REALLY good shoot 'em ups are something of a rarity on the Amiga. Sure, there's Xenon and Zynaps and a few others, but when you consider the range of games of this type that exists for the 8 bit computers, it seems extraordinary that this situation has developed.
Maybe it's because programmers are busy trying to come up with new game concepts to match the Amiga's strengths - but even so, there are few games quite as enjoyable as those that involve wasting row after row of aliens.
The good news is that things are about to change, at least three powerful Amiga shoot 'em ups are poised for imminent release - Activision's R-Type, Phantom Fighter from Martech and Discovery's Hybris. Of the three, Hybris is probably the least impressive looking, but it only takes a few plays before it becomes apparent that this first impression is far from accurate.
The action is typical of the top to bottom scrolling type. The player flies in all four directions shooting wave after wave of advancing aliens and ground installations. Extra weapons are available along the way by collecting icons which appear from time to time.
Pretty normal so far, eh? There are however a couple of points which enhance the playability far above most of the competition. The first of these is the weapon enhancement feature: Collect any weapon, waggle the joystick (without holding down the fire button) and the weapon immediately assumes new destructive powers.
Although this only lasts for a short time, three enhancements are allowed per weapon, which is just enough to keep things going until the next comes along.
Another point in Hybris' favour is that the playability is perfect - the going is tough but not frustrating, and the extra weapons and smart bombs should enable even the least coordinated player to get further along the landscape than they normally would.
And even those who fail miserably to get past the first screen needn't worry, as an arcade style "continue play" feature should see them just as far into the proceedings as they want to go.
The music and sound effects also deserve a mention - the in-game soundtrack is especially impressive, sounding something like a cross between Bronski Beat and Bon Jovi. The graphics are a little ordinary, but they're exactly the right size, small enough to allow plenty of room to manoeuvre yet still big enough to be distinct.
Of all the game's good points the best by far is the customise game option which allows you to set most of the game's parameters. The number and regularity of the enemy bombs can be changed, as can the frequency and duration of the expansion systems.
Hybris doesn't only shine because of the dearth of this type of game. It's also the best shoot 'em up of any type that I've seen in ages - and that includes countless coin-ops.
One last thing. If you do decide to have a crack at Hybris, make sure that you've got a good strong joystick and a couple of hours to spare.