Playing Armourdillo (C64)

The planet of Mobanti was a peaceful world without words for “war” or “destruction” in their language before the human race came visiting. Now it’s peoples have to learn at least some of the ways of war in a hurry and, after sending mostly unsuccessful spies into the enemy camp, a few secrets to creating weapons were discovered that could be merged with the more organic Mobantian science to form the Armourdillo, a hybrid of mutated animal and advanced machine which potentially has the firepower to protect itself from humanity’s onslaught. Think Dalek, but significantly larger and more friendly.

The first live combat sortie for this new armoured vehicle is primarily a rescue mission where, within a given time limit, a quota of life pods containing survivors of the ongoing war must be collected from behind an energy shield at the left side of each play area and ferried across the hostile scrolling environment to the safety of an escape tunnel to the right. Horizontal controls on the joystick tell the Armourdillo which way to move while up and down rotate the gun turret between four positions, allowing it to take out ground- and air-based enemies which drain the vehicle’s shield on contact. Learning the controls and how to aim the weapon accurately are both vital survival skills on Mobanti and will take some practise to master.

Released exclusively on the C64 by the recently formed budget publishers Codemasters, this was a one person project from Giulio Zicchi – his name even appears front and centre on the cassette inlay’s artwork – who wrote the code, drew the graphics, composed the theme tune, sung the… you get the idea. It’s nothing to write home about on a technical level -scrolling a small window of that size is relatively easy and the static starfield isn’t well implemented despite Uridium having done it better the previous year – but the music is great especially the in-game tune activated by pressing F1 during play, the graphics are pretty reasonable too and the gameplay itself proves fun if challenging in part due to the way the Armourdillo itself has to be steered.

In fact I remember this being quite a contentious title within my circle of friends back in the day; I liked the unusual control scheme at the time but not everybody agreed, feeling it was clunky and unresponsive especially when changing direction. Looking at it again now it’s pretty easy to see where those opinions were coming from – despite playing it for a few days for this post I’m still getting my arse handed to me near the end of level 3 – but I still feel that the system is flawed but workable overall and makes sense in context even if I don’t feel comfortable recommending this game to shoot ’em up fans without a few caveats because of it.

3 thoughts on “Playing Armourdillo (C64)

  1. Wow, not seen this game for 30 odd years! Sure I still have my cassette somewhere…

    There is a lot to dislike about this game. I hate games with giant status bars. particularly when they’re rendered in retina-burning cyan, the difficulty level ramps up quickly within only a handful of levels and it can become a little repetitive quite (very?) quickly.

    However, I’ve always appreciated games that tried something different and as you mention, in this game the control mode is one of the main differences from other games. I never had issues with the control mode and quite like the varied movements/directions you need to think about while playing – it adds another ‘dimension’ to the play. This is probably why I always enjoyed games like Paradroid and Citadel, as the control mode are a little more ‘complex’ than simple point and fire.

    With a few additions to gameplay to add more elements, this could have been a solid little budget blaster, but ‘as-is’ it feels just a little lacking in that ‘something’.

    And, I always thought the ZZAP! review was a little harsh. The comments about repetitivity and ‘boredom’ are fair enough, but what about the comments about challenge and originality (control mode)? They got their score wrong on this one I think (14%). I’d have put it in the 50’s methinks…

  2. I remember thinking it was a Gavin Raeburn game initially, it had that look even though the other guys name was all over it :)

    Can’t say I was impressed after a play or two, even for a budget game it seemed a bit ‘meh’ as the kids say these days. And to think I spent my hard earned Maplin brass for that, can’t remember if the software / Gamesworkshop style game allowed me to swap it…..Think he did…

    Ever hear from Brian these days?

  3. @Andy: A score in the fifties or perhaps sixties sounds about right to me. It also seems pretty much bulletproof on the code front from what I’ve seen although the timing on the titles page could’ve been done far better!

    @Paul: I know what you mean about not being impressed and people I knew at the time felt that way too, but it’s certainly not the worst budget game released by a long shot; Robobolt always springs to mind, pretty much anything from the Power House – Morphicle or The Dark Side spring to mind, I’ve probably still got both – and the bulk of Mastertronic’s earliest releases… BMX Racers, Dark Star, Bionic [shudder] Granny!

    Oh and yes, got Brian as a friend on Facebook. =-)

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