Time to save the world, again

Armalyte logo

THALAMUS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * JOystick * Out September

Now you might consider you lucky, others may consider you the unluckiest person alive. At the moment, as your ship careers through deep space, you may well side with the former. You will soon change your mind.
Delta Space is a mysterious section of the Universe. Very little of it has been explored. Well, the buses were rather irregular so no-one ever quite got around it.
Those who did get to see the place, usually because they fell asleep on the way home from the pub, reported a system of five planets which were all part of the Aalan Empire, based on the largest planet of the system.

Each of the planets is populated by intelligent forms of life. None of them have heard of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. However, they being militarily weak, the fascist planet of Aala found no trouble whatsoever in marching in, crunching the daffodils and nicking all the kids' sweets.
It seems they also had a strange affinity for grabbing all the benches by the pool before you could get down there in the morning.
Now they have set their sights on somewhere else, somewhere more distant, somewhere far more beautiful. No, not Stansted Airport, but the Planet Earth - that radiant blue pearl in the black fabric of space. Not slow on the uptake, though, the Planet Earth of the 23rd century is more than aware of the imperialistic threats of the overbearing Aalans. Long-range scanning - exceptionally long-range, actually - has been detecting the military build up outside of the Aalan system for the past few years. But the blue eyed boys and girls of the Planet Earth were more than ready for the challenge. They had assembled a massive force.

The plan is to liberate and ally with the four smaller planets of the system, relying heavily on the activities of the resistance movements of the oppressed planets to discreetly place extra weapons pods along the chosen attack path.

Once the planets' defences have been destroyed, bypassed, conquered and quite unreservedly slapped on the wrist by the human force, the governor of the planet, usually exceptionally large, must be confronted and blasted.

This must be done for each of the four planets. Then they must be flown through again so that the remnants of the Aalan symphatising population can be wiped out. I think one of the planets may well have been called Dresden.

All well and good, but soon after the attack was launched it all went tragically wrong. The crafty Aalan fleet sneaked up behind the human fleet, shouted boo and blasted them to kingdom come. This is where my original thought on the question of luck comes in. You see, you survived, initially, by a blinding stroke of good luck. Then as you slowly spin through deep space contempplating exactly where they did put the toilet on your one-man fighter, it occurs to yo that as the sole survivor you have no choice but to single-handedly take on the whole Aalan fleet.

It soon becomes too late to find the toilet as you realise you are the unluckiest man alive, but you have to live with it as you warily fly into the greedy sights of the enemy fighters. It is entirely up to you to save the world, you poor schmuck.

The more aware of you out there will have twigged that this actually translates into an eight-level shoot-'-em-up that may well be hailed as "Bloody Difficult 1991".
The game is very much in the style of R-Type, even down to the weapon that increases its power the longer you depress the fire button. If you tell the fire button that Is mother has died the gun gets really powerful.

The gameplay takes it a step further by animating parts of the scenery to make some areas of the level more of a puzzle-solving exercise than an index finger exercise. These kind of decisions have to be made very quickly as the screen continually scrolls to the left. The indecisive will soon be lost in a shower of sparks.

The gameplay is extremely fast, decisions have to be made and reactions cannot afford to be slow, and this will make the game seem nearly impossible for the first few goes. But the few things you learn at each attempt can be used to gradually progress further into the game.

After a while each session will take you a little bit further. This style of gameplay means the challenge is high but the interest and addictiveness are maintained as each game reveals a little bit more to tease the player into another game.

The graphics are of a very high quality, the ship animates superbly, there are a wide variety of aliens, and the between level screens are up to Psygnosis standards.
Sound effects give a thumping soundtrack but the effects are very good, if a little below the standard of the other elements in the game. My only reservation is that you have to wait well over a minute after losing your third life to be able to start again. This ruins the continuity and doesn't do much for your patience.

This game is a conversion from the C64 original, and they managed to maintain the standards that made that version so playable. If you miss buying this you may well be laughed at by small children.

Armalyte logo

Thalamus * £25.99

This frenetic space blast was originally released a few years ago on the C64 to massive critical acclaim. Now that an Amiga version has arrived, you'd expect improved audio-visuals and more fluid gameplay, but unfortunately, the sound is weak, the graphics are gaudy and the game itself is rather unplayable.

As far as the appearance goes, the brightly coloured scenery leaves the background looking rather flat, instead of the futuristic image that it should have. It's quite a struggle to get the ship to respond to the controls so the movement just doesn't feel right. Armalyte's programmers, Arc, also wrote R-Type II, which is a much better game than this will ever be.

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Große Namen wecken immer große Hoffnungen - Armalyte war am C64 ein Klassiker, da durfte man auf die Amigaversion ja wirklich gespannt sein! Aber wie heißt es doch so treffend: Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude...

Alte 64er-Veteranen warden sich mit Sicherheit noch an die Urversion erinnern, galt sie doch als eine der besten 8-Bit-Ballereien überhaupt. Sicher, im Grunde war Armalyte nur einer von vielen "R-Type"-Clones, hatte jedoch ein irrwitziges Tempo und einen tollen Sound zu bieten. Vor allem aber war es in punktio Spielbarkeit der mißglückten C64-Version des Irem-Knallers haushoch überlegen! Bis nun endlich auch unsere "Freundin" bedient wurde, zogen volle drei Jahre ins Land, was automatisch zu der Frage führt, ob sich die lange Warterei denn letztlich gelohnt hat.

Auf den ersten Blick: nein. Egal, aus welcher Richtung man das Ding auch betrachtet, es sieht einfach wie ein stinknormales Weltraum-Bumbum aus. Das beginnt mit der obligaten Einschlafgeschichte, laut der unser schöner Planet von den lasterhaften Horden der aalanischen Armee bedroht wird und nur mit ein einziges Raumschiff den Weltuntergang noch verhindern kann. Mit just dieser galaktischen Blechbüchse fliegt man dann von links nach rechts über den Screen und erledigt unterwegs die vielen Gegnerformationen Geschützstellungen und Schlußmonster. Also auch in Sachen Gameplay keine Überraschungen, zumal die Waffenauswahl ebenfalls nicht gerade berühmt ist: es gibt zwar den klassischen Superschuß (wenn man länger auf den Feuerknopf bleibt) ansonsten muß man sich aber mit einem simplen Laser und höchst durchschnittlichen Zusatzwaffen bzw. Extras (Power-Ups, Speed-Ups etc.) behelfen.

Auf den zweiten Blick wirkt Armalyte immer noch langweilig. Gut, die Grafiken sind schon recht professionell gestaltet, aber vom Hocker reißen sie einen trotzdem nicht: immerhin ist das Scrolling blitzsauber. Und der Sound? Nun, die Ohren überleben es, wer sich jedoch mehr als Kosmo-Düdelstandard (samt 08/15-Effekten) erwartet, dürfte ziemlich enttäuscht sein. Die Handhabung geht dann nur noch mit Müh und Not als durchschnittlich durch, denn obwohl die Steuerung ganz brauchbar ist, kann das Leveldesign nicht überzeugen.

Zudem sind die Gegner ebenso hinterhältig wie hartnäckig, und das eigene Schiff ist viel zu groß geraten, um handlich zu sein. Alles zusammen ergibt sich so ein geradezu schwindelerregend hoher Schwierigkeitsgrad - Ballernovizen werden hier wohl nicht sehr oft über den ersten Screen hinauskommen. Die kümmerlichen drei Schiffsleben sind binnen Sekunden verbraucht. Continues gibt es nicht, und die Warterei bis zum Neustart ist ein Graus. Solange man nicht alle Gegnerformationen und linken Stellen auswendig kennt, kommt auf zehn Sekunden Spiel eine Minute Wartezeit...

Da sich die Ähnlichkeiten mit dem tollen Brotkasten-Original also praktisch auf den Titel beschränken, bleibt es dabei: Armalyte sieht auf den dritten Blick nicht besser aus als auf den ersten! (Kate Dixon)

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8-bit shoot-'em-up days are here again. But do we want them?

Anyone who finds traditional sideways scrolling blaster irresistible will probably have spent the last few weeks ploughing through Activision's seemingly unsurpassable R-Type II. In comparison, it has to be said that Armalyte, based on a fairly ancient C64 hit, looks pretty sick. A surprise really, considering a) they're essentially the same game, and b) the two were put together by the same team, the normally excellent Arc Developments.

The theory behind it is simple: take one space ship, steer it through a horizontally scrolling space-scape, tackle an assortment of deadly obstacles, and attempt to dismantle whole fleets of hostile enemy ships. Naturally, there's the obligatory selection of end-of-level guardians to negotiate.

Armalyte also shares with the R-Type games the super blaster available by holding down the fire button. So where's it gone wrong here? Well, whereas R-Type II was almost faultless, Armalyte is bugged by some lazy and thoughtless programming.

It's pretty enough, and fairly tough - too tough from the outset, I'd say - but it's about as user friendly as Quest For Glory II. At the end of each and every game you have to sit through both a still graphic of your trashed space cruiser, and then an (admittedly pretty) animation before it lets you into the game again.
This is, of course - infuriating - on the early stages (where you're bound to make loads of mistakes) you're watching this rubbish more than you're actually playing the game! I'm sorry, but snail-like loading is just unforgivable.

It's also silly to insist on giving players only three lives with no chance to continue play. I know some people complain that continues make games too easy to complete, but their omission tends to suggest the game isn't quite as large as it might be.

Still, if you can stand these irritations (and you'll have to be pretty mellow not to lose your rag) then Armalyte isn't all bad. It's tough, so getting through each section is a satisfying experience, and graphics and animation are respectable enough, if a little two dimensional.

Even so, despite the irritations, it is a game I found myself coming back to again and again - not so much because it impressed me, or even bugged me, but because I'm such a hopeless sucker for sideways scrolling blasters. That said, Armalyte isn't a total waste of time, just a bit of a waste of time.

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Cyberdyne system's C64 blaster was probably the most accomplished game ever to grace the little beige suitcase's screen. Featuring six stages of frantic action, set against some simply stunning bas-relief backdrops, the C64 Armalyte won itself a legion of fans, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, though, the same classic status cannot be bestowed upon this amiga 'enhancement'.

The story behind the game's development has more twists and turns than an episode of falcon crest, with the game originally in the hands of Steve Northcot and Ian Harling who consequently left the project mid-development. The job was the farmed out to arc developments who were given a free reign as to what to put in the game. The resulting effort is a give-stage blast, which abandons the bas-relief favoured by its C64 step-father and opts for a series of organic and stone levels. In addition, the two-player mode of the first game is another casualty, so now it's just you against the many waves of would-be space flotsam.

Armalyte is typical horizontally-scrolling fare, with the player guiding their futuristic ship through winding and deadly mazes. Occupying each of these stages are the aforementioned alien invaders, and these must be destroyed using your ship's array of weapons which include an R-Type-style beam weapon. To boost these pathetic armaments, though, a series of blue orbs line the route and, when shot, they reveal a tiny icon. This endows the craft with rear and side-mounted shots but is lost should the ship come a cropper and lose one of its three lives. When a level has been traversed, standing between you and the next stage is a massive 'boss' creature, designed to blend in with the level's graphical theme. Then, once again, its time to take out before it rids you of your supply of lives.

Now, while all this doesn't sound particularly inspiring, it is the graphical finesse that sets Armalyte apart from the rest. The backdrops feature acid-dripping spirals and huge gaseous swarms that burst out from nowhere. These creatures aren't just there for their looks, and avoiding them and their flak is essential if any progress is to be made. However, these graphical enhancements fail to add a certain spark to the game's tried and tested gameplay and, with the likes of Z-out leading the way in the horizontally-scrolling area, Armalyte comes across as a second division blaster.

Newsfield-owned Thalamus have been on the forefront of shoot 'em up design since the company was launched in 1986. Sanxion was their first release, and was written by newcomer Stavros Fasoulas. The game, a horizontal blaster, was subsequently released in September, and fasoulas then followed it up with Delta, a fast-paced blaster which drew its inspiration from R-Type, Nemesis, and countless others. Unfortunately, Finnish Fasoulas was then drafted to join the Finnish army for two years' compulsory service. In the meantime, Thalamus had signed another upcoming team, Cyberdyne Systems, to produce Armalyte. However, Fasoulas is now back on the scene with Galactic, another fast-paced blaster which he is currently developing.