Obliterator



Title           Obliterator
Game Type	Arcade Adventure
Company		Psygnosis, 1988
Players		1
Compatibility	All Amigas
Submission      Seppo Typpö (groucho@pp.inet.fi) Profiled Reviewer

Review
1988, the year after introducing Barbarian to the unsuspecting Amiga game
players, Psygnosis returned to their mouse-driven 2D arcade adventure
format with Obliterator. Having actually listened to the criticism
Barbarian received, they enchanced the graphics and sound side, rectified
some of the control problems, added a save game option and generally
produced a much nicer game.

Obliterator has a simple background story. A huge, indestructible alien
battle cruiser is approaching Earth. The only way to stop the vessel is to
beam a lone soldier onboard - he must then disable the vital functions of
the ship and after that, escape from it before Earth forces destroy the
defenceless cruiser.

The player controls Drak, the last Obliterator. Obliterators were natural
born super soldiers, who were called in to handle missions mortal men
had no chance of completing. It is the player's task to guide Drak
through the hostile environment, collect the five special components and
generally survive through the mission. The ship is full of strange
hostile aliens, and the player needs to find armament and ammo which
allows Drak to fight off the monsters. There are several different weapons
littered around the ship. The final challenge comes from escaping  - after
finding the final component there's a limited amount of time to evacuate
Drac from the ship - not an easy task as he needs to fight his way out to
the escape pod before the time counter expires.

The graphics and sound are a huge improvement over Barbarian. The
animation is better and the backgrounds more detailed, giving a believable
impression of the interiors of a huge space ship. The main character and
the aliens are imaginatively drawn and they move around in a convincing
manner.

The biggest enchancement must be the soundtrack - the excellent, haunting
music is accompanied by good quality sound effects. The main tune is one
of the all time Amiga classics - a proof that Psygnosis musicians had
learned a lot about the Paula sound chip since the Barbarian days.

The game controls are overhauled, too - it is possible to control Drak
with mouse (recommended), joystick and keyboard. Mouse is still the most
accurate option - by clicking the command icons in the strip on the bottom
of the game screen, the player can 'program' Drak to perform several
various actions in a row - like running through the screen, taking the
turbo lift to a lower deck and exiting from the lift on the next floor.
Unfortunately (like in Barbarian), there is still a slight delay between
issuing the command and Drak performing it, and it is still possible for
Drak to completely ignore some of the issued commands.

A nice control feature  is the 'mouse cursor aiming' - it is possible to
fire diagonally and aim Drak's weapon fire with the mouse cursor - very
handy if the player needs to eliminate a tricky enemy standing on the
above floor. It is possible for Drak to shoot through the ceilings and
the floors with this technique - curiously, the aliens are incapable of
doing the same.

The game design is quite challenging - the player needs to plan and
execute his actions carefully in order to succeed. The same kind of
ruthless gameplay was introduced in Barbarian - fortunately there's now
much less unavoidable traps and sudden death situations. What's even
better, Drak has a power bar which is slowly depleted when he is hit by
enemy fire - no more instant deaths after one enemy hit. This bar can be
replenished in shield generators which are located in certain parts of the
alien ship - find one and you can return to it when Drak's energy is
running dangerously low. Locating these generators should be one of the
top priorities of the player's plan - they become extremely important and
useful in later stages of the game.

Probably the most welcome thing is the much needed save game feature - no
longer must the player fully restart the game if he dies - this makes the
high difficulty level much more bearable and makes the game slightly
easier to complete.

One annoying feature is the way enemies reappear when the player returns
to a screen he has already visited. Fighting off the same aliens again and
again is boring and also depletes lots of ammo - luckily ammo also
reappears in previously visited rooms - so it is possible to collect
hefty amount of ordnance just by leaving and re-entering the same room
again and again.

Graphically, aurally and gameplay-wise Obliterator is a definite
improvement over Barbarian. Most of the problems in gameplay are fixed,
and the difficulty level is challenging without being frustrating (thanks
to the save game feature). Certainly it looks dated when compared to many
more modern arcade adventures and the controls do take some time to get
used to - but for the adventurous player Obliterator offers an enjoyable
ride in one of the most original arcade adventures that ever appeared on
the Amiga.



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