Oh dear, I was afraid this would happen. It's my personal communicator again. The Federation Council of Elders, no doubt. And guess what? Yup, a Nucleonic interstellar shuttle is on its way to collect me. Oh, goody. I can scarcely contain my excitement. Ever since the star fleet disappeared I knew it could only be a matter of time, and frankly I haven't slept too well for the past eight years. It took them three months to put me back together again last time, and they never did find some of the bits. Playing the piano sure ain't the same when you've only got seven fingers. And I have a hunch some of those are on the wrong knuckles. The hunch is a bit of nuisance too.
I'm an Obliterator, by the way, in case you're wondering. The last surviving member of the most highly trained elite fighting force ever assembled, I am. Recruited at birth -they skipped the bit about signing papers when I puked on them - intensively trained and educated from childhood, I have a genetically enhanced body to speed up my reflexes (though you'd never guess it to look at me), sharpen my senses and increase strength and agility. Even so, I'm still scared out of my wits...
Obliterator loads with you somewhere at the rear of the alien space craft. The action takes place on a flick screen playing area, with you - the last Obliterator in person - on mission to kill the monsters and collect stuff - guns, bazookas, blasters and ammo for all of these. Along the way you'll come across many bloody-minded enemies who just won't move out or the way, not even if you say pretty please and promise them a copy of AA1.
As you begin the game, the thing you notice first is the peculiar controls. Using a joystick, for instance, left and right co what you'd expect them to do; but up and down don't. Across the bottom of the screen there's a row of eight icons that represent your chosen activity. Push up or down on the joystick and you start to flip through and highlight each of these icons in turn. So stop at the 'shoot' icon, for instance, and return to regular left and right movement of the joystick. Now, when you press fire the chosen activity occurs - in this case, stop and fire weapon. The system is hardly intuitive and at times appears sluggish, taking a couple or three clicks before you switch icons. On the other hand, you're unlikely to go rushing past the icon you're really after.
The same odd system was used, you may recall, in Psygnosis' Barbarian - not the Palace/Maria Whitaker effort, the other one. It takes some getting used to there's no denying, but after a while you gain the knack. It gives you a range of activities, you couldn't get from the usual arrangement.
The set up is not the most logical: bullets, for instance, don't follow you from one screen to another. But that is balanced by the fact that, if you leave a screen before your own bullet hits home, you don't get a result from it!
Even less true-to-life is what happens if you fire just before a monster shoots back. When your bullet hits it, its own shot disappears!
One or two useful elementary tips: a good icon to go tor first is the 'defend' icon, which momentarily makes you immune to enemy fire. If you hold down the fire button as you run you can execute a neat forward toll that may - or may not! - help you evade bullets. Certainly it allows you to duck bullets and collide with the son-of-an-alien that's shooting them. It's a painful way to kill the thing, and costs you dearly in terms of shield, but it works!
Fortunately you don't die after three hits - which is just as well - though damage accumulates. And when you recover after a couple of seconds frying you can get to the door, teleporter, ammo or whatever it was the wee beasty was protecting. At least at the beginning, this suicidal kamikaze mentality actually pays off. As you improve and get to know your way about, you'll find better ways to kill the nasties.
Graphics aren't stunning, and the background is a kind of dark background, minimalist girder-and-floors/ceilings affair interspersed with occasional 'props'.
There's a haunting tune playing throughout that somehow reminds me of that bit in Alien when John Hurt makes the unfortunate mistake of leaning over to take a closer look -though it doesn't sound anything like that at all. Atmospheric, but limited.
Obliterator is going to keep you occupied for some considerable time. There's a lot to explore, and it takes ages to learn how to do things. (To be more accurate, it took me ages to learn how to do things: if you're a dead hard gamester who finds Obliterator just too easy to be worth playing, well good luck to you pal, but remember that not everyone's as tough as you.)
The peculiar icon system may work fine on 16-bit machines where you can use a mouse, but it doesn't feel too comfortable on the CPC. Still, I really liked the scenario. Huge spaceship to explore, which should keep you busy for hours - if you can maintain the interest.
Well, hard players only, I fear.
Dark but fine.
P. Chunky and fairly smooth large sprites.
N. Dark and blocky at times
P. Odd, haunting tune plays constantly.
N. But other effects aren't too hot.
Grab Factor 47%
P. The odd controls are a big turn-off.
Staying Power 66%
N. You'll need to give it time.
P. Run, shoot, find, pick up, explore: a little repetitive?
P. Not as much fun as Barbarian, and no more 'meat' to it.