Santron, Commodore 64

Santron is a Christmas-themed vertically-scrolling shoot ’em up created by Sarah Jane Avory and first released for the Commodore 64 in 2019.

Sarah programmed the game and created all the graphics and sound herself, and it is very good. Santron is actually a variation of Sarah‘s previous game, Neutron.

The game has nine different stages, upgradable weapons, three different background styles each with its own Christmas tune, Christmas-themed enemies, plus mid and end-of-level bosses. And – like Neutron – it also has a handy autofire option, if you prefer holding down the fire button for a continuous stream of bullets, rather than having to bash it continuously.

Santron‘s gameplay is fast and challenging and the scrolling is smooth. Unfortunately the starry background doesn’t scroll, so the feeling of movement is lost when there’s nothing in the foreground. While this may be realistic in general terms (the distances are so great that – if you were moving in a certain direction in real space – the stars would not move), it does make the game feel weird on occasion. At the beginning of the game, for example, if you’re moving forward and there are no foreground objects it just looks like nothing’s happening; like you’re not moving. Personally, I think that it was a mistake not to have the starry background scroll vertically, to give more of a sense of movement. After all, this is a C64 shoot ’em up, not a realistic space sim.

Other options include: a high score table, configurable settings (including a user-definable pause key and the aforementioned autofire on or off), PAL and NTSC versions, an Easyflash cartridge version, and the game is available for free (although donations are gratefully accepted – see link below).

It’s quite challenging when the bullets start flying, and also a little repetitive in terms of level structure. I’d still recommend Santron if you’re looking for a game to get you into the Christmas mood.

Merry Christmas from The King of Grabs!

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