Thursday, December 8, 2022

Android One: The Reactor Run (1983)

Name:Android One: The Reactor Run
Publisher:Vortex Software
Developer:Vortex Software
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:30 minutes
Won:Yes (55W/53L)

Vortex Software is one of Britain's more interesting action game developers of the '80s, pushing forward the capabilities of home computers and generally look pretty damn entertaining. Unfortunately, we're not seeing one of those today, we're seeing Android One, a game where you control a robot who has to destroy a reactor before it blows up. And by destroy, I mean shoot, because that's how this works.

The game, once you get past the title screen, which requires waiting to find out the command to start, dumps you here. On the GUI, despite all the noise, there are only three things of concern, your score, your lives (more like hit points) and the time limit. You can control the robot via either the keyboard or the joystick, and you're going to want to do the latter.
No matter which option you pick, the game is slow and stiff. I guess to imitate a robot. Using the joystick if I tap a direction I'm not going in, the robot turns. If you tap it quickly enough, too long and you walk a space in that direction. Kind of precise. More importantly, you'll very quickly note that the world consists of blocks and the robot takes up 2x1 blocks of space. Enemies take up one. If you hit the fire button, the robot shoots a stream some blocks away. You do indeed need to time this right, because enemies run fast enough that they can dodge you if you don't hit them just right.
Despite the player being stuck in an area with no escape, it is quite easy to get out, because the robot can shoot some walls. Mind you, he has to shoot each wall twice and shoot at least two high to get through, but its something you can do. Actually, have to do, because the object blocking your advancement to the next screen are these things. When I originally set out to decide on my 10 categories, when I thought up interactivity, I was thinking more shooting through wooden walls or blocking up chunks of buildings, not slowly cutting my way through a wall like some third-rate mining game.

Enemies, you get them in a few varieties. I'm not sure about the differences between some, but in general you have the blue kind, which just go up and down and you can't hurt them. The others, which move in weird patterns and can be hurt. All take a life and then die after doing so. Something interesting is that because of the tile focus, only one enemy can be in a tile at once, which means they walk into each other and then stop or move in a different direction. This also works in weird ways, if you're walking into an enemy's tile, you don't die, especially if its the blue ones, which only move up and down.
Now despite how crap this seems at first glance, and its not a wrong impression, its...okay, I guess. Some have that randomly designed level feel, but others come off as some thought were put into them. Not great or anything, but there was an attempt at getting the most out of the game's resources. Something you wouldn't think of twice in a much better game, but stands out a bit when everything else this year feels like it was made by someone discovering fire.
Eventually, one arrives at the reactor. After shooting their way through the various little robots, one shoots the reactor, causing a light show, the player's robot to spin around, and then enemies respawn and the player has to return to the start. This is considerably easier than the trip to the exit. While you could always do it, now you can just run past a considerable number of enemies safely. I'm not really sure the level design warranted a return trip though. Rushing back through an area should feel like a mad dash to escape an explosion, not more busywork.
Once you make it back to the start, the screen flashes again and your robot spins around, and the game seems to reset, minus the time you took to get back here. Guess the game goes on until you run out of time or quit out of boredom.

The laser, like everything else, feels slow and unwieldy. It is not terribly fun to use. 1/10

I'm not entirely certain of the behavior of most enemies, but it felt like there was a little effort put into the AI of the enemies, not a lot, but some. I just wish I had any idea what it was... 2/10


Its kind of hard to tell when everything else is so bad, but it does seem like there are some good ideas in here. Even going through a giant wall section might be better if other elements were designed in better ways. 2/10

Player Agency:
The control scheme is an unwieldy mix of stiffness and imprecision that doesn't work. At the best of times it feels like you're fighting against it, at the game is asking you to do something that's impossible. 2/10

I guess destroying the walls counts. 1/10

A reactor is going to blow up, let's slowly destroy some walls to get there! 0/10

This is not an appealing game. 0/10

Not even the back of the box pretends to care about it. 0/10

Typical noise you'd expect to here as sound effects at this time. It works, but its unpleasant to listen to for any length of time. Especially screen transitions. 1/10

That's 9.

I don't really have anything to add, its pretty unnoteworthy. Hopefully future games from Vortex Software will turn out to be better.

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