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Eye of the Storm, PC

Eye of the Storm was the first game released by Rebellion Developments in 1993, and also the first video game designed by Jason Kingsley, co-founder of Rebellion and current owner of 2000AD comic.

Back in 1993 I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Rebellion, in Oxford, England, to see Eye of the Storm; to have it demo-ed to me by Jason himself, and then to take it away for review. Luckily, at the time I was working in Oxford (at Maverick Magazines), so it was only a short walk from our offices to theirs. I spent probably three or fours hours with Jason, playing the game, discussing it with him, and later being given a sneak peek of the Aliens vs. Predator game they were also working on for the Atari Jaguar… It was a memorable day.

Playing Eye of the Storm now I have the same feelings I had when I first played it back in 1993. It’s a clever, playable and absorbing game (identifying alien lifeforms for cash in the atmosphere of Jupiter and shooting down poachers); initially a little confusing (easily sorted with a little bit of effort), and it could easily be dismissed by those who just don’t ‘get’ it.

The basic premise of Eye of the Storm is that in 2124 life is discovered (by a probe) in Jupiter’s great red spot, and there’s a mad scramble by mercenaries to bring back specimens for cash. Except you’re no mercenary – you’re a representative of the Interstellar Conservation Executive (ICE) and you’re there to document these lifeforms for posterity. Not kill or catch them, but identify them. And you’ve got a small, blue spacecraft in which to do it in. And not get killed. So you’re a conservationist of the future, with homing missiles and lasers, of course. And you are encouraged to blow the poachers out of existence!

The ship’s Heads-Up Display (HUD) is nicely designed and each instrumentation module can be turned on or off using key commands. The 3D graphics are simple by today’s standards, but are fast and reasonably colourful. The 3D models are comparable to Star Fox on the SNES, which came out the same year. Not as complex, sure, but only a couple of people made this game – not a large team. The random explosions when you die are quite nice. Kinda weirdly kaleidoscopic and unique…

The mouse and keyboard controls work very well and flying around is fairly relaxing, when you get the hang of flying in a 3D space with a limited turn speed. If you want to play Eye of the Storm seriously: there is a very good game in there to be had. With missions and objectives (watch out for messages that come up). Exploring and marking landmarks will help you find your way around the seemingly featureless “gas giant” although a lot of people may be put off by the lack of ground-based landmarks. There is no ground! There is a mysterious monolith though…

Eye of the Storm is a good concept and a decent game, nicely executed, but with limited appeal. And, while I wouldn’t rate it as a “must play” game, I would recommend you try it out if you’re interested in space cockpit games that are different from the norm. Personally: I really like Eye of the Storm; I enjoyed revisiting it and remembering how to play it properly. In fact: I’d love to see Rebellion bring it back with a few new ideas and features… Extra-terrestrial conservation will be a future trend, I feel. 🙂

Eye of the Storm was released on only two platforms: on the PC, in MS-DOS (the version shown here), and also on the Amiga. I’ve actually never played the Amiga version, but aim to rectify that soon.

More: Rebellion on Wikipedia
More: Eye of the Storm on Mobygames

Because Eye of the Storm is so good, and because it may seem confusing to play for some people, I’ve written a little starter guide to help first-timers get the hang of it. Hope it helps!

Eye of the Storm (1993) by Rebellion Developments Ltd.

Mini Guide by Mallo, September 2019

The basic aim is to survive long enough to record the creatures and events in the great red spot of Jupiter. To earn money, all you have to do is fly around, observing, identifying and shooting things. First of all: don’t shoot the lifeforms. Shoot the mercenaries that are shooting at you. Of course: to spend that money you make you’ve got to make it back to base alive. To do that, simply turn towards your base (the blue doughnut-looking thing with the red stripe on the side) and fly into the black area, which is the entrance. Once you’re docked you can check your money totals and buy new things. Some upgrades will be out of your reach at the start, but you should buy a number of fuel upgrades and PODs, namely: Defence PODs and Sentinels, which you can then release in space and use as your eyes and ears. From time to time you’ll get a message to capture a certain creature for a bonus. You don’t have to do this, but it is the quickest way to get those engine and hull upgrades.

Tip #1. For your very first sortie: don’t go far, or you will probably die. Just stay out for a few minutes, then return to base. You should then have some money to use for extra fuel. Make sure you save the game every time you dock when you’re starting out.

Tip #2. Identify everything (by pointing at it and pressing ‘I’). Check your ID totals in the Player Status option in the Save/Load menu.

Tip #3. If you catch a creature and there is no market for it, release it back into the wild. Make sure not to accidentally release your last fuel POD by accident, otherwise you’ll plummet into Jupiter’s core. In fact: use the ‘Release’ command as carefully as possible!

Tip #4. Getting an engine upgrade opens the game up significantly, so make that a priority. The Agile Engine is only 20,000 credits.

Tip #5. Getting a hull upgrade will mean that your ship can withstand the crushing pressures deeper down inside Jupiter’s atmosphere, where the weirder lifeforms dwell.

Tip #6. On the HUD, at the bottom are three coloured, horizontal lines. These are important. The top (yellow) line is your speed. The second (orange) line is your fuel, and the third (red) line are your shields.

Tip #7. Make sure to sell your empty fuel PODs once you get going, and to replace them with new ones.

Eye of the Storm keys:

1 – Net
2 – Release
3 – Map
5 – Homing Missile
6 – Missile
7 – Laser

I – Identify

R – Radar on/off
P – POD view on/off
M – Map on/off

B – Base (Turn toward)

Speed up/slow down – either hold right mouse button and backwards and forwards, or plus and minus on the keyboard

S – Sound on or off
G – Ground on or off

Offendron Warrior, PC

Offendron Warrior is a superb retro gaming tribute to Eugene Jarvis‘s arcade classic Defender, using modern pixels and effects, by talented and prolific Korean Hijong Park. It’s currently available for free or donationware on Steam.

If you don’t know Defender – look it up, then go play it. Then come back and continue reading this.

Now… Imagine Defender, but with a few modern twists applied. Such as: homing missiles! And a transforming ship (Interceptor mode flies faster and Offender mode has rapid fire rate).

The basic premise of Offendron Warrior is the same as Defender: protect the vulnerable civilians from waves of alien Infectors, which will try to carry them away from the ground. You can shoot an Infector and it will drop the civilian, but if the civilian falls too far it will die. So you can (and should) catch them. You can catch a bunch of them and chain them up, which is neat. If you lose all your civilians it’s game over.

Holding down the transform button turns you into a mini mech, which shoots rapid, multi-coloured lasers out the front. Firing while moving up and down in mech mode creates a spread of fire, which is a good tactic for dealing with small groups of enemies. For everything else there are homing missiles. Homing missiles will take out every enemy on-screen, but are limited so must be used sparingly. The visual effect of a large group of enemies being wiped-out by homing missiles is quite amazing and really has to be seen to be believed. They are very satisfying to use!

Offendron Warrior is a simple but brilliant blaster. It’s a great tribute to Defender and a very playable and compulsive game in its own right. And – like all Hijong Park‘s games – it really is a tough challenge. It’s great fun, though. So don’t miss it!

More: PsychoFlux Entertainment on Steam
Steam: Offendron Warrior on Steam

Frantic Dimension, PC

Frantic Dimension is another great, free game, made by talented Korean Hijong Park and released on Steam in 2018.

The opening animatic in Frantic Dimension is quite funny – made even funnier by the slightly off-kilter use of English (it’s not a criticism – I like it). 🙂

Apparently you are the mighty Jason Allen and you’ve been kidnapped by alien Yadicans and must escape from their deathtrap fortress. And along the way steal a few of their treasured artefacts…

Frantic Dimension is a beautifully-presented, fast and furious ‘twin stick’ shooter (meaning: you use one joystick to move, and a second joystick to shoot in all directions), and is a wonderful love letter to classic arcade games such as BerzerkRobotron 2084, Smash TV, and Total Carnage. And it’s also seriously hardcore stuff.

The idea is to explore the maze, and each floor (as much as you dare), looking for treasure. You’re constantly under attack by killer robots and must keep them at bay with your lasers. Once you’ve gathered enough treasure you can then start to think about finding the exit to the next level. The lower you go the more difficult it gets. And, by crikey, Frantic Dimension is not what you would call easy.

Most rooms are quite busy and the enemies very aggressive, so surviving is tricky. Shooting the various baddies is very satisfying, though, as they often explode in a pleasing manner. You’re given three smartbombs at the start of the game and using these makes the enemies explode like Roman candles. The onscreen carnage can at times be quite intense. Thankfully there’s a grid map in the top left of the screen, showing your position in relation to the exit.

Hang around for too long on one screen and an Evil Face will appear and start chasing you – a nice tribute to Evil Otto in Berzerk. Corner Zappers are a pain in the butt too. They sit in corners, firing diagonal lasers at you whenever you come within range. They are quite deadly and really get the heart pumping when you trigger them.

Frantic Dimension is so tough that it could tear the arm off a Wookie when it loses… It could escape the event horizon of a black hole… It could beat Vin Diesel in an arm wrestle… You get the idea… Ultimately, though, it’s great fun to play, and as you slowly improve you’ll find that there’s more to Frantic Dimension than at first meets the eye.

The game does have online global score rankings, which you can upload and contribute to after every game you play. Good luck getting anywhere near the top rankings though – the highest scores are insane!

More: http://www.psychoflux.com/
Steam: Frantic Dimension on Steam

Rolling Thunder 3, Megadrive/Genesis

Rolling Thunder 3 is a Sega Megadrive/Genesis exclusive. It was developed by Now Production and published by Namco in 1993. It did not appear in arcades, like its predecessors did.

This time you’re playing a different member of the Rolling Thunder team, a guy called Jay who wears blue trousers, as well as the usual gun holster on his chest. Jay is on the hunt for the Geldra gang second-in-command, while Codename Albatross and Leila go after the big boss – this is supposed to be happening at the same time as the events in Rolling Thunder 2, you see…

Unlike Rolling Thunder 2, Rolling Thunder 3 only has a single-player mode, which is a bit of an oversight. The Megadrive has two joypad ports by default, so I don’t know what they were thinking there… This would have been a great chance to combine what made the first and second games good – the ‘feel’, tempo, and graphical style of the first game, and the simultaneous two-player mode of the second… Oh well.

Jay operates similarly to Albatross – he can run, jump; leap up to an overhead platform; enter a door, and fire a variety of weapons. Gameplay is similar to the arcade original as you’d expect – some enemies get back up after being shot, so must be shot more than once; enemies come out of doors randomly so you have to be careful when you enter them; and each type of enemy has characteristic behaviour. Learning how to deal with individuals is a must in order to make it through a level – unless you know the game very well you’re not going to rush through it. Like the original: it’s challenging.

Features new to this game include: special weapons – selectable from a total of nine at the start, including three types of hand grenades; crosshairs lining up to fire on you if you take too long to complete a level; two fire buttons – one for special weapons; new enemies; checkpoint restarts; boss battles; and motorbikes!

In spite of there being no two-player mode, Rolling Thunder 3 is still an exceptional run-and-gunner. The graphics and gameplay are a nice re-imagining of the original and in this third instalment you can finally shoot diagonally! Back o’ the net!

Tip: Enter GREED as a password to play as the hidden character Ellen.

More: Rolling Thunder 3 on Wikipedia

Salamander, Arcade

Konami‘s Salamander is a classic scrolling shooter first released into arcades in 1986. It is part of the Gradius/Nemesis series and features both side-scrolling and vertically-scrolling gameplay set over six different levels.

Unlike Gradius, Salamander has a simultaneous two-player mode. Player one controls the Vic Viper from Gradius, and player two controls a new ship called Lord British (as far as I’m aware: this has nothing to do with Richard Garriott – founder of Origin Systems – who also calls himself Lord British and has done since the late ’70s).

The progressive weapons power-up system has been simplified in Salamader (over Gradius). Now you don’t have to activate a weapons change – it happens automatically when you pick up a dropped power-up. Salamander does retain the extra firepower pods, and the speed-ups, from the first game, but expands on the weapon types.

Ask anyone who’s played Salamander and they will probably mention the fire levels as being the ones that really stand out. As you move left to right, huge solar flares blast out from the fiery surface and you have to avoid being roasted. If you’re skilled enough you might even be able to fly through them…

Salamander is fairly unremarkable at the beginning to be honest, but does improve rapidly as the graphical tricks start to show themselves. The early levels are relatively easy and – of course – the later levels truly are ‘bullet hell’.

A number of home computer and console versions have been released over the years. The Commodore 64 version, by Imagine Software, is known for being very high quality. As is the PC Engine version. More modern re-releases are mostly emulated versions of the original arcade game, so are considered authentic.

More: Salamander on Wikipedia

Factory Breakout, ZX Spectrum

Steve Crow‘s second game, Factory Breakout, was published by Poppy Soft in 1984.

It is a game with three distinct sections, the second and third of which repeat with greater difficulty.

The first section (played just once per game) is an eight-directional shooter where you have to stop lasers from reaching you until a timer runs down. The second section is a simple ‘dodge-the-lasers-down-a-corridor’ game, and the third section is a Pac-Man style platform game where you have to fall through holes in the floor to make them disappear, while at the same time avoiding chasing monsters.

Factory Breakout does have some very nice, colourful and cute graphics, and is very playable. As a 1984 release it further indicated that Steve Crow was a programmer/designer to be watched. His next game – Wizard’s Lair – really cemented that fact.

More: Factory Breakout on World of Spectrum

Defender, Intellivision

Intellivision Defender is a very good conversion of the timeless Williams arcade game. It was developed by Atari and released for the Intellivision in 1983.

The graphics are a bit bigger than in the original, and the scrolling isn’t as smooth, but the basic gameplay is intact. It certainly looks like Defender (more than can be said about the sad Atari 2600 version), and plays like Defender. The explosions are impressive too.

All in all: Defender fans will probably be satisfied with this.

More: Defender on Wikipedia

Deflektor, ZX Spectrum

Costa Panayi‘s laser-bending puzzle game Deflektor was published by Gremlin Graphics in 1987.

In it you must direct a laser through various obstacles by redirecting mirrors, until eventually you can hit a target with it. Not as easy as it may sound, but trying to beat each new screen is a compelling and challenging task.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deflektor

Terra Cresta II, PC Engine

This 1992 sequel to the arcade classic Terra Cresta is a PC Engine exclusive – it did not appear in arcades first.

It’s more of a remake than a sequel, but is incredibly varied and a more than worthy successor to Terra Cresta. As far as mainstream ‘Bullet Hell’ shooters go there are few better. It’s not quite as weird as a shoot ’em up from Cave or Treasure, but Terra Cresta II is just as varied. And thankfully it is a little easier to play than the first Terra Cresta, which was nails.

The speed and smoothness of the game; the varied and imaginative backgrounds/sprites/bosses/sub-bosses; the excellent weapons progression; the time-travel bonus sections (replaying scenes from the original Terra Cresta); the boss rush(es); the quintessentially Japanese-sounding video game music – all add up to make an outstanding shooter.

Even better: the game has a number of play modes. Normal, 2 Minute, and 5 Minute. The latter two being high score attacks for those periods of time. There’s also a Formation Design mode (useful because – with the upgrades you pick up – your ship is quite configurable); and a Sound mode (for playing the tunes from the game, which are pretty good).

Terra Cresta II is one of the best shooters on the PC Engine – no doubt about it. I think that it might even be better than the legendary Gunhed, and that is saying something…

More: Terra Cresta II on Wikipedia