Take Aim Fire!

There was a time when SLR stood for Single Lens Reflex. Militarists will tell you that it really stands for Self Loading Rifle, but film makers have the drop. As long ago as the 1936 Olympics, the idea of a reflex viewing system for cameras was developed and used. Anyway, it’s all irrelevant now because computer games players know it stands for Stack Light Rifle.

The Stack Light Rifle is a giant light pen that works very well up to about ten feet from your television set. If you’ve tried drawing on the screen with a light pen, you’ll know that you can’t do much with it unless the tip of the pen is pressed close to the screen, so it gives some indication of the accuracy and power of the Stack Light Rifle that it operates so far from the screen. There have been some complaints recently in magazine reports about the accuracy of the ‘telescopic’ sight on the rifle’s barrel, but in tests, we found our review rifle behaved with commendable accuracy if you used it as you would a normal rifle. Because it isn’t a proper rifle sight, and is fixed to slide a limited distance, adjustable in one axis only, it obviously suffers some shortcomings, but nothing like we heard mentioned.

The rifle comes in three bits, the barrel, stock and firing mechanism. The barrel slots in and is held firm with a locking nut. The stock slips into a cut groove just behind the trigger guard and handle and then has a brass tightening screw to lock it into place. It takes approximately half a minute to strip it down so that it can be used as a hand gun instead of a rifle.

The games which are obviously suited to the use of the Stack Light Rifle are shoot em ups, and the rifle comes complete with a cassette containing three games which make the point: High Noon, Shooting Gallery and Grouse Shoot. The best of the three, High Noon by D.E. Tsang, pits you against endless gunslingers walking round the screen and turning to fire at you. It seems a shame that Stack couldn’t have come up with better quality games to give away with the rifle. The High Noon gun fighters are reasonably animated, but the graphics of the other two are extremely primitive. Which raises one obvious point — is there enough software being produced to work with the Stack Light Rifle to make it worth forking out the £30 it costs? Stack say that they are talking to a number of software houses, notably Anirog, who are preparing games, and that there should be several on the market before long. Micromania are actually the first out with a game called Invasion Force.

Invasion Force is a different kettle of aliens compared to the games which come with the rifle, and one reviewer was overheard saying that he hadn’t had as much fun since giving up Smirnov. We talked recently to another leading software house about games for the Stack Light Rifle, and they said that they wouldn’t actually produce and sell one themselves because there is still a somewhat limited market at the moment, but they would certainly consider writing a game for Stack to market under the Stack name.

As long as new games come along, or indeed some old ones are made compatible for the rifle, then it should be assured a successful future, for there’s no doubt that it brings an entirely new angle on computer games with it — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it brings a very old angle back, that of physically shooting something up!

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