Thursday 11 April 2013

Armalyte - Commodore 64 - 1988

Static screenshots fail to do Armalyte justice.

Due to only one of my mates owning a Commodore 64, Armalyte is another classic game that passed me by.  It is one of those colourful, loud, scrolling shoot 'em ups the Commodore 64 seems to excel at.  At this point I would normally compare other versions of the game but it doesn't look like it was converted to the Amstrad and there was only a demo made for the Spectrum. A game called Armalyte was released for the Amiga and ST with the only similarity being that it was a side scrolling shoot 'em up.  The level layout and game mechanics were totally different, and it was too damn difficult to be enjoyable.

The plot in this game involves reclaiming a research base with which contact was lost just as they made a major scientific discovery.  The surrounding area has been over run by a race called the H'siffian Khanate and you must fight your way through them to make it to the research facilty.

Armalyte can be played with either a single player or two players simultaneously.  In one player mode the second player is replaced by an indestructible drone which replicates your fire power.  By default it follows your ship around but by hitting the space bar it can be made to stay in one place.   

The drone can do all the work for at least the first two bosses.

Scattered throughout the eight levels are munitions pods.  When collected they will make your craft invincible for five seconds.  Alternatively they can be shot and will cycle through various upgrades such as rear shots, vertical shots and batteries.  The ship also carries three types of 'super weapon', each of varying degrees of power.  The super weapons can be selected from the keyboard and when used drain power from the ships onboard generator.  If the generator is empty the super weapons cannot be used until it has recharged although it can be backed up with up to four batteries picked up from the munitions pods.  If you lose a life all power ups are thankfully retained.

Unleashing Super Weapon B.

I am a big fan of this type of game and Armalyte is an excellent example of the genre.  The graphics are fast and the scrolling is very smooth.  In single player mode the drone gives the game an R-Type/Gradius vibe which is no bad thing.  The sound is also very good and I like the power up system.  Criticisms?  It's tough, very tough. What makes it worse is that the explosions are the same colour as the enemy sprites and travel for a bit which can make the screen cluttered and confusing.  I don't like that your ship and the drone can't overlap - if you are just below it and want move up a fraction you can't, they just swap places.  Also, the 'hit box' for the aliens seems a bit small, although to be fair so is yours and your ship can get away with slightly overlapping the scenery.  All in all the good far outweighs that bad and I can see myself returning to Armalyte a lot.

Overtones of Gradius.

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