If you've ever played a Commodore 64 in the '80s, you'll have no doubt heard of Llamasoft, a developer that brought gamers the likes of Traxx, Hovver Bovver, and the surreal shooter Attack of the Mutant Camels. Headed up by the now legendary Jeff Minter, Llamasoft is looking back at one of its all-time classic games, Gridrunner, as well as updating it with high-res psychedelic graphics, retro sound effects, and a whole host of sheep. The result is a game that is completely and utterly bonkers, but that retains some of the extremely addictive arcade gameplay that made the original great.
Gridrunner Revolution is a sequel to Gridrunner ++, which eschewed the strict grid-based gameplay of the original in favour of a free roaming ship. The premise of the game is simple: Shoot everything in sight and avoid enemy fire. The game has four difficulty levels to choose from, ranging from the easiest, korma, to the most difficult, phaal. Each of the levels has 50 stages to play though, though you'll have to play through some of the easier levels before unlocking the harder ones.
Though the premise of the game is simple, Gridrunner adds a number of features that greatly enhance the gameplay. The game is controlled with the mouse or keyboard, but ultimately, the mouse allows for quicker movements. Moving the mouse moves your ship, while clicking the left and right buttons rotates it. The mouse wheel is used to select different ship types--some fire forward while others fire sideways--allowing for different types of attack strategies.
There's no need to worry about a fire button because the ship is constantly spouting forth a stream of triangular bullets. This makes it easy to concentrate on taking down enemies and navigating. The enemies come in a variety of geometric shapes and colours and are procedurally generated, so each one has a unique look from level to level. Some can be taken down in one hit, while others require several shots as they break up into polygonal pieces.
Shooting enemies introduces another unique twist to the game: sheep. After destroying enemies, sheep fall from the top of the screen and are signified by a wonderful "baa" sound. Collecting sheep not only increases score multipliers but also the fire power of your ship, enabling it to fire more than one stream of bullets and in multiple directions. If your ship gets destroyed, directing the wreckage into a sheep enables a sheepy save and a return to life.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images//2009/272/974911_20090930_embed040.jpgNot only does the game destroy your ship, its also extremely cocky about it.
The other element Llamasoft has introduced is the sun. Although it is initially pretty harmless, in the later levels, the sun directs streams of laser fire and lightning at your ship. By destroying it, you can create a black hole that has a gravitational effect on your bullet streams, pulling them around its corners. Positioning the ship in a sweet spot can create bullet arcs, which trail across the entire screen, annihilating enemies in their path and racking up massive high scores.
The combination of all these elements creates a thoroughly wacky and altogether manic experience. The graphics are more than reminiscent of the Geometry Wars style, but the sheer number of things going on adds another dimension to the visuals. The bright colours and shader effects work overtime, creating vast rainbow-like explosions onscreen. It's a feast for the eyes, and coupled with the dark electronic soundtrack, the visuals give the game the psychedelic feel for which Llamasoft is famed. We're looking forward to some more sheep collecting, colour exploding, and brain-melting action, so stay tuned to GameSpot for a full review soon.