Yes, it's Galaxibirds... the game they couldn't stop (supposedly).
And for a game by "Sensible Software", the game itself is anything but sensible. Having said that though, it was originally released on Firebird's budget label, and you can tell that the game has been designed to fit that market, complete with the obvious budget cuts!
The game has a plot to it, but you can tell that it's just a tacked on weak excuse for the action that follows. It's a parody on the tired old "save the world all by yourself against immeasurable odds" plotline. Apparently, the Galaxibirds have wiped out the population of planet Earth, and you are the only one left. Fortunately someone left a space-ship just lying around for you to use -- quite a coincidence really. Now it's all up to you to zap them all and save the planet. How you are supposed to return the world to "the arrogant middle class white men to whom it once belonged", as the title screen's ridiculously fast scrolling message attests, while being the only human left seems to be deliberately glossed over. Not that it matters!
So now the game itself. The game play more closely resembles Activision's classic "Megamania" than it does Galaxians (which the game jokingly compares itself to in the title screen's silly introductory message). The enemies in the game do not fire bullets at the player but move around in set patterns, swooping down the screen and possibly hitting the player's ship, but they don't home in on your location at all. Your player's ship is equipped with lasers to shoot them, so it's off to work!
It seems clear that the programmer had some algorithms to predetermine the enemy movements for every stage. Things start out easy until the later stages. Eventually you can tell that the randomness of the enemy pattern algorithm gets too big for its boots and makes the birds go nuts and speed around like lightning. At this point your survival becomes near impossible. I only discovered this by uncovering the game's built-in cheatmode (bashing RESTORE multiple times on the title screen!) and playing long enough to see that no care was taken in finely honing the difficulty and learning curve! What could you really expect for a budget title?
The enemies that attack you are not all birds either. There's a few not-very-birdlike enemies later on in the game's stages (which I won't spoil for you), as the game takes a turn for the ridiculous. With the number of weird sprites attacking my ship I was reminded of a number of old games (mainly of the Llamasoft persuasion) which seemed to do the same each level. In fact, introducing weird sprites on every level seemed to be a pretty good tactic to keep players interested in an otherwise repetitive game back in the 80s.
The music deserves a special mention. While the title screen plays an annoying stream of bleeps and boops, in the in-game music plays the blues and attempts to jam a melody over the top in a random, but musically acceptable fashion. It prevents the music from being completely stale, but it becomes a bit boring and repetitive after a while, just like the game itself. You also have sound effects that are functional and do the job, but aren't really worth a mention.
In summary, the game itself never attempts to be anything more than a hackneyed shooter knockoff, and there's nothing particularly novel about it to make it stand out from so many others. It's still fun to play for a while, mind you, and you may derive some fun from challenging yourself to see how many rounds into the game you can get, or how many points you can achieve. Unfortunately there's nothing really here to satisfy anybody for more than a few spare minutes of casual arcade gaming. As repetitive gameplay sets in, and the lightning-fast enemies go insane, your game will end... and you won't save the Earth!
|GRAPHICS - 5/10|
|The graphics are functional for this type of game, and some of the enemy sprites will be amusing the first time you see them, but there's nothing brilliant here. |
|SOUND - 6/10|
|The in-game ditty gets wearisome after a while, but you really have to give the author some kudos for making it jam to the blues randomly every time you play the game.|
|PLAYABILITY - 7/10|
|The game is quite playable casually, even if the idea is quite dated. You'll play through all the stages, only for them to loop around for the enemies to get faster and more insane. It eventually gets impossible, but it's a challenge until then.|
|OVERALL - 6/10|
|As a cheap budget game back in the day, it's short, simple, and cheerful. It didn't aim to be anything more than that. |