Reviewer: David McCandless
Okay, take the best features from Manic Miner, Equinox, Zynaps and Exolon, plus a pinch of programming prowess (not forgetting the 'p' alliteration) and what do you get? Miner Willy Meets Some Aliens Just As The Sun Crosses The Equator? No! You get Cybernoid - The Fighting Machine.
But what have you really got? At first butchers it seems just like another mass carnage of extraterrestrials game, but a long, lingering gawp ( and perhaps a play or three) will tell you that this is a game of reflex, of judgment and of strategy, that will keep the hardest of the hard game players (ie me), quiet for weeks.
Apparently the Massive Federation intergalactic storage depos (MFI to you), have been plundered by pirates. All the latest battle weaponry, minerals, jewels and ammo have been ripped off (definitely MFI!), leaving the Federation floundering in defencelessness. So who do they call? Yep, Cybernoid, who has five lives with which to deal with all the juicy planetary defence systems and pesky pirates (as well as the recurring 'p' alliterations). One word can sum up the graphics in this game: effervescent. From start to finish, each screen is strewn with bubbling and fizzing action: kaleidoscopic explosions, spinning pirates, stray laser beams, and some more explosions - the whole lot usually concentrating around your ship. The graphic design is very Equinox/Exolon-ish, but upgraded to complement this totally brilliant game.
As seems the trend these days with sci-fi games (Zynaps and Sidearms to name two), extra weapon add-ons suffuse this game. To obtain more weapons of destruction you must vaporise a likely looking pirate and collect any icon that may fall from its burnt-out shell. Features range from a windmilling CyberMace (the nuclear world's equivalent of the Tyson fist), a backfiring gun, and extra-weapons in the form of canisters. All are worth extra points. And why not?
But suddenly a fumbling reviewer accidently presses keys 1 to 5 and comes across six more types of weapon. Gosh! First of these options is BOMB - these flare up, blatting anything stupid enough to get in the way. Second are IMPACT MINES, which are subtle little circles that detonate any vagrant aliens Then there's the DEFENCE SHIELD, making you invulnerable for a spell. After that there's the BOUNCE BOMBS that make four mega-balls (cue Phil South jokes), boing all round screen with explosive effects. Last but by no means least, is SEEKER, a beautiful invention that has a fatal attraction (I've seen dat film, mate) for anything remotely alien. Holding down fire activates all these options, a gentle change from feverishly pumping down on the fire key.
All these features alone could make a game, but the real attraction doesn't come in the excellent graphics, fast gameplay or even the sheer variety of everything, but instead in the tactics and planning needed to pass each screen. As in Manic Miner (you've been wondering where the connection would come in, haven't you?), there is a select route or safe-area which you must find to leave the screen -and once you've left it there's no turning back, boi (to be said in a John Wayne voice). And it is the promise of ever more weird and wonderful screens that lures you on. Totally brilliant.
One thing I feel I must warn you about: never play this game in the presence of parents and volatile relatives, because, be most assured, Cybernoid will have you swearing till your tongue drops off and Eddie Murphy blushes. You have beer warned.
Now to get hacking. Hur-hur-hur! (Evil Hacker type chuckle.)
THE COMPLETE YS GUIDE TO SHOOT-'EM-UPS PART 1
Where'd we all be without shoot-'em-ups, eh, Spec-chums? Well, we'd all have much smaller games collections, that's for sure! Join MATT BIELBY for an epic blast through nearly a decade of firepowered Spec-fun...
Blimey! The complete guide to shoot-'em-ups, eh? A bit of a mammoth task you might be thinking (and you'd be blooming right! It's taken me absolutely ages!). It's so blinking gigantic in fact that we've had to split it in two to save the whole ish from being packed to the gills with ancient shooty-shooty games and very little else!
So how's it all going to work? Well, this issue we spotlight those hundreds of games where you control a little spaceship, aeroplane or what have you, while next time round we'll be wibbling on for ages about those blasters where you command a man, creature or robot - things like Operation Wolf, Gryzor, Robocop (the list is endless, I'm sorry to say). Yes, I know it's a bit of an arbitrary way to divide the whole subject up in two, but it's the best I could come up.
Anyway, if you 're all ready, let's arm the missiles, oil the cannons, buckle our seatbelts and go kick some alien ass! (Or something.)
SO WHAT EXACTLY MAKES A SHOOT-'EM-UP A SHOOT-'EM-UP?
Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, it's a game where simple reaction times count for (almost) everything, and the actual shooting of various baddies constitutes the major part of the gameplay. It's just about the oldest form of computer game going (Space Invaders was pure shoot-'em-up, for instance), short of mad Victorian chappies crouching down inside big wooden cabinets and pretending to be chess machines. It's one of the most enduring forms too - hardly an issue of YS goes by when we don't review at least a couple of newies, and it's the rare arcade-style game (sports sims and puzzlers excepted) that doesn't include at least a small shoot-'em-up element in there somewhere as part of the gameplay.
But back to the case in hand. What we're talking about here are the pure shoot-'em-ups - games where the wiping out of waves of aliens or other baddies is everything (though let's be fair, the violence in most of these is very abstract and minimal). They easily divide into four major types, depending on how you view the action. And you can read all about them over the page.
THE FIRST EVER SHOOT-'EM-UP
Goodness knows - Space Invaders is the obvious answer, but most of the other early arcade games were shoot-'em-ups too - Defender, Asteroids, Galaxian and the rest. To find out what made it onto the Speccy first, well, we'll have to look back in the vaults and see what we come up with, shan't we?
Right, here we are with the very first issue of Your Spectrum (later to evolve into Your Sinclair), cover date January 1984. Flick to the review section and we have two Space invaders-type games, both from long-forgotten Anirog Software - Galactic Abductor and Missile Defence. The second issue (Feb 84. believe it or not) brings us such delights as Xark (Contrast Software), a Defender-type game and Alien Swoop (a Galaxians rip-off), while in issue three had Bug Byte's Cavern Fighter (a tunnel-based jobbie, like an early version of R-Type).
Hmm. Let's go back a bit further, shall we? All the early computer games mags were listings based (ie had lots of crap Basic games printed out line by line over oodles of pages, as if Program Pitstop had run rampant over the whole mag!) so we might find something in there. Believe it or not find something in there. Believe it or not, I have the very first issue of the very first computer games mag in the country sitting right here on my desk, cover-dated November 1981. There's only one Sinclair game in here (for a ZX80 or 81 - a Speccy forerunner - and taking up a whole 2K!). It's called City Bomb, and it's a sort of shoot-'em-up. Apparently you're in a plane at the top of the screen and have to bomb the city beneath you, flattening out a landing strip so you can put down safely. Thrilling stuff, eh? As for commercially available stuff, it's all lost a bit too far back in the mists of time to be sure. Still, shoot-'em-ups started emerging for the Speccy pretty soon after the machine came out, certainly by the end of '82. Throughout 83 people like Quicksilva and Bug Byte were churning out Space Invaders, Asteroids and Scramble clones advertised as 'being in 100% machine code and in colour' too, so perhaps it was one of those. Exciting stuff, eh?
In the great YS Guide To... tradition, for a one-off-only special occasion we've adapted our normal rating system to accommodate the shoot-'em-up theme. Here's how they work...
Are there oodles of inventive, nasty and extremely difficult-to-kill baddies all over the place (including the biggest, meanest muthas ever at the end of each level) or do you end up fighting a fleet of Trebor Mints?
Are there oodles and oodles of well-thought-out and spectacular weapons available to pick up and use, or do you have to make do with the same crap little peashooter throughout the game?
Unusually, the lower the score the better here. Basically, is this exactly the same as every other shoot-'em-up ever (in which case it'll get a high score for being chronically unoriginal) or does it have something innovative and special about it to set it apart from the crowd?
Does everything make a degree of sense in Speccyvision, or is it all a jumbled mass of pixels, with bullets, missiles and even little spaceships winking in and out of view willy-nilly?
This flip-screen shoot-'em-up and its very similar (but slightly souped-up) sequel are notable in a number of ways. For a start there's the colour - absolutely loads of it littered about, especially when programmer Raf Cecco's famous explodey bits come into play. Then there's the gameplay - the first few screens aren't too tricky, but you soon find yourself coming across some of the most ludicrously packed and complicated problems ever - it's often a real triumph to get half way across a screen, let alone onto the next one! Neat touches like the use of gravity (some bullets drop in a little arc as opposed to zooming on in a straight line, and your ship squats firmly on the ground if you don't tell it otherwise) add to the infuriating fun.
Raf's been quite generous in one way though - if you find you're having really insurmountable problems with any one obstacle you can always sacrifice a ship to get past it with the few seconds of invulnerability that come with each new one (I wouldn't recommend you try this tactic too often though!). A couple of essential purchases.
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