When Zzap publisher Newsfield decided to controversially set-up a game publishing division called Thalamus, readers had every right to be suspicious whether the mag's editorial integrity would go out of the window when it came to reviewing its own games.
That said, the mag, under the guidance of Messrs Penn and Rignall had built up a fearsome reputation for knowing a good game when they saw one, so it seemed more likely that with ex Zzap writer Gary Liddon heading up production duties at the firm, they wouldn't allow anything but the best out the door.
And so it proved with Sanxion, which saw the fledgling publisher hit the ground running with one of 1986's best shooters – coded by the previously unknown Finnish programmer Stavros Fasoulas, who basically came to ECTS that year and said, to paraphrase, 'gissa job!'. For a year or so, it was to be a beautiful union, but that's another story.
Emerging at a time when the horizontal scrolling shooter was the hottest genre in gaming, Sanxion had a look and feel not dissimilar to many games of the era trailing in the wake of the wondrous Uridium. So, bass relief effects? Check. Waves after wave of spinning enemy ships to blast to bits? Check. Incredible loading screen music by Rob Hubbard? Check. Really bloody tough unless you play it repeatedly and memorise enemy attack patterns? Double check.
What was perhaps noteworthy about Sanxion revisiting it all these years later is the way it splits the screen horizontally into two, with an overhead view occupying the top 20 per cent, and the rest given over to the usual side-on viewpoint. Although it looked a bit pointless (and restricted the main play area), it did allow Fasoulas to throw in a few neat tricks, such as showing you attack formations as well as advance warning on the sneaky rear-side attacks.
Although Sanxion doesn't stand up nearly as well as Uridium does these days, it was still a real highlight of the C64's growing love-affair with shooters. If you're a twitch shooter junkie, this is a game you have to play at some stage.