Mama Llama is a scrolling action game where you have to protect a family of llamas from attack with a robotic sphere called a “Killdroid” while destroying waves of enemies on a 10×10 grid. It was written by Jeff Minter and first released by Llamasoft in 1985.
The game is played in two main phases. The first is the time-limited “strategy grid” which allows you to select which of the 100 waves you want to play next, and the second is a side-scrolling battle on a planet surface with resident hostile sprites.
You jump into a level (by pressing F1 on the strategy grid) and must use the Killdroid to swoop around the screen and touch any of the enemies trying to damage the llamas. A counter in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen tells you how many enemies you need to ‘zap’ on that particular level to complete it. The Llamas each have an energy bar (shown as yellow, and numbered 1 to 3 on the pink bar at the bottom) and if this drops to zero the level will end and you’ll be dumped back to the grid to try again. The llamas can recharge their energy by sitting down, although this doesn’t seem to be an unlimited feature.
Critics at the time of Mama Llama‘s release were mostly negative about the game. Many hated it and even argued with Minter in the press about it, leading to a public falling-out between friends.
Personally, I think that Mama Llama is an overly-ambitious and confusing game with a poor control system, and was a bit of a disaster for Minter and Llamasoft. Even after reading the manual and watching some YouTube videos about it, the gameplay in Mama Llama is still mostly unfathomable and becomes boring quickly. You could invest some time into Mama Llama and learn how to play it properly, but whether it’s worth it or not is debatable.