Commodore User


Katakis

Author: Julian Rignall
Publisher: Rainbow Arts
Machine: Commodore 64/128

 
Published in Commodore User #60

Katakis

Activision managed to trample everyone else in the rush for the official R-Type licence but that hasn't stopped everyone releasing a clone which bears quite a few resemblances to Irem's classic arcade game. This is Rainbow Arts' attempt.

For those who've missed out on R-Type (Where have you been?), it's a horizontally scrolling shoot-'em-up, very much in the mould of Nemesis, Salamander and so on. The objective is simply to progress as fast as possible, picking up extra weapons and destroying everything stupid enough to get in your way. At the end of each level there's a big guardian who has to be despatched before the next level begins - like so many other games of this type.

So what makes Katakis more like R-Type than anything else? Well, some of the extra weapons, backdrops and sprites are derived straight from the arcade machine, and there's also a standard 'beamer' weapon which the ship starts out with. Pressing fire rapidly launches a volley of laser missiles, but keeping it depressed for a few seconds charges the beamer (represented by a bar at the bottom of the screen) and sends a huge laser burst belting across the screen destroying everything in its path. Since some aliens take several shots to kill, it's often more viable to charge up the beamer (leaving the ship defenceless for a few seconds) and blast all and sundry, rather than fire frantically as the enemy draws closer and closer.

Katakis

The action starts in an asteroid field, with the ship picking its way through static rocks. Aliens appear soon after and are destroyed or dodged - contact is fatal. Sometimes an alien drops a coloured pod, which is picked up to add an extra feature to the craft; these include reflecting lasers, homing missiles, a laser beam, smart bombs, a shield, speed-ups and a protective pod which attaches itself to the front of the ship and destroys just about everything it touches. This pod can be detached from the ship by pressing the space bar and sent forward to destroy oncoming aliens of a giant guardian.

Katakis is technically very clever - there are loads of sprites on-screen, and the three-level parallax scrolling is excellent. The graphics are varied, with some lovely backdrops and stunning visual effects. Later levels include what looks like the inside of a giant computer, complete with floating chips, alien environments, and a screen that looks almost identical to level one of R-Type! Some of the sprites are superb, with excellent animation, although I thought that a few of the guardians were a little rough around the edges. The soundtracks are good, but predictable, a little too Europoppy.

A really neat touch is the two-player feature, which allows one person to control the ship and another to guide the pod, Wizball-fashion. However, apart from this, there's nothing particularly new on offer, and there's also a long and fairly awkward multiload to endure. This won't discourage ardent shoot-'em-up fans - I certainly found the action very enjoyable - but those who are a little more apathetic towards the genre, and who may already have a few of these games in their collection, may feel a lot less enthusiastic about playing yet another horizontally scrolling game - even if it is a good one.

One thing's for sure, what with Ocean's excellent Salamander conversion, Activision's up-and-coming R-Type and the very promising-looking Armalite from Thalamus, shoot-'em-up fans have never had it so good!

Julian Rignall

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