Wednesday 19 February 2020

Cybermorph (Atari Jaguar review)

Developer: Attention to Detail
Publisher: Atari Corporation
Released: 1993

Cybermorph is a third-person shoot-em-up that was a pack-in title for the Atari Jaguar.

Your mission is to recover pods so that resistance fighters have the weapons, equipment and expertise to stop the Pernitia Empire. There's five sectors (with eight worlds each) and as you collect the required number of pods you can shoot enemies down with various weapons including a Twin-Shot and Cruise Bombs. The concept is straightforward which leads to some intuitive gameplay where even newcomers can jump right into the action. Coupling this is the solid control scheme, as while there are some frame-rate dips, everything is responsive. In fact, before long you'll be zipping around and then stopping on a dime to shoot incoming enemies like a pro! These enemies come with different abilities to mix things up and I especially like the Pod Carriers that try to move unattended pods until you blast them down! The range of weapons is great too (that you can switch between on the fly) and there's some variety from just collecting pods, such as needing to deactivate force fields. Another feature I like is that all eight worlds in each sector are immediately unlocked, meaning you can tackle them in any order; this minimises frustration and adds strategy. However, the draw distance is very low which does cause frustration when the radar stops showing the location of the nearest pod. For example, without this guidance you have no choice but to fly aimlessly with a limited field of view until you stumble upon the missing pod; even then, if you need to shoot enemies down first it can then be annoying to repeatedly circle the same area in an attempt to relocate the pod until it pops back into view.

Cybermorph has received much criticism over the years, but while it is a product of its time and there are some obvious technical limitations, the core mechanics are undoubtedly fun and provide hours of entertainment. There's lots of content to sink your teeth into and plenty of ways to tackle each of the sector's worlds.

Random trivia: The original 2MB cartridge was eventually replaced by a 1MB version that omitted an animated intro and various speech samples as a cost-cutting measure.

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