Part shooter, part maze game, you are tasked to track down and retrieve stolen cargo from pirates, returning it to a storage depot at the end of each level (of which there are 3) before time runs out. Not that the pirates are going to sit back and let you interfere with their plans – it’s a good job you are heavily armed and have four ships at your disposal – you’ll need them!
Navigating around the flip screen environment you encounter all manner of hazards, including the aforementioned pirates as well as planetary defences that have been activated and other obstacles that block your path. The best tactic is not to linger too long in any one place and keep firing, as enemies keep on coming, and you have a time limit to consider.
Although your main gun doesn’t run out, you have a finite supply of other weapons, which can be cycled through by pressing + and – on the controller (an improvement over the original, which required you to push keys 1 to 5 on the keyboard!). More ammo can be obtained along the way, and one nice touch is that you don’t lose it all when you die – the maximum amount is provided with each new ship. Other power ups can be collected including the ability to fire backwards and a satellite that orbits your ship, destroying enemies who come into contact with it. These are lost if you die.
Whilst progressing through the level it is important to collect pieces of cargo that are dropped, as you will need at reach a value of 1500 when you get to the storage depot in order to succeed. This is definitely easier said than done! You still advance to the next level if you fail to achieve this target, but at the cost of a life.
The controls are very responsive and the whole game flies along at a fair old pace, despite the huge amount of stuff that is frequently on screen. The extra weaponry is activated by holding down fire, and includes bombs, mines, heat seeking missiles and even a shield, which makes you invincible for a very short time. The shield comes in extremely handy on certain screens, so it’s wise to ration its usage. Deciding on the appropriate weapon to use on each screen is all part of the game, and vital for your survival.
Detailed, well animated graphics and excellent presentation help lift this game above the run of the mill, and at times you are left to wonder how the humble C64 can cope with displaying so much and yet remain running smoothly. The difficulty is pitched just about right – it’s a hard game, no doubt, but one that keeps you coming back for more. The exploration is very linear – each screen simply leads to the next, there are no different paths to take (you can’t even go back on yourself) – but it’s still enough to make you want to see what lies ahead.
You can toggle between music and sound effects on the main menu, but not during the game for some reason. The music is superb, lively and catchy, again showcasing the C64’s remarkable capability in this department. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the sound effects, which become grating rather quickly.
With its flip screen approach and fluid gameplay, Cybernoid offers an entertaining and reasonably unique experience, despite moments of frustration. However, if you are after a pure shoot-em-up or an easy ride, then you might want to look elsewhere.