Hybris logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

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.


Hybris logo

DISCOVERY/GAINSTAR (0252 877431)

Alright, who was it who said that after completing SDI the universe would be safe from alien attack forever? Not so, I'm afraid.
Once again you have to go out there and blast those old aliens into the darkened depths of your neighbourhood black hole, but with brilliant graphics, the days of the vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up have taken on a new dimension.

GAMEPLAY

Who's the bloke who goes round moving your specs the moment you've put them down? And what about all those biros that you leave for the merest instant, and wop! - they've gone walkies. Where to?

Well - and you're going to find this one hard to believe - some idiot has gone and mislaid an entire colony of people. It's not as if they were particularly important people. A bit like Princess Alexandra - she looks good but nobody is entirely sure what she does and it wouldn't matter too much if she got lost down the plug hole one morning. However, it's suddenly become vitally important that you find this missing colony - they've probably been discovered to have avoided their poll tax registration, so the Government is going to spend half a million pounds trying to find them again, and you're they guy who got to wander, bleary-eyed, into an alien and futuristic world.

With wave after wave of alien invaders looking like something of Doctor Who dancing the poas-de-deux, it's pretty easy to forget about those missing guys and their tax bill. With your quest taking you across deserts, roads, mountains and seas and with one alien after another on your tail you can be sure that it isn't going to be a sightseeing trip.

When aliens rear their head they have a nasty tendency to split into loads of parts and hover around you menacingly. With a special firepower attachment you can ensure that they don't get too big-headed. In the event that this contraption should get hit by an alien craft then you're all a;one in the treacherous terrain. Only when a large grey box floats around the screen is there any hope - shooting at it releases another fire-attachment which you need to pick up to use.


GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Vertically-scrolling shoot-em-ups are so old now that you can almost spot the wrinkles. However, brilliant, smooth-scrolled graphics and aliens so weird that you'll think you've just climbed into an extra's role in Moonwalker combine to make sure that Hybris is not just another outer-spac shoot-the-thick-aliens-and-amass-an-Einstein-shattering score type of game. With the action taking place over the top of everything from palm trees to a moving juggernaut you can soon find yourself addicted.

Sound effects are good as well. Throughout gameplay is a jazzy backing music as well as all sorts of spot effect which materialise every time you fire a missile. With an auto-firing joystick this can soon override anything else.


CONCLUSION

Addictive gameplay has been the backbone of every shoot-em-up but this Amiga game has benefited from dedicated graphics and excellent sound effects. It might have been better if highscores could have been saved to disk but this is no real problem if your only intention is to soar through the different levels. An initialisation routine can be accessed by pressing the space bar during loading. Here you can change parameters which will make the game easier - or harder if you have some sort of kamikaze instinct.

Amiga - £24.95. Mouse or Joystick. Reviewed.
ST - No version yet available