Reviewed by Malc

I don't like mainstream things, normal stuff, and everyday mass pleasures. If I did this Shmups page probably wouldn't exist and I'd be away playing a variation on Quake instead. In fact, I've got a bit of an obsession with seeking out the unusual, the unknown and the unique - whether it be weird objects from times past, 'unpopular' music or sleeper-hit games. That's why my favourite console is the unloved, uncared for, and misunderstood Virtual Boy, and that's why I think Jeff Minter is the greatest character alive in the history of videogames.

I won't say too much about Jeff (or Yak, as he is known) as I'll sound like a creepy sycophant or something. He is the original 1-man-programmer, creating vastly original (and cloned) games, and (afaik) started off on the Commodore Vic20 with 'Attack of the Mutant Camels', a raw blaster in the style of Defender with some huge camels as enemies. After that he made some quirky remakes of arcade favourites during the 80s, with some of his own original creations, like Matrix, Iridis Alpha, Tempest2000 and the unclassifiable Psychedelia. Since then he has been backing numerous wrong horses (Konix, Atari) until now, where he is known to be involved with ProjectX processor development. Well, that's it in a very condensed nutshell for you, I advise you to visit his website if you want to know more and download a few other games too.

Yak's games all have one thing in common, they're colourful, fast and damned hard. Most likely they'll contain images of sheep and rizla ciggiepapers too, with some raucous sound effects and swirling backgrounds.

Cue Llamatron, an insane PC variation on the arcade classic Robotron! Virtually identical in play, you are a single lonely Llama against hordes of bonkers enemies. Control is replicated exactly if you have 2 joysticks (ideal!) but with one, or a keyboard, you're well catered for with an intuitive shooting system. The hapless llama shoots incessantly, but holding down fire (or space) fixes the direction of your shots. Simply destroy all the baddies, rescue a couple of confused looking sheep and it's slap into the next level. As you scramble through the levels you'll begin to lose track of time and place, ending up in a swirl of mad keyboard bashing and raw, penetrating blipping noises and headache-inducing stroboscopic effects. The graphics are undeniably coarse and childish (he never was much of an artist), but the gameplay is absolutely perfect. There's a fair amount of variety in there too, with lots of enemy types, some addons and extras that Robotron never had - I'll leave it to you to discover them all.

I know this type of game is a complete anachronism in the 90's, and I know this sounds like a bit of the old rose-tinted bollocks, but Llamatron I consider to be a true gamer's game. You're playing for scores, for survival, against a cruel CPU which allows for no mistakes. The simple sense of satisfaction reaped by beating it by skill alone far exceeds the pleasure you'll get from current 3D extravaganzas. Unlike R-Type and Nemesis and other classic shooters, you don't need to memorise levels or waves in Llamatron to be good at it. (Why should enemies line themselves up in neat rows in predictable attack patterns for you to shoot anyway?) You will need to learn the capabilities of each enemy, and how they will react, which ones to kill first, and when to back off. Bear in mind you'll have to tune your mind up into overdrive to get past later levels, it runs almost too fast to deal with, you might be better playing by instinct alone!

You might find you're too acclimatised to easy modern shooters to be able to play it at all, or be too prejudiced against the immature but fun graphics to enjoy the game itself. I urge you to try it anyway - it costs nothing!

SCORE: 10/10 (top marks for pure gameplay)

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Pretty standard stuff here, looks exactly like Robotron,
apart from that Llama in the middle though.

Bloody hell Jeff... you didn't draw this while under the influence did you? ;)

Brains are nasty buggers - they mutate your rescueable beasties into
Zombeasts, that home in unerringly. Gerrof!!

We're only a few levels in here, and it's becoming unfathomably scary.
Big macs are now the standard enemy, while a large pulsing
mandelbrot fractal chases you around the screen.

Yep. Definitely must have been some good shit that weekend:).


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie