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Vertical Force provides a lot of stuff to blow up. This is good because if it didn't, it's highly likely that your brain would start to harden and push your bloodshot eyeballs right out of their sockets. I hate to be extreme here but haven't we trodden this path about a hundred gazillion times before? What's the deal here? How do these kinds of games still manage to worm their way past the development people at relatively large companies like Hudson Soft? Don't people stand up and say, "It doesn't matter that the Virtual Boy doesn't have a generic, blatant rip off of Xevious, 1942, 1943, Raiden and a thousand other vertically scrolling shooters, we're just not going to give you the money to make this kind of game!"? Obviously not, because here it is.

The object is to simply navigate your agile little spaceship over, through and around a variety of downward scrolling obstacles and blast the living heck out of everything that moves or fires at you. There are also the obligatory power-up items and a few other treats that take advantage of the 3D capabilities of the Virtual Boy. At the end of every stage, you encounter big bad boss ships. Have you read this book before?

The graphics are rudimentary and a lot less enjoyable than the slick looking illustrations found in the instruction book. The 3D effects - what you paid the big bucks for your Virtual Boy for - seem once again to be a pointless afterthought to the whole affair. The only redeeming feature in the game is that you can scoot around and blast things on two different planes (one closer to the camera and one further away). However, most of the objects that you blast away at look like they've fallen off a prop truck headed to [insert the name of almost any SNES shooter here], so there's little visual stimulation to get excited about. The transitions, as your ship moves in and out of the two different flight paths, are nicely handled. And the power-ups that you can score along the way spurt enough crimson light to make you think they're really special and worth your time to chase. But that's about it, kids.

As far as the audio department is concerned, I bet you can make up most of the sound effects you're gonna hear in the game right now. Come on. Do it with me. Zzzz-u-whap! Boom. tchou-tchou. Fzzzz. Boom. Da-de-da-duh. Boom. You get the idea?

The music? Umm, well, to tell you the truth, it's so generic I have about as much recollection of it as I have of the music in my dentist's waiting room. That usually means there's really nothing too horrible, because I always remember music that's so bad it makes my teeth hurt. Still, most music sounds a little grating coming through the tinny speakers of the V-Boy.

Control of your ship in Vertical Force is straight forward. You have a little pad on your controller called the direction pad. You wiggle this thing around and your ship on screen wiggles around. There's also a bunch of buttons. You push the right one and your ship spits out a laser blast. You press another one and you're really small, which would suggest that you just moved further away from the camera and closer to objects that are below you. Think you can get your fingers around these complexities? It's not like you've never had to deal with controls like this before.

Can I tell you how I felt about Vertical Force? Here goes: the game is so devoid of any kind of identity, it could have come up and bit me on the butt and it still wouldn't have registered a blip on the radar. As an addition to the Virtual Boy's minuscule library, it might end up being one of the only shooters you can buy for the machine (which doesn't mean you should) but it certainly won't be one of the games that gets remembered long after the system has gone to the video game resting area in the sky. I'd suggest renting Vertical Force to see if there's something that you might dig about it but I suspect that by the time you read this, it won't cost you much more to buy the game outright.