Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32
Scramble was a very popular game in arcades of the early 80's, with good reason. It was pretty innovative in 1981, being side-scrolling and multi-levelled. The side-scrolling required gamers to learn a new skill: speed control. Because the landscape scrolled at a constant speed the player could adjust his speed to get around tight corners. I still remember desperately forcing the joystick down and back to get through the cavern section, only to have the screen catch back up and force me into a wall. All the advanced gaming skills we take for granted these days simply were not needed back in the early 80's. Many was the time you'd find a new machine that would need a new skill, and that's what kept the experience fresh.
There's no real secrets to Scramble, it's a pretty self-explanatory game. Keep an eye on the fuel guage, bomb and strafe as many of those fuel tanks as you can to keep yourself topped up (how blowing up fuel tanks could fill your guage was never explained), adjust your speed to the terrain.
The first two levels are reasonably easy as they don't require defensive manouvering. The third level hurls invulnerable fireballs at you, so the trick is to stay low in the valleys, zipping forward and over into the next during breaks. The fourth level tightens things up, bringing you into a city zone. Get every fuel tank you can because you'll need it as things get tougher in this level, when fuel tanks are far below you. Accelerating and decelerating to force missiles to take off is the key to the tighter parts of this level, hanging back will only see you forced into a collision. The fifth level is pretty easy once you've got the skill to match your speed to where you need to be. Extremely tight caverns force you to speed up whenever you can, so you can ascend or descend with the joystick fully back. The sixth and final level looks impossible: you need to destroy a base that's ridiculously difficult to get to. It is possible to drop down, hit the base and get out, but a far better approach is to treat your ship as expendable. Even if it's your last one, as long as you do indeed destroy the base you'll get a replacement once the machine has returned you to level one (although keep in mind it gets harder the second time around).
Scramble is a game that really gets under your skin, once you start to make progress.
It can be found in the 'Classics' folder of Mame GP32, and plays nicely with sound at frameskip 1.
Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran