Look around your workplace or classroom and see if anyone fits this description. There's a type of person, inevitably male, who everybody hates. They say he's sexist, they say he's arrogant and always trying to be the centre of attention. You hear the stories and you wonder how, awful a human being can actually be.
Then when you meet him face to face, he turns out to be okay. You chat about what was on TV last night or how you both fancy that new girl from accounts, and then you go on your separate ways with you wondering why everyone's got it in the poor guy.
Until you meet him in a socal capacity. You're packed ('Youth club or sports hall' - Ed) necking back (''Glasses of orange juice'- Ed) and he starts off, blah, blah, blah, misinformed twaddle, yakkity, yak, biased viewpoint, blahdy-blah. He's got an audience to show his ignorance to, never backing down from an argument or admitting he's wrong, being generally loud and tedious.
Everyone hates him, and after an hour of uninformed, xenophobic waffle, so do you He's hell's co-worker, he's the nice guy who tries his hardest to be a total cretin. Which, by the way of neat introduction, sums up Embryo quite nicely too.
Embryo should be a great game and (given a hearty shakedown) could still be, but this version sucks. The game engine's fast and flowing, the idea's good (so good in fact, it's also used in Guardian, reviewed on page 40) and the control systems (mouse, joystick and keyboard) all work great. You can even serial link two Amigas and fly against a friend, which is always a Good Thing.
It's just that, as a game, it sucks. The 20 game levels are linked by an endless stream of poorly-written drivel cranking out the tired old 'bad aliens vs good humans' story. It's low-quality 1950s SF or the pulpiest form, and not really helped by the programmers hailing from Croatia, and therefore producing crappy pseudo-atmospheric 15th-rate Isaac Asimov stories in a language that clearly isn't their mother tongue. All you need to know is that you've got to shoot thing without getting killed, so why couldn't they just have said that?
Like I said, you can choose your control method. I favour the mouse which lets you control your plane easily while at the same time keeping your guns and speed under control. Holding the right mouse button adjusts your speed whereas a single click toggles through your weapons and the left button fires. Simple, easy to get into, nice.
The game betrays its flight sim origins by having left, right and rear views on the function keys, but I've yet to find a use for them and sadly, there isn't an external view of your ship, so you're never sure what your plane looks like. It might be sleek and cool, it might look like a 2CV. You just don't know.
Twaddle, yakkity yak, biased viewpoint
So. Everything's great so far, and it continues to look rosy as you start the game proper. After a brief zoom over the polygon landscape, you inevitably bump into a few baddies and get shooting. The walkers are the best, not just because they look good, but because when you blast them, they collapse forwards and lie like dead chickens, columns of smoke rising from their shattered frames. (As tends to happen with dead chickens. - Ed). It's ever so satisfying.
The helicopters come apart and release bonuses quite easily too, so after a few minutes' flying around, you've usually picked up quite a few power-ups - reloads, double missiles, better machine-guns, that sort of thing.
Even in these early confrontations, the one thing that stands out is the obvious need for bigger weapons. No, that's not quite right: the obvious need is for weaker opponents. Picking out some stragglers at the edge of the enemy's area of operation, I stopped and tested my weapons against various enemies.
Tanks take 12 seconds of continual machine-gun fire to destroy, bunkers a more credible four. Even accounting for near-misses, gun turrets take around a dozen hits before they blow. (Admittedly, if you use guided missiles which seek out the weak points, you only need four or so, but then of course you run out of your best missiles early on).
Quite clearly, that's far too much to have to do to kill something, and this is the root of Embryo's problems. Problems that combine and interleave to create more problems, which in turn spawn yet more. Join me on my terrifying spiralling descent into gameplay hell. No, I insist.
Because it takes so long to destroy each target, you've got to slow right down to give you time to shoot it over and over again (and that's slow right down - even if you're bumbling alone, you often have to turn around and make a second pass at the target). Unfortunately, since you're going slow, you're basically a sitting target.
Because it takes so long to destroy each target, and the best way of hitting them is to sit there and spray them with bullets which make you a sitting duck, you get hit. And when you get hit, the impact flings you backwards for miles.
Because it takes so long to destroy each target, and the best way of hitting them is to sit there and spray them which makes you a sitting duck, and you get hit and flung backwards for miles, you haven't a hope of getting to the main objective unless you ignore everything and plunge straight in. But if you plunge straight in you get killed, because you need to destroy stragglers in order to get enough power-ups to stand any chance at all. And because it takes so long to destroy each target, your energy levels get pummelled. And you can't plunge straight in anyway, because if you fly fast you pass things before you can shoot them.
Because it takes so long to destroy each target, and the best way of hitting them is to sit there and spray them which makes you a sitting duck, and you get hit and flung backwards for miles, and picking off stragglers to obtain power-ups means your energy levels get pummelled, the main objective is always a hell-storm of enemy activity. You can't pick off the edges of the defence because if you stop, enemy planes will hit you and knock you into the middle.
If you go fast to avoid the fire you can't hit anything but if you go slow you get shot up and die. If by some messianic feat of gameplaying you manage to get all the power-ups you need, getting shot now damages your weapons rather than your ship.
But once your weapons get damaged you have to replace them, because you can't repair them. But you can't replace them, because to replace them you have to destroy a target to collect its powerup, and you can't destroy the target because your weapons are damaged.
The bottom line is that it's TOO HARD, which makes you wonder what sort of games playing demi-gods playtested it. The walkers and helicopters are fun because they drop when you pop them, whereas the turrets are complete duffers because they take forever to smash up. If they just knocked down the hit points on the enemies, it'd be a fast and fun game (that's almost (but not quite) like Guardian), and heading into the enemy base would be frantic and exciting. But they haven't. And it isn't. Which is a great shame.