Katakis - Rainbow Arts


Rainbow Arts - Commodore 64 - 1988

Reviewed by Alex Vormbrock (a.k.a. Herr Schatten).

Back in 1987 when R-Type appeared in the arcades, it had a huge impact on the side scrolling shooter genre. The introduction of the invincible force orb that protects the front of your craft from enemy bullets has influenced many games that were published in the following years.

One of the first R-Type clones to appear on home computer systems was Manfred Trenz's famous Katakis, which is also known as Denaris in some parts of the world. The guys at Irem were so much impressed by Katakis that they employed Mr. Trenz for the C64 conversion of R-Type, too.

The name of the game actually comes from the phone book of Düsseldorf. Mr. Trenz flipped through the pages in search of an interesting sounding title for his game and found it in the name of the owner of a Greek restaurant. I wonder if Mr. Katakis ever found out that he had the honour to lend his name to such a fine game.

If you know R-Type, you pretty much know what Katakis is all about. It's a horizontally scrolling shmup with twelve levels. Each level has its own theme and an impressive looking baddie waiting at the end. Like in R-Type, collecting a certain powerup attaches an indestructible orb to the front of your ship. This force device can be upgraded twice and comes in three colours: Blue provides you with reflective lasers, red replaces your main gun with a powerful beam and green unleashes lots of shuriken-like projectiles that dance wildly across the screen. The latter one is my favourite. By pressing the space bar, you can send out the force device. It will then fly around and wreak some havoc. In 2P simultaneous mode, the second player can control the force orb. There are also speedups and speed-downs, but you really don't have to bother with them. By holding down the fire button, you can charge a powerful beam shot which comes in handy when you're fighting larger foes.

In addition to the force orbs and the speed extras, which appear when you shoot a certain type of enemy, some foes when killed randomly leave behind coloured bubbles. Grey bubbles just give you a score boost, while yellow ones act like smartbombs. Most interesting, however, are the green and red bubbles, which upgrade your standard shot and your missiles. If you collect a blue bubble, you get a temporary shield that makes your entire ship invincible for some seconds. Upon collecting more bubbles of the same colour, the corresponding gauge at the bottom of the screen fills up. There are six levels of upgrades for the shield, twelve for the missiles and eighteen for the front gun.

The graphics are nice to look at and vary greatly from stage to stage. If you don't mind the occasional déja-vu, you'll certainly like them. Sure, there's better artwork on the C64, but not very much. Only the player's spaceship looks a bit ugly. What really sets Katakis apart from other titles is the music. Chris Hülsbeck provided some very powerful tunes you'll keep on humming all day and every day. Especially the tracks you hear in levels one and five are very memorable.

Well, the one big drawback of Katakis are the bosses. Although they are quite huge, look good and are well animated, their attack patterns are ridiculous. In fact, they are plainly nonexistent. Most bosses just sit there motionless and unleash a load of bullets in your direction. This poses not much of a problem since your force device will protect you from that. All you have to do is to find the right spot at which to place your ship and then fire like there's no tomorrow. Not very exciting since you don't have to move around at all. Honourable exceptions from this rule are the bosses of levels 4 and 9.

But overall, Katakis is a very fine shmup. I actually prefer it to the C64 conversion of R-Type, because I like its straightforwardness. It's not as memorization-based as Irem's masterpiece and there are also traces of Gradius and Darius in it. Apart from that, I just love the music. If you own a C64, go and try to get a copy of Katakis. It's worth it. After all the years, Katakis stays my #1 favourite shmup, despite all its obvious shortcomings. I try not to be too rose-tinted when it comes to rating this game, so I think a score of eight out of ten is appropriate.


The first level starts off in some kind of asteroid field. About halfway through it changes into your usual moon-like planet surface.


This is the boss that waits at the end. A huge guy who seems to be entirely made of trash. Given the fact that he does absolutely nothing to harm you except advancing very slowly, he's not quite a very formidable enemy. Feed him a couple of charge beams and he's history.


Think you know this scene? Level two is similar to the first level of R-Type, in fact, it is VERY similar. Can you say 'blatant rip-off'?


This crab monster always makes me think that maybe Dr. Robotnik is hiding inside. It looks just like one of his usual devices. Ufortunately, there are no blue hedgehogs anywhere in sight, so we have to kill this boss all alone.


Level three. Oddly enough, most of the scenery graphics (and one special type of enemies) found in this level resurfaced in the first Turrican game. Mr. Trenz seems to be very fond of recycling.


Some neat Darius influences here. This giant fish seems to be on the verge of dozing off. Maybe he has taken some narcotics. Or he is just bored by his own attack patterns, for if you stay at the right spot, he has absolutely no chance of hitting you. A couple of charge beams will take good care of him.


Level four is pretty unique. As ist seems, we fly through a giant computer and get attacked by LEDs and stuff. Cool idea, that. To the right you can see the Katakis equivalent of the pow armor, my favourite type of powerup-supplier to stupidly crash into.


Look! The Gradius mothership managed to sneak in, badly disguised as a motherboard.

Actually, this is the first boss that poses a real threat. It moves in random patterns, so its actions are quite unpredictable. Shortly before the boss encounter you get the opportunity to switch to the red force orb. Do that. The laser is the best way to get rid of this annoying fellow.

You can see me here sitting in a relatively safe spot. Only seldom does a stray bullet go there.


In level 5, the difficulty ramps up a good deal. The inspiration for this level obviously came from the Terminator movies.


The boss is just another homage to the Terminators. He's easy to beat, though.

If that's all Skynet has to offer, it's no wonder that John Connor keeps successfully evading all of its attempts to shorten his lifespan.


No R-Type clone without a giant battleship. But instead of circling around it (as we did in R-Type), we fly straight inside, avoiding the enemies it vomits.


Inside the giant battleship, there's this slimy green plant thing. It's just as easy to cope with as most of its predecessors.

Note the cool looking background with all those tiny lights glowing in the dark.


Level seven sports some very cool parallax scrolling. The white teeth-like things you see to the right are quite a pain to dodge and they appear a lot in this level.


A giant flea monster is the next baddie we meet. Like many of his boss pals in Katakis, it just sits there waiting to be dispatched. What a strange behaviour.


Level eight is all slimy and disgusting. There are lots of sticky looking bubbles growing out of the background. The music changes to some gloomy type of sound collage. Very scary indeed. At the start of this level, there are two ships that seem to come directly from R-Type's level 5. The unmotivated appearance of a lonely shooter snake is another attraction of this area.


You obiously got the brains, but I got the looks, baby.

Am I the only one who has to think of the last boss from Gradius?
Actually, this one needs a few more hits to be killed, but it's not that difficult either.


I hate level 9 of Katakis with the same passion as I hate level four of R-Type and I actually hate both of them for the same reason. If there's a hell for game designers, the guy who invented those enemies that fill the screen with green stuff will be sent there, I'm sure.


The boss is this double-headed fish, who actually poses quite a threat as he's not too easy to kill.

Worse yet, after you blast off the shark head, the other one keeps attacking. This surprising behaviour made my first encounter with it very frustrating as I got instantly blown to pieces.


This screenshot looks like it is difficult to tell apart the scenery and the background, but really it isn't.

The red enemies you see here move very fast. Be careful not to crash into them.


There are two fool-proof ways to beat this boss. If you have the green force orb, you can just place your ship in front of his hand and let your force device eat up all the bullets. From time to time one of your dancing shurikens will hit him in the face doing some damage. It may take a while to take him out, but at least it's pretty safe that way. Another good method is to position yourself right in front of his face. If you're close enough, the bullets he shoots from his hand will miss you.


The choice of colours here is questionable. For unknown reasons, you always lose your force device upon entering level 11. That's why my force orb looks so miserable here. The level, however, is surprisingly easy.


Note those strange black statues from The Great Giana Sisters on the floor and at the ceiling. Like most Katakis end bosses, this one's a mere joke. He also reappears in Turrican.


This is it. The final stage. I think we don't have to ask where the inspiration for the graphics came from. Note those little alien eggs at the right side of the screen. Enemies attack at an insane pace and from all directions, so you better have collected many extra lives during the previous stages. You will use up a lot of them here.


The alien queen doesn't attack any smarter than her predecessors, but she certainly looks very cool.

There's also an Amiga version of Katakis, but it is an entirely different game. It's an excellent R-Type rip-off, too, but the levels and some of the game mechanics are in no way similar to the C64 version. The Amiga game was developed by Factor 5, famed creators of the Turrican series.


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie