Armalyte - Thalamus

developed by Cyberdyne Systems
published by Thalamus 1988

Reviewed by Herr Schatten

If you're talking about classic shooters on the C64, the name 'Armalyte' will show up very frequently. Everyone seems to love this game. Everyone except for me, that is. Really, I never understood all this excitement about Armalyte in the first place and I still don't understand it today. But now, let's have a closer look at the game.

Armalyte is the official sequel to 'Delta', but gameplay-wise, there are not many similarities between the two of them. Two players can play Armalyte simultaneously. Solo players get an option device attached to their ship, which is very useful, because it increases your firepower and at the same time it can be used as a shield against enemy bullets. Extra weapons are pretty basic in style. There's only side and rear guns and an improved front vulcan to be collected. A super weapon can be fired by holding down the fire button, but after that it takes a while until it recharges itself again. So there's not very much in the gameplay department which is new or extraordinarily well done. Enemies attack in chaotic formations and from all sides. If you're used to the more structured gameplay of the average Japanese shooter, this causes quite some irritation. Additionally, the colours of the enemy ships are not very tasteful. Often, there are bright green or even pink ships in a formation, which gives me the feeling I'm fighting some sort of space candy.

The colours are definitely the main problem of the game, at least in the graphic department. The designers defined about ten different colour palettes. Each level uses three or four of them, but not simultaneously. Instead they are used one after the other. Let me give you an example: Level one starts out being all blue, then it changes to be completely red, then orange, then green and finally it becomes grey. During each level, you are presented the same graphic elements in severeal different colour schemes. This odd cycling through the colour palettes takes away a lot of the uniqueness of the individual levels, as it gives you the feeling you're playing the same level over and over again. Worse yet, some of the colour schemes are pretty ugly. I would have preferred it much if every level sticked to one shade all along. The graphic artist obviously loved the graphics of 'Io' (the one-eyed snakes are stolen from that game), but he failed in trying to recreate their astonishing look. His palettes are somewhat flat compared to the very fine and stylish designs of Io.

The sound is mediocre at best. The title tune is average. During the game, there's no music at all, just a couple of sfx, which are not too exciting, either.

The boring bosses are another major flaw of the game. Not only do most of the bosses and minibosses look the same, they are also very easy to defeat. They just move a little back and forth and occasionally shoot some bullets. It's easy to dodge their attacks, but still it takes ages to kill them, as they take so many hits. I hate that.

What more? The collision detection, while being generous if the background graphics are concerned, tends to be pretty unfair in the case of sprite/sprite collision. But the one thing I hate most about Armalyte is that exploding enemies actually stay in their formations and their explosions follow the very path the ship would have taken if it hadn't been shot. The explosions are always of the same colour as the ships, so it's often hard to tell which ship is blowing up and which one is just badly animated. Very often, you'll end up crashing into the background while trying to avoid enemy ships you've already taken out. This sucks so much, I can barely clad it in words.

Overall, apart from the two players mode and the ending sequence, there's not very much I like about Armalyte. It falls short on every aspect, be it graphics, sound or gameplay. If this isn't the most overrated game in shmups history, it must be at least among the top ten. Don't take me wrong: Armalyte is not a bad game, but it's in no way the classic everyone seems to so excited about.

Now I think I'll throw my Armalyte disk out the window and play game of 'Io' or 'Katakis' instead.

   Level one consists of many tubes. As you can see, some of the colour schemes in this game are not very pleasant to the eye.

   The boss is some kind of high tech boomerang. We will see more of those later on.

   Level two is probably the best looking level of the game. There's some heavy Giger influences here and most of the colours are not that ugly.

   Wow! At least this is a very cool looking boss. He might even be terrifying, if his colours weren't that cheerful.

   Level three takes us to some ruins, complete with gargoyles and colours that make your eyes hurt.

   Hey! Haven't I seen you before? Are you a relative of that boomerang from level one? Or do you belong to the ever reappearing Gradius boss family?

   Level four is an outer space level without any background graphics. But it's got its own meteor shower.

   More bosses from the same family. Take out the small one first, then go for the bigger one. Both are easily dispatched, though.

   The background graphics of level five remind me of Moon Patrol. I can't quite figure out why.

   Another cool looking boss. He would look even cooler if his environment had the appropriate colour. Despite his impressive appearance, he's as easy to kill as his predecessors.


The mandatory crystal level. Complete with the unavoidable shooter snake. (*sigh*)


Is it just me or do all these bosses look the same? Btw, all the minibosses in this game seem to come from the same factory that builds these space boomerangs.

'ACME Boomerang Boss Ltd.' - Buy five bosses, get ten minibosses for free!

   Again, level seven is set in outer space and has no background graphics. Lots of mid-sized enemies here.

   I think this one escaped from the Konami laboratories. Thank goodness I found it. Who would have guessed that it's hiding inside a C64 game? Without me, it'd have taken the Konami guys ages to track it down.

   To my great surprise, the last level is not organic in nature. Instead, it's some kind of technoid base with many very tight passages to squeeze through. But it looks a little disappointing for a last level, doesn't it?

   The last boss is surprisingly small and doesn't look too cool either. I would have preferred something more spectacular, like that boss from level five. Well, at least it's not one of these boomerangs. And the following ending sequence certainly makes up for it.

Cheers mate for the first review published for quite a wee while, may it be the first of a deluge of them...eek! More reviews to come from Herr Schatten soon!


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie