Playing Killer Cobra (Amstrad CPC)

Released in 1987 for the Amstrad CPC by budget publishers Mastertronic and written by Peter Wiseman, Killer Cobra is a horizontally scrolling shooter where the player takes control of the titular helicopter to blast their way through well-defended caverns in search of a priceless treasure and early retirement. Ah… the 1980s where video game stories were there to fill a bit of space on the cassette inlay and it really didn’t matter if you actually read them.

Killer Cobra is basically a loose clone of Konami’s coin-op Super Cobra from 1981, but played with the fast forward button permanently held down, so a background hazard can completely cross the screen in under a second. That doesn’t leave much in the way of reaction time so, to begin with at least, most players will have to work through the frustration of repeatedly slamming helicopters into walls as a result. But given some practise and most likely a little memorisation, it’s possible make some progress through the stages.

There aren’t any power-ups to worry about but the Cobra does have a fuel gauge which ticks down at an alarming rate that, for reasons lost in the mists of time or at least Konami’s design documents, can be topped up by bombing fuel dumps on the ground – labelled with the word “oil” in Killer Cobra – which are defended by ground-to-air defences, airborne nasties and other facilities which are worth blasting to smithereens for a few points as well.

The background graphics and sound are primitive especially considering the year of release – a pounding in-game tune really wouldn’t have gone amiss here – but the sprites are reasonable and the package as a whole still has a certain charm.. The perilously steep learning curve aside, it certainly gets the adrenalin going during play – this is one of those games where getting into “the zone” and flying by instict really works – and has that elusive “one more go” factor, although some players will need a bit of a lie down in a dark room with some soothing music after a couple of sorties.

2 thoughts on “Playing Killer Cobra (Amstrad CPC)

  1. I don’t have any CPC emulators installed at the moment, so just browsed by a YouTube long play to take a look at this game in action.

    All I can say is that the player I watched is some kind of Jedi Knight in training because this game looks impossible! There is no way my ageing hand-eye coordination would cope with that speed these days! Saying that, even as a teen, I think I would have struggled.

    Shame about the plain mountain backdrops, because otherwise the graphics and presentation are really nice.

  2. It’s one of those games where flying by instinct works far better than any attempt at planning ahead will, although it does help to have a rough idea of what’s coming next in the landscape. There are harder games out there though, I’ve forgotten the name but there is a vertical blaster on the BBC which uses a similar, high-speed scroll engine and that makes Killer Cobra look like a walk in the park!

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