Turrican was written by German coder Manfred Trenz and was first published for the Commodore 64 by Rainbow Arts in 1990. It is a scrolling platform shooter that has similarities to Nintendo‘s Metroid series of games, and also owes a lot to the obscure Data East arcade game Psycho-Nics Oscar.
Turrican was seen as being very technically impressive for the time – on the Commodore 64. In 1990 the machine was nearing the end of its commercial lifespan, but coders were still managing to push games to places that were never thought possible.
Gameplay in Turrican is not strictly linear, although there is an objective to reach the end of each level, and the player is encouraged to explore to find secret areas and collect as many gems as possible.
Controlling the Turrican is fairly intuitive, even though the game uses a one-button joystick. He can jump (by pushing up), crouch (by pushing down), and shoot (by pressing fire on the joystick, obviously), and can also use a special rotating beam weapon by holding down fire (and pushing left and right to rotate the beam). Collecting various power-ups changes the standard weapon used (from bullets to beam weapons), or provides a temporary invulnerability shield. Last but not least: pressing the space bar fires a pulse beam left and right from the Turrican, if he has any charges remaining.
Graphically, the game is smooth and colourful, and the colour palette changes when going from the blue skies of the open areas to the darkness of the underground caves, which is a nice touch. There’s also a cool lightning effect to add to the tense atmosphere.
Turrican features some excellent music (by Chris Huelsbeck, Stefan Hartwig and Ramiro Vaca), but during the game it’s just sound effects. There’s some impressive digitised speech before the game starts too.
Overall, Turrican is a great package, a slick piece of coding, and a solid challenge. It has stood the test of time extremely well and is still fun to play now.
Turrican has been converted to many other systems, including Amiga, Atari ST, PC Engine, Game Boy, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Super Nintendo, and Megadrive/Genesis. There was even a CDTV version. An even better sequel, Turrican II: The Final Fight, was published the following year in 1991.
More: Turrican on Wikipedia