Friday, March 31, 2023

Android Two (1983)

Name:Android Two
Publisher:Vortex Software
Developer:Vortex Software
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:1 hour 10 minutes
Won:No (65W/60L)

The sequel, I guess, to Android One. I had very little nice to say about that game. Android Two at first glance seems considerably more interesting, until I realized it was broadly the same game as the original, just with a more open-ended level. At which point I was going to cross it off my list...but then I realized that wasn't necessarily a bad thing; that this is closer to a remake of the original rather than a true sequel.

The starting area, surrounded by red robots. No idea what the radar in the lower right is supposed to be, but just above it is a mine detector.

Rather than the straight-forward and rather boring design of the last game, we have a fancy-looking open-ended game of the same nature as last time. Oh, and this is being done on the pride and joy of Britain, the ZX Spectrum. It's actually a good game on the surface. The objective is to find five millipede robots, kill them, then return to where we entered and the process repeats.

Blue robots at the top, they have a path to the millipede through the upper right hall.

The controls are simple, but slightly obtuse. OP move left and right, Q1 move up and down. Space shoots. The gun has a range of about 6 tiles. It's not the most precise thing I've controlled, but it works well enough. It's at a weird point where it's not good enough to work perfectly, but just enough that successfully dodging a tricky enemy feels exciting.

So the complex you're put in is a somewhat complex looping place, starting you off at a teleporter. This is of course where you have to return. Stopping you from reaching your targets are two types of robots. A blue robots that moves around in any line, left-right or up-down, and can be shot, and red robots that are invulnerable, but move in a single line in a predetermined fashion. Also, mines.

Damage is weird in this game. The manual describes it as you having lives, but it's basically five HP. You don't spawn anywhere else, you just remain where you are. Red robots walk in the other direction, blue robots die, and the landmine you stepped on doesn't harm you unless you step on it again. Kind of weird.

The really lucky times there are three at once!

The big enemy, the robot millipedes, will eventually be found. It's not a big place. To kill one, you shoot it in the head three times. This surprisingly works really well. Spaces are tight and you have limited range. This means you can't just sit somewhere safely and shoot it three times. When it works, it works really well, when it doesn't, it feels like your usual coin muncher. They move like the blue robots, except when they are unable to move, they flip, the head appearing where the tail was. Except this can happen at any time, not just when they can't move period. It's also annoying dealing with them and they're butting heads with a robot in a corridor, because it'll slowly follow the robot until it can't anymore.

For the most part it's all fine and dandy. You can easily predict where an enemy will move, and more importantly where they won't move. In a wide enough space without many red robots, you're fairly safe. As blue robots and millipedes increase, even the widest space is best left alone. Fortunately, you can camp out somewhere safe and wait for something to come after you. Everything still moves off-screen. Which can also be a problem. You can only predict the behavior of things you know are there, and blue robots can be anywhere. If you go into the place a red robot just went into, thinking you're safe, only to get battered by the red robot.

While it is exciting to move past a red robot or even a group of them successfully, a lot of the time these feel extremely generous considering the controls. You turn before you move, which means if you're tapping a button lightly, like if there's a landmine, you turn before moving. There are quite a few locations where you have to move around landmines in addition to red robots. Making it tense for all the wrong reasons. Finally, the time. You have limited time, just in case you thought you could camp for enemies. This actually makes things worse than you might think, because it's very unreliable to track moving millipedes, as I mentioned, so you have to wait for them to move, lest you get put in a horrible situation. I understand why it was put in, but it feels considerably at odds with any actual game design beyond extending playing time.

I eventually managed to do what I thought was a win. Kill the millipedes and then return to the start. Then I discovered that there's a second area, out of three. With no saves and no ability to restore health, my chances of getting any further were nil.

Simple weapon. 1/10

Three enemies that despite their problems create very interesting tactical situations. 3/10


A somewhat interesting looping level. 3/10

Player Agency:
Despite the annoyance of both ZX Spectrum key placement and typical lagginess, it works. 4/10


Despite the system, genuinely tense as a game. 4/10

Garish but readable. 1/10


Very annoying sound. 0/10

That's 16. Better than its predecessor, good for 1983, but not a must play today. Just what games of yore aspired to be, fun and simple. As such, not a whole lot to say about this one.

It's the home stretch for 1983, with only 5, maybe 4 games left.

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