Llamatron: 2112 Review
- Vintage: 1991
- Developer: Jeff Minter
- Publisher: Llamasoft (Shareware)
- Genre: Shoot ’em up
This morning, waking from a fitful night’s sleep dreaming of killer Coke cans, Screaming Mandies, malevolent toilets, zombified sheep and evil televisions I made a vow: I must cut down on those late night Llamatron sessions.
After playing Eugene Jarvis’ unforgiving, harrowing, yet brilliant and cacophonous arcade machine Robotron, Jeff Minter knew he wanted to bring this exciting and kinetic audio-visual experience to home computers. The only problem was that the sprite-based hardware of home machines available to him at the time were just not up to the task. Not to be disheartened, Jeff would concentrate on developing software more suited to his beloved Commodore: notably Andes Attack a superb re-imagining of Eugene’s simarlarly explosive Defender, featuring Llamas instead of humanoids. This frenetic feel, inspired by Eugene’s games, would permiate much of Minter’s future work.
When Jeff invested in an Atari ST, he took what many felt was one of the machine’s weaknesses (the lack of hardware sprites) and used it to his advantage. Without hardware sprites, Minter (like all programmers working with the ST) was forced to code his own sprite routines. Optimised routines that could display numerous sprites moving at speed meant that a robotron clone was workable.
There is only one real way to play this game and that is with two joysticks, just like arcade Robotron: One to move your llama in eight directions and another to fire in eight directions. Gameplay is pretty simple, just shoot grunts and grab beasties. Grunts come in many shapes and sizes: Coke cans or Invaders make a relentless beeline for your llama; Blue Brains zombiefy your beasties, turning them against you; Gooey blobs split up like Asteroids into smaller blobs when you shoot them and Indestructable robots devour your poor defenseless friends. Other hazards include: a sixteen ton weight, indestructible lasers, Screaming Mandies, acid rain and green hedgehogs that explode into showers of spikes.
While avoiding death from this multitude of evil that the game throws at you, you must rescue the menagerie of ungulates and ruminants from certain doom in this hostile environment. Doing so is certainly worth your while as each beastie will not only give you a hefty points bonus but will also give you ‘hot bullets’ for a limited amount of time. These bullets will cut through your enemies like Maradona through an ageing Mexican back-four.
This is where Llamatron’s gameplay differentiates itself from the old Williams classic: the inclusion of power-ups! The aforementioned hot bullets are also available as a pick-up. Other pick-ups range from extra lives through level warps to 3-way fire and screen clearing smart bombs.
Simply phenomenal. Brings the audio-visual treat of a Jarvis classic to the home – with added humour! Pulses, explosions and screams join bleats, ‘ooh’s and ‘moo’s to create a very atmospheric and memorable aural experience.
Yak’s psychedelic influence shines in the visual design of this game. Flashing colours and fast, fluid movement and animation of simply drawn but extremely well realised sprites give this game a distinctive feel while making knowing nods towards its arcade Daddy.
A minor quibble: Sometimes death is unavoidable, and a couple of levels are really frustrating (four laser guns? and Asterisks of death? On a HERD WAVE? Come on!). I find that I can blast through many levels unscathed then lose a bunch of lives on a single stage. These difficulty spikes are few and far between though, and once overcome are followed by a warm glow and sense of achievement.
This type of game was an anachronism even in 1991, but play Robotron today and the gameplay is still fresh, and Llamatron is as fresh today as it was back then. These games are simply timeless, and as far as I’m concerned Llamatron has the edge for being far more accessible (I suck at Robotron 😉 ) with some great humour to boot.
The greatest PD/Shareware game ever made? I’d be going out on one hell of a limb to say so, but yeah… why not.
Review written by: StickHead