Reviewed by Malc

PCs are great. You can draw, play music, access the net and of course play games on them. 3D games in particular: there are multitudes of cards available to enhance 3D alone. If you're into flight sims and quake-clones then that's quite handy. And if you love diving into a 600 page manual to play a C&C-alike that uses every key on the keyboard you're sorted.

Games co's that make PC games realise that a lot of adults own PCs, and make games to suit. What they don't realise is that: 1. These adults used to play space-invaders in their youth, and 2. Many adults don't have too much free time on their hands. So why are we overburdened with over-complex games that require so much concentration to understand, much less play? What choice do we have if we want just a quick blast?

Up until recently there really wasn't much in the way of a good shooter for the PC, until 'The Reap' and Tyrian. Both are out-and-out furiously manic shooters, and stand proud above the morass of polygons that constitute the Western PC games scene. (And to think the Japanese got Win95 versions of LayerSection, Darius Gaiden and Gradius Deluxe pack!)

After a pleasant killing session with Tyrian, I'm convinced it's probably the best Western produced shmup out, on any platform. Previous occidental efforts like Project X2 and Playstation Viewpoint have so many elementary yet crucial design flaws that I was beginning to think only the Japanese had the required mentality to create shooters. However, I have some issues with it, and I'll get them out of the way first.

  • Control. Your ship doesn't just move or stop. There is an amount of inertia involved which makes it difficult to position yourself exactly where you want to be. This in a shmup can be fatal. Many UK and US shooter games feature this, like Zynaps on the C64, and Project X on the Amiga. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. Yes, it FEELS groovy, but control accuracy should be top priority. You'll find this inertia and mass effect in platform games too where it is more natural, although get it slightly wrong and the game is ruined. (Mario of course got it perfect.)

  • Too many buttons! Listen up... you have a button for shooting, another for changing weapon modes, one for the left satellite ship and one for the right. So to get full firepower you have to be holding down three buttons at once, with a pinky hovering above the weapon changer. Add the fact that you are trying to press them all rapidly (the main weapon changes if you do this) and you are likely to get tired very quickly. You can't define several buttons to one key either.

  • Shops. Being a man, I surprisingly like shops, but in Tyrian, being impatient to play the next level, I don't want to browse and buy for five minutes. Grab 'em and get out there quickly should be the plan - this is why I prefer the arcade mode to the 'proper' game with its powerup icons scattered all over the place.

  • Graphics are completely underwhelming and dreary at times. You might violently disagree, but they look so European and bland. Compare the bosses to the multiparted animated monstrosities in similar Japanese games and you'll see what I mean. Everything has this shiny Bitmap-Brothers look, with thick black cartoony borders and a general lack of design imagination throughout. Firepower 2000 is the same, and I'm not awfully fond of the style.
Well, you might consider me a whingy git after that list, but I have played it to death this morning, and loved every minute of it. Here's what I do like about it! :-
  • Secret Levels. I've only found one so far, which wasn't that hard to find anyway, and I love secrets, bonuses and unexpected extras, which in a shooter keep the game fresh and exciting.

  • Weapons. While they're not as over the top as Super Aleste, they're varied and fun to kill with. My favourite has to be the blink-and-its-gone super mega death item I found in the secret area. I'm sure there's loads more I haven't picked up yet as well. Fortunately you get enough firepower to actually kill the aliens with, unlike Project X2 whose ship's weapons were at times woefully inadequate for wasting even the smallest enemy ship.

  • Speed. It's lovely and fast, and comes close to the heart-pumping botty-clenchingness that defines a good manic shooter. The Turbo mode is just a little bit TOO fast though, a midway setting would have been nice.

  • 2-player through a network! Yes!! Except I have no friends available to try it out, and my daughter can't reach the keyboard.

  • Music. I love playing a game to the original music, and have no truck with that deranged 'stick Nirvana on the stereo instead' malarkey. Apparently there's some tracks in there that pay homage to Zanac - I can't remember who told me this, being utterly forgetful. The music is tuneful and quick-tempo'd resulting in a perfect aural accompaniment to the slaughter.
Overall then, from what I've seen of the Shareware version, Tyrian is indeed worth the small download, and most likely well worth the full fee for the entire version too. I applaud the creators to have the temerity and balls to release it and help keeping the genre (barely) alive on the PC.

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The first level doesn't look promising, all muddy, brown and very tiled looking.

Lovely parallax scrolling, with homage to Salamander here, with giant spikes to avoid.

End of Level 1 Boss is a pretty nondescript affair and simple to slay.

If you manage to catch a SECRET token, you'll be transported to a bonus level, where loads of powerups are there to seize and hopefully keep!

Use the Space-Harrier technique to kill this sub-boss...swirl madly around the screen and shoot all the time.

Later levels hint at the variety within the game, apparently there are over 60 in the full version! Think I might consider buying it... well, If I had any money left that it...


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie