Posted by Kelvin Green
15 Super-Dreadnought ships have invaded your galaxy, each looking to steal a different precious metal.
Uridium is a much loved classic amongst Commodore 64 enthusiasts. Well known for its fast-paced gameplay and unique game mechanics, at least some of that reputation is deserved. Designer Andrew Braybrook was known for his idiosyncratic but eminently playable game concepts, and they are plentiful here too.
The main difference between this game and most other shoot-em-ups of the era is the ability to fly and move in all three dimensions; not only can the Manta fighter fly to the left or right or up or down, in a manner similar to games like Defender, but there's also some limited movement above and below the plane on which most of the gameplay occurs. It's possible, via a looping manoeuvre, to gain enough height to dodge enemy craft or cross over barriers, and some later parts of the game have some tight squeezes that can only be navigated by flipping the Manta on its side. Such increased interactivity gives an impression of being more closely involved in the action, especially in comparison to most scrolling shooters, where there's generally less control over your sprite's direction.
None of this would be any good at all if the controls were sloppy, but here Uridium excels. While the fast pace and almost slippery handling of the Manta fighter can be difficult at first, it's all part of a well-judged learning curve, and soon enough you'll be backflipping all over the place as the enemies approach. On the other hand, the self-destruct mini game is merely a test of timing, and isn't nearly as complex or compelling as the similar sequence in Braybrook's earlier Paradroid; in all honesty, it seems like something of an afterthought.
The visuals are also a bit of a let-down, being more functional than pretty. The large battleships aren't particularly exciting or imposing, with very little in the way of animation on their surfaces, and the waves of enemy fighters are also rather dull, consisting mainly of a standard set of cloned blobs. That said, the overall design is certainly quite idiosyncratic and memorable, from the unique fonts all the way up to strange stuff like the big chains holding the starships together, or the option to play the game in a monochrome mode (?). The Manta fighter itself redeems the visuals somewhat: it's a great sprite with smooth and varied animations that make it look as slippery and agile as its aquatic namesake. In terms of sound, the title theme is another one of those classic tunes that gave the C64's music capabilities such legendary status, but some generic in-game electronic beeps and buzzes are a bit of a let down.
To be honest, Uridium hasn't aged too well. It's still a very playable shoot-em-up with some inventive mechanics, but the presentation betrays the game's age. Later C64 games in the same genre looked and sounded better, and some offered more depth, although few were as unique as this one. Think carefully before you spend your Wii Points on this title, but if you're a fan of shoot-em-ups and are looking for something a bit different from the norm, you could certainly do worse than Uridium.