Super Hyperzap (C64)

As promised in the previous post, here comes C64CD release time! First out of the gate is Super Hyperzap, a slightly remixed and improved version of my little gallery shooter Hyperzap 2018 which was actually completed around a day or so after the original escaped into the wild but then put aside to “release next week” and accidentally forgotten about during the subsequent shift to “demo mode”.

The main difference between Super Hyperzap and its predecessor is that many of the modifications that people asked for in comments online which had previously been omitted for “artistic reasons” have now been implemented, so there are a lot more sprite animations including an explosion sequence and as the game progresses the enemies begin to move horizontally as well.

That latter change fixes a design flaw in the original that it’d actually inherited from the original Hyperzap which meant it was possible to just sit still and hold the fire button and, whilst the gameplay is still simple enough, that updates does make things significantly more manic, especially on the later attack waves when nasties really start to shift around. It still won’t win any awards of course, but this version is a lot more fun to play!

As is always the case, source code and the relevant binaries can be downloaded from GitHub for folks wanting a delve around under the hood and there’s already a trained crack by Excess which was, rather impressively, released before I’d even finished writing this blog post about my own release.

Playing Sirius 7 (Amiga)

Published on the Amiga by an arm of CRL called Actual Screenshots, Sirius 7 is a no-nonsense, horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up where the player’s small craft flies through some quite pretty backgrounds whilst turning smaller enemies into space dust and, at the end of each stage, taking on a boss which needs more of a kicking to defeat. But despite being released in 1990, there aren’t any power-ups to collect from downed nasties; instead there’s a choice from four fully armed ships at the start of each stage, with each having its own statistics for speed and firepower so figuring out which is best suited to both the player’s style and the current barrage of enemies is part of the challenge.

There are a lot of things waiting to be shot as well to the point where it might initially seem overwhelming, with the player being relentlessly peppered by attackers for the majority of the time and often having to weave through small gaps between enemies, their bullets and passing landscape features. And whilst it’s tempting to constantly strafe up and down to spray the entire playfield with bullets, there are times when it proves more sensible to stop moving almost entirely and let the guns do their job, merely nudging the controls occasionally to reposition when a stray bullet gets too close for comfort.

There are better looking shoot ’em ups than Sirius 7 on the Amiga – it isn’t ugly by any metric, but at the same time doesn’t stand out – and it certainly can’t be considered to be an innovative game by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s lots of thud and blunder to enjoy in there and, for me at least, it offers better difficulty balancing than some of the more popular Amiga shooters out there. Blair Zuppicich’s soundtrack is brilliant as well, I’ll occasionally leave a couple of Sirius 7 tunes and the titles music from Cybernetix playing in the background whilst working.

Oh, and that glitched chunk of background in the video is, I’m assuming, down to the cracked version used for the recording in some way;- I need to get WinUAE properly configured for WHDLoad again…

Playing Lightfarce (Spectrum)

I’ve never really been a fan of Mastertronic’s platform shooter Zub; some of this comes from having played it first on the C64 – which isn’t a perfect conversion of the original – but even when revisiting the original on the Spectrum over the years it just feels empty, in part because the developers were working to a strict deadline and didn’t have the time to get it finished to their own satisfaction. But one thing it does have going for it at least in the Spectrum 128K incarnation is an Easter egg called Lightfarce, a parody of a certain similarly-titled blaster which had just been released and was gathering quite a bit of media attention.

There’s nothing to write home about in Lightfarce on the originality front; it has big objects moving around and multi-level parallax scrolling but the action is incredibly simple, with enemies pootling down the screen and the player having to either blast or dodge them because collisions will sap some of their shield. Everything updates at quite a sedate pace but, due to the quite erratic movement of the nasties, keeping the ship safe from harm is tricky and can get the adrenalin pumping when there are only a few hits left on the energy gauge. The craft wraps around horizontally – completely disappearing off one side before reappearing on the other – which can occasionally prove helpful whilst trying to avoid collisions, but there aren’t any weapon power-ups or items that restore shield power.

There’s a beefed up version called Zarjas – a misspelling of “zarjaz”, the catchphrase of 2000AD’s editor Tharg which publishers Reaktor would later “borrow” wholesale – which was given away on Sinclair User’s covertape a few years later; the colour schemes have changed and it now sports a titles tune and loading picture, but more important than those cosmetic tweaks is the gameplay which has been rebalanced for the worse, making the enemies less predictable and allowing them take more health away from the player on contact. I get that they had to “rebrand” Lightfarce once it stopped hiding behind Zub‘ skirts, but just swapping the name out and wedging in the tune before going to the pub for the rest of the day would’ve been fine. If they absolutely had to alter the gameplay for some reason, just changing the movement pattern for one enemy type would’ve worked better.

Lightfarce was knocked out in an afternoon, I suspect as a diversion for coder John Pickford in order to avoid burnout from the crunch of finishing the game it was buried within, and free to anyone who’d paid their three quid for Zub. It was never going to set the shoot ’em up world on fire of course, but is still technically neat with those large sprites and the parallax, with the action being a forgettable but fun distraction for the player. For me personally, this little game is more entertaining than the bigger product it was bundled with or indeed some later Mastertronic efforts like Speed Zone. Zarjas is the same in most respects, but both it and Lightfarce have pretty sensitive collision detection so the former is significantly more frustrating overall to play and less enjoyable as a result.