Thursday, 18 February 2016

Llamatron: 2112 - Atari ST (1991) & Commodore Amiga (1992)

Back in the early to mid eighties, every notable (and not so notable) arcade game seemed to be converted to home computer formats.  Even before this there were unlicensed clones going by barely disguised names such as Skramble!, Defenda and Pheenix.  One title that got overlooked was Robotron: 2084.  It was released in 1982 and designed by Eugene Jarvis who had already created the classic side scroller Defender.  It featured unusual twin-stick controls, where one joystick was used for moving your character and the other was used to control the direction of fire.

This oversight was put right in 1991 when Jeff Minter released his take on the game - Llamatron: 2112.  It initially came out on the Atari ST with Amiga and PC (DOS) conversions appearing the following year.  And coming from the creator of Attack of the Mutant Camels, Sheep in Space and Space Giraffe, it was bound to feature various ruminants.  All versions look and sound more or less the same, but the Amiga and ST feature a superior control method.

Like Robotron, Llamatron is played out on a single screen.  You control the titular laser-spitting robotic Llama.  Your primary objective is to destroy all the 'grunts' while  optionally rescuing the various 'beasties'.  The 'beasties' are small goats, sheep, llamas and camels that wander around the play area and garner bonus points when collected.  The 'grunts' mindlessly head towards you and are made up of a wide variety of objects - cutlery, space invaders, cigarette packets - things like that.

As well as the grunts there is plethora of other enemies.  These include 'brains' which turn the beasties into zombeasts that then hunt you down.  The 'screamer' relentlessly heads for you, takes a lot of punishment and fires missiles.  There is also deadly rain that can only be stopped by touching the umbrella(s) that bounce around the screen.

To help you out there are plenty of power ups including reflect shots, love hearts (attracts the beasties), temporary invincibility and smart bombs.

Basic control comprises a joystick.  The Llamatron fires automatically in the direction you are heading although you can hold down the fire button to lock the direction it shoots.  In single player mode you can also choose to have a robot helper that fires automatically and collects the beasties.  For the full Robotron experience, ST and Amiga owners have the option to plug a second joystick into the mouse port and play the game in all its twin stick goodness.  In this mode you move your llama with the left joystick and control the direction of fire with the right.  It takes a little getting used to but is by far the best way to play the game.

The purple robot doubles your fire power and helps collect the 'beasties'

Like Robotron, the graphics in Llamatron are kept simple, as are the sound effects which consist of a mix of chip and digitised effects.  In a way, Llamatron reminds me of Satellite Attack from a decade earlier - it's not much to look at or listen to, but sit down for quick blast and before you know it, a couple of hours have gone by.  It's very addictive and the gameplay is spot on.  There aren't many Jeff Minter games I really like, but this is a classic.

Example gameplay Atari ST....


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