Thursday, October 04, 2012

Blast from the past: OpenTyrian

Discovered OpenTyrian yesterday through a remixer at ocremix. I thought the name Tyrian was familiar, and after a quick google, I was like "damn! It's Tyrian!" I'd played this as a kid of course, but only had the shareware version so never knews what the whole story was.

Given that I play (play? More like religiously practice) a few bullet hell shooters, I thought Tyrian would be cake. And it was.... for the first episode. Come the next few episodes (there are 4 in total).... things weren't so easy.

For a start, the game mechanics are quite different from your typical shooter. The weapon loadouts are customizable between stages, with unique weaponry available depending upon where you are (I love the lasers :D). Two side "slots" are available for various options (with Lifeforce/salamander style Option ships available), as well as opportunities to upgrade the shields, hull, generator etc - pseudo rpg elements, almost. Some side slots have variants that use ammo. I haven't used those much.

In game, we are present with a very nimble fighter that I think is not really suited for pixel-fine bullet dodging. Apart from its extremely light response to the controls, a tiny bit of inertia is built into the motion. This baby easily circles the entire screen in seconds, unlike say, JamesTown where the craft is slower and suited to navigating through fine bullet streams.

That said, the fighter in Tyrian is designed for what it is, to be able to MOVE fast to dodge not only bullets, but physical obstacles at speed. Some of which are intent on ramming into you.

As mentioned, the craft is shielded, with shield strength slowly replenished by your power generator. This generator also powers your guns, so at times it makes tactical sense to not shoot, and dodge bullets whilst the shields get recharged. Apart from shields, there is another component on amour on your ship. At low levels of armour, the whole screens goes whoop whoop whoop and a special vessel will show up. Blow it up, and it replenishes some of your armour.

The later episodes are somewhat challenging (side note: I was playing in medium difficulty), combining navigating your way through narrow passages, or threading your ship in between massive battleships whilst avoiding energy blasts that take up a third of your screen. Probably not meant for you but a larger target behind you, but hey, you are in the way. Oh yes, regular enemies abound too.

The game bosses are not particularly challenging imo, I did die several times thanks to them forcibly squishing me to death, but apart from that once I was equipped with the almighty laser and figured out their movement patterns, bosses went down, in seconds. And a fair few of them did so, literally. (Pro tip: If you want a bigger challenge, don't equip lasers.)

The pacing of the game is quite intense - whilst there are sometimes small gaps for your to catch a breather and recharge the shields, enemies come from all directions - unlike modern games - and shoot at you after they've gone past you - unlike modern games - making it a race to figure out where you need to be without bullets coming in at you in a near 360 arc.

In game, you collect so called "Data Blocks" that give you some idea of what is going on with the game to progress the story, ranging from humourous descriptions of the travel opportunities and food recommendations to storyline pieces, as well as "interactions" you have with other NPCs in the game that move the story on.

Given the vintage of this game, I don't think it is fair to compare it to more modern shooters like say Blazing Star, where the graphics are more detailed with multiple background layers giving a better sense of depth. With that in mind, I'd say the graphics are what they are, from the mid 90s, retro styled, blocky pixel art. Pixel art does not detract - look at Cave Story or Super Meatboy. Fact, with JamesTown, I relish the fact there is no antialiasing. Blocky pixels baby!

Apart from the main game, there is arcade mode (not keen), and multiple mini games (not me). Hard mode I was looking forward to, but it features fog of war (what?!), with a clear view the shape of a cone extending ahead of your ship. Everything not in that cone is rendered very dimly in greyscale. BORING. Give me more bullets to dodge, sure, I don't fancy attempting to shoot stuff I can't see very well. And in my advance old age, not something I relish.

So, Tyrian, an age old classic turned opensource (thank you epic megagames/world tree productions!)

Perhaps one day we can see another epic megagames opensource release like Jazz Jackrabit? I only had the shareware version of that IIRC. Or maybe even Dune 2 :3

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