Gigandes - East Technology


East Technology, 1989

Reviewed by malc.

Alright - Gigandes then. Saw a pcb on Ebay, had a play in Mame, decided I MUST have it. I do this quite a lot anyway - damn Ebay, damn Mame. Making me want stuff.

East Technology aren't exactly known for their shmups. In fact they're not exactly known for anything much. So Gigandes turning out to be one of the most fun shooters I've played for a long time was a nice surprise. As I write this, I've just come fresh from another blast of it, and it just gets better and better.

You might have scrolled down to see some screenies by now, and thinking I've lost the plot, but graphics are not what Gigandes is about. This is no Xexex, no pretty effects, no parallax, no scaling... I have to admit it's downright ugly really. Everything's small and titchy, and really badly drawn and animated at times. Just check out level one's boss - isn't that atrocious? However, there's a great deal of unusual and plain weird stuff in there, even if it looks like the tea-boy drew it in 16 colours. It doesn't help that there's a significant amount of slowdown either - what you see in Mame is what the pcb is like too.

So, first visual impressions aren't that good, at least the music is much better. Quite trancey and hypnotic at times, it burbles away in the background and contributes to the surreal feel Gigandes has. Some of the tracks will have you humming them at inappropriate moments, which is always the sign of decent shmup tunage.

Well, I intentionally got the audiovisuals out of the way first, because the entire point of Gigandes is the superb tactical gameplay. Yes, I believe it's right up there with R-Type and all those other slow paced horizontal strategic shmups that I love. Vertical bullet-fest fans can stop reading now. Gigandes is slow, methodical, and heavy on careful and considered weapon usage.

Initially, Gigandes will confuse. Starting off, your little rotund ship, looking like a reject from an HG Wells book, launches from your everyday garden variety nuclear submarine. Pressing fire does as you would expect - a couple of shots squeeze themselves out from the stick-like extrustion on the front of your spheri-ship.

That's it up there by the way, round and cuddly isn't it? Let's turn it into something altogether more spiky and ferocious then shall we? Cue the core goodness of the game - Weapons. Apart from the initial piddly shot, there are three main types you can pick up, with two modifers:

   A round ball which shoots off, rolls about the scenery a bit, and then returns. Powers up to a quicker more powerful ball.
  A missile shot, which expands to a wide but quite weak triple stream of missiles.
  A thin Laser beam, powerful but needs accuracy to use. Powers up to a double Laser.
  Now, this is a Powerup, which increases the power and size of the above three weapons.
  And, a Wavy Mutate. This is the only possible name I can give it. This mutates the normal shots into something more wavy. The laser goes all wobbly and blue for instance, and the missiles will snake around in a sine wave if you add this to it.

"Wow" you say, "How novel." Shut up and listen...

Depending on which side of your ship you bash into the pickup, will attach the pickup to that side of it. So if you pick up a missile on the left of it, the missile will be attached to the left, and shoot backwards. Good players will find their favourite formations for every situation. For example, a powered up laser in front, a missile shot behind, and two round balls above and below will see you past most claustrophobic tight spots.

One restriction is that you can't have more than two weapons of the same type, so if you already have two missiles in place, don't try and pick up a third - nothing will happen. Bear in mind once you bolt on a weapon, it can't be changed for another even if you die (unless you start a new level, see later) So you'll have to think carefully on whether or not to pick up a powerup just because you need more firepower at that moment, instead of the most suitable setup for the level and boss.

Now (and this is the good bit) press the B button - your entire weapon complement rotates 90 degrees around your ship clockwise, meaning you can change your attack and defense depending on where the enemies are coming from. This is especially handy in levels which give you only limited powerups - and ask you to fire round corners or clear vertical tunnels of turrets and stuff. Nothing is random here - weapon pickup placement and type is carefully thought out in every level. Sometimes you'll get pelted with powerups, and sometimes you'll get only a very few. It all adds up to requiring some nifty bolting on and planning - very necessary for grabbing the correct type of new weapons to negotiate the stage.

Plus, I only just discovered that holding down the B button will angle your top and bottom shots 45 degrees towards the front, or the back, letting you have more control over your already fairly complex firepower options. There's several places where this comes in very handy, especially level three's boss, or occasions where you need to launch your [C] options down a tunnel.

Making things slightly easier is the fact that there are no restart points - you return where you died, WITH all your weapons intact. But every time you start a new level you begin with only the peashooter, making you collect the right types of powerups you need for that level from scratch. This works very nicely in practice, a good combination of difficulty without frustration. Even continues are sensibly implemented, taking you back to the very start of the level to attempt it over again.

I realise you may be terribly confused by this point, but the weapon system is ingenious and simple in actual play. The levels are designed around this system, with enemies coming from all angles, tight spaces and corridors needing cleared out before you go down them, and movable areas of scenery needing punched out of the way with your [C] options.

I think maybe the best thing to do is shut up now and take you through the levels of the game, as they may be ugly but they are very cleverly laid out at times, with some really great and unusual bosses attacking in many different ways.

It's one of those games which is obscure, strange, ugly, clunky, slow - but the intricacies of its gameplay and weapon system demands you to play it again and again. I really am hooked on this little gem - you can't fault Gigandes for invention and effort, but the execution (slowdown especially) and visuals are hopelessly under-par at times, which is why it's getting a 7/10.


Level one is quite nasty if you aren't up to speed with the weapon system. Lots of stuff comes from behind and above, requiring deft use of the rotate weapon function. Here I have just blown up after being rammed from behind. (story of my life)

My Little Mid-boss

Unfortunately there's no parallax scrolling, which would have made this cityscape quite impressive. Anyway, that flying lobster enemy shoots this stripey laser as you can see, but also has a bunch of red balls which explode with bullets. More often it's the red balls which will kill you.



Where's the animation?

End of level 1 boss simply slides left and right, and looks horrendously amateurish - even worse in motion. He does have lots of bullet and missile and laser attacks though, making blowing up the blue blobs in the middle quite hard at first. But after a few goes, anyone dying here deserves to die anyway.

The biggest surprise in level 2 is the fact that your weapons get taken away! Actually, it's good - because the weapon upgrading is very well balanced, meaning if you are careful with adding on weapons, you always have enough firepower to progress.



Prawn Cocktail

Sorry to bang on about it, but THIS level needs parallax really badly. This is where Gigandes can get tricky - lot of stuff coming from all angles and it will test your weapon usage strictly.

Unlike many other shmups, theres a LOT of enemies coming from behind - like the purple squids here.

Pink Tube

I don't know why, but this level reminds me a lot of a huge alien vagina. Blow up these metal block things before you bash into them. This bit is just before the boss, so try and get a powerful piercing Laser on the front, and a protective missile shot above and below.




Nice boss this, a lot better than level one's effort. Lots of pink blocks try and trap you, whilst the tiny alien in the circular bit spits blue lasers directly at you. Then there's the spinning black holes which come from above and below - which is why you need the missile shots to take them out before they home in.

For some reason, my pcb is different - I get level 6 here instead. Anyway, this level is quite normal - very space based and slowdown hits hard unfortunately. You'll need a wide missile on your rear to take out the streams of nasties coming from behind.



It's a stick up!

I absolutely loathe these enemies - long thin sticky things which appear from above, shooting lasers directly below.

Then turrets fly in and bolt themselves on, and spew missiles and more lasers - the screen can get very thick with shrapnel.


Just before the boss appears, there's this brown mound, which spits out satellites which fix themselves in position and laser the whole screen to bits.

Stay in the position shown - this is definitely the safest area to be in.



Stripey Hell!

Ahah a good boss this! Just a round blob which breaks into 4 segments and alternately fires horizontal and vertical lasers.

All you need to do is get into a nudging pattern to avoid them, but watch out for when the segments move - you can be trapped in the middle with nowhere to go!

Get me out of here!

See! Like this! The segments close in and start to throw tons of homing missiles - this is your chance to shoot them as much as possible - all you need really is to destroy one segment - giving you a safe area when the lasers start up again. I always mean to set my options to 45 degree fire, but forget.



Serious Deja Vu

Yes, that round 4 graphic is the same as Level 3's - no, I don't know why. Those sticks on blobs rotate, but also stretch out and multiply like ladders - quite often there are hard to reach powerups in their vicinity.

Green Gits

See those green guys floating around my ship? They hover at a constant distance no matter where you move, and throw bullets whilst doing it.

Trying to adjust your options to kill them always means at least one death for me. Must try hard.



Not sure what he is...

Looking like an outcast from Hagane (good game that), an easy boss as long as you have a strong double laser - sit exactly where I am here and within a few seconds you can get enough hits in to finish him off.

But he's dead now...

He has a horrible line in fast bullet spreads and loads of missiles, so kill him quick when you get the chance. This is him dying, so it is.



Arrgh Spiders!

An annoying level in many ways, mostly because of the deadly spider webs which pop up without notice. By now the enemy formations are tight and thick, so don't choose an unsuitable weapon like the [C] balls like I did here.

Arrgh Snakes!

The backgrounds here remind me a lot of those japanese wall scrolls that people sell on ebay and nobody buys. Very tacky looking, but every shmup has to have an obligatory organic level.

Those green snakes take plenty of hits, if you don't treat them with priority you will find there's nowhere to escape to.



Nasty Egg Dragon

Ah bollocks this triplet of dragon heads in an egg is HARD! They all shoot different styles of firey blasts, it's only the bottom head that causes all the trouble.

His blast bursts into an 8 way spread, which catches me off guard every time.

What does that curly bit do?

Nothing, apparently. Except entice me into it to see if there is a 1-up inside. Which there isn't. I love this level, great usage of all angles of shots and narrow corridors to get by.



Eat your spinach!

Navigate a bunch of these things, which look completely harmless until a small door opens and a tiny baddy spraying bullets pops out.

Choose your route

A few levels have different paths to take, this one is obvious. Both have different weapon powerups to grab, so depending how you like to kill the boss, choose your path. I like the lower path, but only if I have a [C] ball attached above and below as they are brilliant at clearing your way.



Great Spiky Rotating Balls of Fire!

Except the fire bit, they do as it says on the tin. Isn't that an evil place to put a powerup? You only have a small window of opportunity to grab it, classic shmup moment of greed vs death.

Bash his tummy

Here he is, the giant evil goblin boss - another fave. The rotating spiky balls remain, but you also have to contend with bullets which float out and burst into squares - reminds me a lot of modern manic shmup patterns.

Just keep firing at his stomach until it caves in completely!



I've only got here once...

... and its extremely difficult! Not actually sure what I have to do, but I find the [C] balls are great for pushing the blocks out of the way. Handily, the game throws lots of them at you in this level.


Splatted by a couple of blocks which didn't want to move for some reason. Maybe only the light coloured blocks move? Grrrr.... need to play it again. And again. Somehow, continuing doesn't feel TOO wrong in Gigandes, because you get taken right back to the level start, and back to your weedy weapon, as if you'd started the level normally. So sue me.


Gigandes plays excellently in Mame, so go and try it now. I'm not sure how easy it would be to get on pcb, this is the first one I've seen (it's a taito board by the way). But, it's a trifle easy on normal, so I highly suggest you play it on hard to get the most out of it. After a few goes the early levels become very easy and, I have to admit, quite tedious - but on hard even the first level will be a continual challenge.

Playing with the different configurations of weapons trying to clear each level of ALL enemies is what I'm doing right now - its perfectly possible to kill absolutely everything if you use the weapons optimally. Yes, even on the bits with different paths. I'm off to have another go - bye! Malc.


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie