control system takes a little juggling since horizontal motion is straightforward but vertical control is limited to either moving up or letting gravity pull the ship down so hovering is achieved by repeatedly pressing and releasing the up control. Fortunately, a very handy keyboard definition option means that a comfortable arrangement can be found for the controls.
The in-game graphics are pretty good but nothing truly spectacular in the same way that the Cybernoid games managed to be, although the "pixel shatter" explosions are most effective, there is a good general use of colour around the screen and all the movement is smooth. The Interceptor manoeuvres well in a tight corner, allowing for some real skin-of-the-teeth action as well as juggling against gravity from time to time and the power-ups allow for a good supply of death-dealing laser bolts. Sound is reasonable, being a mixture of simple but effective beeper sounds and, if your machine has an AY chip aboard, a nice soundtrack that pounds away in the background, adding to the general atmosphere.
What makes this game really stand out though is the challenge, the difficulty curve is pretty steep but never quite enough to put the player off totally and there are some screens where it's incredibly frustrating (for example, where you enter at the top of the screen and fall due to gravity straight into the line of a horizontally moving missile) but again that frustration tends to make you want another go to get further! That's where it scores over Cybernoid because the curve was just set too high and the fiddly details of grabbing dropped cargo made the Cecco titles a much more difficult and annoying experience. Rough Justice has become a firm favourite of mine because it's what 8-bit games are all about; playability, challenge and generally just bloody good fun!