Saturday, April 2, 2022


Publisher:Synapse Software
Developer:Synapse Software
Time:40 minutes

This one looked more interesting at first glance than your average 1982 release. Infiltrate a fortress and take down a big evil dude and his minions? If it was released in 1992 and was a shareware title, it would probably be something I'm looking forward to. So how is 1982's take on it going to be? Well, being on a tape doesn't excite me. On the other hand the intro and the 8-bit rendition of Funeral March of the Marionette does.

The opening screen, about to take out that guy below me with a "SHIV"
What Shamus is advertised as Berzerk with a map and a layout. It fills that and nothing more. Its less than Castle Wolfenstein because it doesn't retain the statuses of enemies between rooms. This works in the player's favor in some cases, because this also applies across lives. Nevertheless, we're not quite at the level of something like Gauntlet yet. The game, quite conveniently remembers where extra lives have been taken.
A question mark, which always acted as an extra live for me
It controls about as well as you'd expect. A single stick shooter on the C64, reasonably smooth, but you can't move and shoot at the same time. The game is slightly clever about things, no enemies on-screen and you move faster. However, sometimes its a better option to just run past everyone. Doing anything diagonally is a bit troublesome, but the whole package is acceptable...except, this game is inspired by Berzerk, which means the walls are deadly to the touch. Thing is, when you try making the game map complex, that means you need the controls to be perfect, and this isn't perfect.
A lock, I don't have the key for this right now
Because the player dies in one hit and enemies respawn in different places, even between lives, this makes it weird formulating a strategy. Its a cross between arcade style and the more traditional action format I'm used to. I don't really feel like I have much of a chance against some spawns, that the game offed me without any reasonable chance of defending myself. It feels especially brutal once I get some ways in, and the game starts having levels with 10+ enemies on-screen.
A fairly common screen as the game goes on
And it doesn't help that the so-called complex level design is basically just simple corridors with keys and locks. The game had one clever moment as far as I got, where there's a sliding hole in a clearly out of place wall, and you need to enter it, because there's a key inside. You have shoot that key in order to enter, at which point it becomes a normal level. That is something I've been waiting for.
The exact moment I lost all motivation to continue
The villain of the piece, I think The Shadow, no relation to the more famous character, sometimes pops up on-screen after a certain period of time. Its always random, but he always shows up, rushes towards you, and kills you. There doesn't seem to be any option of killing him, just escape. I guess the end goal would have involve reaching some kind of machinery and destroying that, ala Blake Stone, but I could not finish this, owing to several factors, most importantly, even with save states, the difficulty is too high.

Your standard generic weapon. Up to two shots can be on-screen. 1/10

There seems to be something of intelligence in the enemies wandering around. They're generic, both in look and how they fight though. 1/10


An attempt was made, however, without consistent memory of enemies, its not really that special. Even Maruader, a game that wasn't promising much, had that. 1/10

Player Agency:
Standard single stick shooter, not very smooth, but it works. 2/10



It looks like any other generic home computer game with vague shapes for enemies and bland walls. 1/10


Mostly just regular blips and bloops, but there's some nice musical stings whenever something special happens. 1/10

That's 7. Which tracks with the year and how I feel about this sort of game design.

How did it go back in the day? Well, this is the game that put Synapse Software on the map. Practically every computer in 1982 that could run it did run it. Including a PC-6001 port and a much later GBC port. In short something beloved that I didn't care for. We'll see if I care for the sequel more when I hit 1983.

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