A few months ago we got very exciting about a CD32 game, something which, admittedly, doesn't happen often, mainly because most CD games are ported from their floppy counterparts, thus ensuring we're already well versed in their gameplay. Not so Guardian. Kiwi programmers Acid Software, responsible for the quirky racing game Skidmarks, too us somewhat by surprise when this plopped on the mat.
If Super Stardust is posh Asteroids then Guardian is posh Defender, only with more frills than the Queen Mother's curtains.
The action is in 3D, first-person perspective and the idea is simple. You shoot things. Everything. Clear away the alien craft and move on to the next level - not quite as easy as it sounds.
Dead as a dodo
There are two arguments concerning Guardian. Some players think it a classic, a throwback to the days of 'real' arcade games where you plough through the levels again and again, while others reckon the structure suffers badly because Guardian contains no password facility - yes friends, when you is dead, you is DEAD.
Fortunately, each game differs - you never play the same level in the same way and because there is no time limit, it's a case of destroying the enemy before they smash your installations.
Although best played with a joypad, this version has an option to use the mouse in conjunction with the keyboard, which, as you can imagine, takes some getting used to. Advice desk: use a joypad.
But whatever your weapon, Guardian is a thrilling game. Shooting through a 3D landscape, swerving to avoid the buildings, picking off the enemy, the scanner tells you that someone is right behind you. Palms moistening at a pace, you deftly tap the pad to flip the ship 180 degrees and suddenly you're face to face with foe. Blow him out of the skies, alien ship in smithereens and off you go.
Mastering control of the ship is by no means easy, which only adds to the problems of collecting the (essential) power-ups as they appear all too briefly, before shattering on the ground.
Guardian is as tough a shoot-em-up as they come - even the early levels can be soul-
Despite the attractive graphics, objects don't slink into view as you glide along - they just appear and depart suddenly, which is disappointing. But Guardian shouts loudly on playability and the rest matters not a jot. Few shoot-em-ups will match it in '95.
Die guten Nachrichten zuerst: In einem schwer
Man trifft also weiterhin auf faire Feind
Nur leider hat man hier nicht nur mit einem dank fehlender Levelcodes oder Continues herben Schwierigkeitsgrad zu kämpfen, sondern auch mit einer vertrackten Steuerung.
So werden für rasante Kehren und den Abwurf von Smart
Weil zudem der bärenstarke CD-Sound für die Diskette auf eine Titelmusik und ein paar Effekte reduziert wurde, kann diese Ballerina trotz unbestreitbarer Qualitäten und mangelnder Konkurrenz auch für AGA-Amigos nur zweite Wahl sein.
Wir empfehlen daher einen CD-RÖMer, 'nen Steuerknochten und die bessere Schiller
My word, I'd forgotten how exciting this game was. Cursed by a trough in the Yorkshire Dale of my spatial perception, I'd been dismissed from the high score table of the CD32 version by shadowy music promoter Paul Mellerick and, after a few embarrassing attempts to regain former glories, I'd left the Guardian arena, spotlit and to a terrible silence.
Then, suddenly, the A1200 conversion turned up. In a pointlessly big box with a nice picture on the front, and everything. Minutes later I was careering through the pyramid back streets of Level 3.3 with no lives and no energy, one lander to kill and a couple of tanks hurling laser bolts across my scuttering path with terrifying accuracy.
I died, of course, but not before wresting a hash from the lander's claws and setting it decisively. The game of champions once more had me in its grasp.
Guardian (the game of Champions) (that I'm once again the best at) is Defender in first-person 3D. And Defender being one of the most fearsome, claustrophobically exhilarating games ever in the history of all things, is no bad deal.
The A1200 game's a faultless conversion from the CD32 original blessed with 90% in AP43 except with a few faults. No bombastic CD music. (The third planet's 1970's cop show track (Stock exterior shot of mismatched partners strutting down busy US street with people in background looking at the camera) is sorely missed).
Minutes later I was careening
Slightly irritating disk access between levels. Slightly irritating non-recognition of second drive although once you've swapped from the program to the levels disk that's it. Befuddling mouse control option for non-CD32 joypad owners involving the mouse and buttons dictating your ship's direction and speed, plus the space bar for smart bomb, return for fire, tab for missiles and the left alt key for 'flip'. (While mouse control is fun for the novelty of it, and certainly helps in those swishy sharp turn manoeuvres, I find it practically impossible to use seriously.
Lunging across the keyboard to 'flip' or dash off a rocket is extremely silly and even flying stably straight up in the air so I can switch the viewing angle to the superior long, high shot is agonisingly difficult). No keyboard-only option. And - hwoop - it's alarmingly unplayable.
To keep up the speed of the game, every third frame (or whatever) is missed out, so objects flick from spot to spot. It's impenetrably confusing and means you're always reacting far too late to something.
Fortunate then that Guardian defaults to a low detail view which limits the distance at which objects appear on the screen, maintains the CD32's frightening and impressive running speed and subtly improves the game as obstacles lurch violently into your path.
Not, in truth, alarmingly unplayable at all then, but it's nice to have a little excitement in a review that basically says "Guardian A1200 it's just as fantastically exciting as the CD32 original."
The previews suggested that this was one worth waiting for. Despite being developed by one man in a single year, claims were being made that Guardian left Starwing on the Super Nintendo looking positively sluggish.
Now it's here looking slick, fast and rather desirable. Still, looks aren't everything and the question remains: behind the flashy surface, does the game have a heart?
There's something of a retro movement on at the moment in the games arena. Old classics are being exhumed, dusted off and flogged to a new generation of games players, unfamiliar with their ancient appeal.
The likes of Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Pitfall, Galaxians, Tempest and Asteroids have all been tarted up, renamed and repackaged for the 90s. The linking theme in all these games is their simplistic playability - there are no extensive menus to negotiate, no complex missions to complete, no overblown FMV sequences to endure - just pure, balls-out playable action.
And this is where Guardian scores highly. Ignoring ay plot pretensions, all you have to do is shoot things. OK, there are certain things which you must shoot, some things you shouldn't shoot, and other things that you can shoot if you want to. But, basically, there are things and you shoot them.
Although immediately reminiscent of Starwing on the Super Nintendo, the gameplay is actually closer to a 3D Defender, in that you simply have to destroy all the enemy bombers to complete each stage. Your ship also flips direction (a bit over-dramatically it has to be said) in true Defender-style.
And that's about all there is to it. Clear all the bombers, pick off the remaining stragglers and then zoom off to the next stage. Obviously things become increasingly hairy as you progress through the game new, more aggressive enemies are introduced and you're occasionally taske with entering the alien mothership for a little target practice.
Once you get to grips with the controls (you have to manipulate the joypad and all six buttons simultaneously) Guardian opens up and turns into quite a pleasing little shoot-em-up.
The action is unrelenting and since the confusing 3D gameworld, merciless enemies and cumbersome controls conspire to make Guardian quite tough, clearing a level of baddies is all the more satisfying.
And as the frame rate drops so too does the craft's controllability
But there are quite a few things that I remain unimpressed with. For a 32-bit machine, the 3D isn't really that impressive: objects blink in and out of existence rathe than gradually increasing in size as they approach.
And it's not as if any of the craft and buildings are that complex - there isn't even any texture mapping going on.
When things get busy (which is pretty often) the slow-down is surprisingly bad, and as the frame rate drops so too does the craft's controllability (you're constantly under or over-steering), and your ship wasn't exactly well-
There are also a few flaws in the game structure, such as the lack of passcodes (you'll get bored of blasting your way through the early sections to get to the more exciting later on), and picking up those vital power-ups could be easier:
Every now and then, recently demised bobers leave behind a coloured star representing a homing missile, shield refuel or laser upgrade. But steering into them in the heat of battle is a tad tricky and the little blighters conk out after a few seconds. The number of times I homed in on a star just as it disintegrated... like getting to the phone as it stops ringing. Very annoying.
Having said that, Guardian still has plenty to recommend it. For starters it's one of the few CD32 dedicated games in existence, and will find favour with gamers wanting more than a straight Amiga port. The graphics are very colourful, and the CD soundtrack is good 'n' heavy. Guardian's not going to set the gaming world alight, but it'll no doubt warm your CD32 up a bit.
It seems a little ironic that a game with such glorious visuals as Guardian should boast, quite possibly, the worst ever packaging in the Universe (that's the offending article on the right). The A1200 version - which is due out in December - will hopefully be snuggling in a big box bearing an image not created by Washoe the Chimpanzee.
Spektakulär ist allerdings nicht unbedingt mit originell, denn hier haben die Acid-Jungs um Mark Sibly ("Skidmarks") bei diversen Genre
Nö, eher dürfte hier der Spieler atemlos dem rasanten Gameplay hinterhecheln, wenn er mit seinem Raumgleiter kreuz und quer im Tiefflug über die Oberflächen von knapp einem Dutzend Planeten düst, um marodierende Aliens vom Screen zu blastern. Vorranging handelt es sich dabei um bombenwerfende Flugrobbis, aber es schleichen sich auch mal feindliche Jäger von hinten an, Kamikazeflieger riskieren einen Frontalangriff, und flinke Minipanzer feuern wild drauf los - oder man wird gar an Bord des dicken Mutter
Da ist es schon hilfreich, daß der Bordlaser von der eher kräftigen Art ist, das Schutzschild einige Treffer aushält und der Gleiter trotz bombiger Beschleunigung und satter Höchstgeschwindigkeit jederzeit überraschende Kehrt
Die zunächst etwas problematische, weil sensible Steuerung leistet in der Hektik gute Dienste, doch sie erleichtert die Aufgabe nur unwesentlich - das Hoch
So suchen die bunten Polygon-
Wer also auf eigenständige Ideen pfeift und sich auf schnelle 3D-Balleraction freut, liegt bei Guardian goldrichtig. Ob das auch für die geplante A1200-
Here at AMIGA POWER, we don't tend to start off our reviews by copying out the game's plot, because a) everyone else does it, and b) game plots are an irrelevance. But Guardian's is actually quite good. So here goes.
It's the future. A long, long time into the future, when the universe has reached the limit of its post Big Bang expansion and begun to contract again. In fact, it's contracted so much that it's now no more than a few light years in diameter, and its surviving inhabitants are squabbling over what's left.
You're a Guardian, and your job is to protect the remains of the human race from marauding aliens. Should you fail, humanity will be destroyed. But, of course, even if you succeed, everyone will be killed before too long anyway. Which means that ultimately you're fighting for the sheer heck of it, which is just the way games should be,
(The AMIGA POWER calculator reveals that, were the universe really to be "no more than a few light years in diameter", its density would be so great that it would collapse in on itself within a few picoseconds. But Guardian is a pretty fast-moving game, so that's okay).
Guardian's been compared to Starwing on the SNES, a game which it superficially resembles. The ships are similar, the first level colours are identical, and you fly about in a similar manner.
But apart from that, forget about Starwing. And think instead about a 3D version of Defender, which is what Guardian actually is. ('Defender', 'Guardian'. See?) Instead of trying to kidnap people, the aliens bomb buildings on the ground, and there are power-ups and things. And you can't hyperspace. But apart from that, this is a 3D version of Defender, encompassing all Defender's speed and intensity along with some terrific graphics and the overpowering sense of urgency that the plot adds.
Causing terrible damage to your cities
A typical game of Guardian will proceed as follows:
"Nya ha." (As you cunningly position yourself opposite the alien mothership as the game begins, wait impatiently for it to release a group of Dronoids - all of which need to be killed to complete a level - and then unleash one of your limited stock of smart bombs, destroying them all in a purple flash and a shower of polygons).
"Waargh..." (As, while doing so, you fail to notice a pair of enemy fighters - Saracens, as we've dubbed them - lining up behind you, and unleashing a tirade of sharply-
"Phew." (As you stab at the accelerator and soar away, banking sharply to avoid a tree...)
"Gnuk" (...Only to career straight into a building - not a smart move, as you're supposed to be protecting these, and the fewer remain at the end of the level, the fewer bonus points you'll get.)
"Tsk." (When you glance at your scanner, and spot a group of Dronoids in the distance, no doubt causing terrible damage to your cities.)
"Now then..." (As you close in on their position, your finger hovering above the fire button.)
"Gagh." (When, just as they come into view, a trio of Shadows flits across your path, giving you no option to peel off your attack and pursue them.)
"Pow." (As the first goes down.)
"Pow." (As the second goes down.)
"Yip." (As you narrowly scrape past a large office block. But then...)
"Yes." (...As the final Shadow, hot on your tail, isn't so fortunate, clips the building with his wing and tumbles down to earth.)
"Grr." (As you turn to face the Dronoids again with renewed determination.)
"Dakka dakka dakka." (As your photon bolts tear into them, and shards of alien tumble to earth. And finally....)
"Hurrah." (When, with the last Dronoid destroyed, "Level 00.3 Complete" appears on the screen and your ship turns and points skywards, the victory music playing in the background.)
It really is that exciting. And all that was without even considering that 'flip' control, inherited from Defender, which is perhaps the greatest single feature of any Amiga game ever.
Death seems certain
Picture the scene. You're zooming along the ground at top speed, weaving in and out of trees and closing in on the last Dronoid on the level. Suddenly you're aware of laser bolts zipping past your ear. You bank sharply, but the bandits are hard on your tail, matching your speed pixel for pixel. Lasers are tearing into your shields, and there's a group of buildings ahead block your path. Death seems certain.
But! With a swift stab at the green button, your ship performs a neat half-somersault and roll, and ends up facing in the opposite direction, still skidding backwards. You hammer the fire button and watch as one, two, three enemy ships erupt into a cloud of polygons. Twisting your lip in satisfaction you blip the accelerator to prevent your ship from sliding backwards into the buildings, and soar off in pursuit of your primary target. Even after the hundredth time, it's still great.
The graphics, meanwhile, are spot-on - not as intricate as Starwing', but perhaps a little smoother-
The sound effects are fine, largely drowned out by the rock soundtrack (a little 1970s disco music would have made all the difference.) In fact, the only possible flaw we could find in Guardian is that the power-ups are ludicrously difficult to pick up - you've got to fly directly through the middle of them - which is a shame as it really spices things up once you've got a homing missile or dual laser.
For the ultimate proof of Guardian's greatness, look to the AMIGA POWER Guardian High Score competition. We've wasted hours trying to out-do-each other and knock our most deadly foes off the bottom of the high score table, something we wouldn't normally bother with.
We've even been playing in the take-it-
|TURN AND BURN|
|HUH? THE INTRO SEQUENCE BAFFLES US, FRANKLY|
|THOSE WHOM YOU MUST SHOOT|
And there are lots of other ones as well, obviously.
Mark Sibly is the man who is responsible for Blitz Basic and one of the most perfect Amiga conversions of Defender ever (well, several of them anyway). Almost a year ago Mark Sibly came to London on a flying visit, and brought us a playable demo of his latest 3D shoot 'em up engine.
Essentially he had taken a look at Starwing on the Super Nintendo, a game that many magazines were raving about at the time, and realised that it wasn't doing anything that the Amiga wasn't capable of equalling, if not actually bettering hands down. The end result was a single level shoot em-up called Sibwing. Then it all went quiet.
Suddenly, one day, completely out of the blue, a silver disk appeared on my desk with a single word on it - Guardian. Loading it up, I found it to be the completed Sibwing, gone through a few changes, sure, but even more playable and exciting than it ever promised to be. Acid Software are back, bigger and better than ever.
In a nutshell, Guardian is Defender. Mark has written over a hundred different versions of Defender in his time, so that's no surprise. What is nice is the ease in which he has taken such a simple game concept and translated it into a 3D extra
You are a lone pilot, patrolling a group of unnamed planets somewhere out in space. One day on a routine run the planet is invaded by alien craft, hell bent on destroying all the buildings and vegetation on the surface.
What more is a lone pilot to do except get out there and take them out!
There are basically two different types of enemy craft attacking your planets. The first, and most deadly to you are all the fighter ships that materialise in random positions on the planet after being beamed down from the mothership which is loitering above the globe.
These are only interested in taking you out, and will home in on your ship the moment they appear, with all guns blazing. There are dozens of different types that will appear, but all follow more or less the same pattern to begin with. Appear, fly around at high speed and then home in. The nice thing is that none of them are particularly intelligent, and they will fly into buildings and other obstacles while making a bee line for you.
The second type of craft is almost completely harmless, but are the most important to destroy. The bombers, as they are called, are there to destroy all the buildings and installations on the planet, and systematically travel across the landscape raining destruction upon everything in sight. Your mission objective is clear. Stay alive long enough to take out the waves of bombers that appear, and then clean up al the fighters still alive. Once a certain number has been destroyed, it's off to a different part of the globe to save yet another civilisation.
After you've done this part a couple of times, you'll be told that a tractor beam is now operating. This is coming form the mothership. This scenario takes the place of the end of level guardian, pitting you against a whole host of smaller enemies instead of a large one. You are pulled form the planet surface inside the mothership, from which vantage point you can see all the exit ports where the fighters are coming from. Your job here is to take out every single port before the aliens tart emerging, because once they do, you're in serious trouble.
Some aliens drop special bonuses when shot, which look like enormous bouncing jacks. A bit of skillful flying is all it takes to scoop these things up, and they can b anything from a laser boost to a shield boost to even a tracking missile, which will lock on to the nearest bomber and blow it out of sky.
The only other weapons in your armoury are a double laser, which can fire two shots forward instead of one, and a limited supply of smart bombs. There isn't really a lot to choose from, sure, but then there wasn't much to choose from in Defender.
You can probably tell from the various screenshots dotted around this page that the game is based upon Starwing. The bright colours used on all the objects, plus the style of the other craft show pretty much where the game is coming from.
What this leads into, though, is a very strange viewing perspective. The game is viewed in the third person, i.e. behind your own ship, but you don't actually look directly along the craft.
The height of your ship is variable, but the height of the camera isn't, so if you are skimming along the ground or flying as high as the game will allow, you are left looking down or up at yourself rather than forward, which limits your view somewhat. Oddly enough, this doesn't actually detract from the playability of the game once you get used to I. If you don't like the angle you are being viewed form, you can always move the camera position to suit you.
One gripe with this system that some people had initially was that you had no real way of targeting your shots. Although you always fire forward, the height of your craft coupled with the yaw means that you can fire in all directions along the y axis and judging where your bullets are going to go is an acquired skill rather than an intuitive one.
The controls are worked out extremely well, with the top two buttons on the controller moving your craft forward or back, the large red button is your cannon, the blue and yellow buttons handling missiles and smart bombs respectively while the green button lets you pull off quite a nifty 180 degree flip, enabling you to turn and fire at whatever happens to be chasing you.
Guardian is an unusual game, but wildly addictive and great fun to play. Extremely challenging, both mentally and physically, this is a game where you'll really work up a sweat. It might not be the smoothest or most original game in the world, but it's well worth having nonetheless. Is Guardian a fitting follow up to the great ? Yes I definitely think so.