Gamma Goblins (Apple II) review
"So many early Apple games copied arcade games that weren't much good, and I am sorry to that Gamma Goblins is not a successfully entertaining port of Astro Blaster. It almost makes it, though. The idea is straightforward and sensible, with waves of different monsters coming down in formation. But you have too many random scenarios where you can be trapped into losing a life. Having seven lives does not mitigate this, though the game has a nice ending scene after you go through four iterations of..."
So many early Apple games copied arcade games that weren't much good, and I am sorry to that Gamma Goblins is not a successfully entertaining port of Astro Blaster. It almost makes it, though. The idea is straightforward and sensible, with waves of different monsters coming down in formation. But you have too many random scenarios where you can be trapped into losing a life. Having seven lives does not mitigate this, though the game has a nice ending scene after you go through four iterations of all the various enemies.
Your ship guards the bottom and gets one shot at a time. The enemies get several, so when a few are left, it can be very tricky. They will continuously fire, and some can even hug the side, making them impossible to hit. So things always seem to start out well, and while there's some strategy involved in making the last enemy workable, you still leave a lot to chance. There are also two comets thrown into the mix, and if you forget to kill them, they can kill you off. Between later waves, there are arrowheads that split from a mother ship and zoom diagonally, often coming straight for you. You can avoid them, but they are a pain, and of course they fire a lot.
Let's run down the waves. First, x-wings, a squat version of you, in 4-3-2-1 pyramid formation. They are pretty slow until you must face the last one. Then there are little smiley needle-look, and they are really different in appearance and formation. They are in a zigzag, which is easier to cut down as you sweep from one side to the other. Then you have the tie fighters, who move diagonally, but they can move back up. This is the most intricate wave strategically but also the easiest, mainly because enemies don't pour straight down and lodge themselves in corners. Then you have these little glass bottles that burst out of eggs--or they might be some weird space gliders. They don't zigzag in their three-by-three formation, but you have to hit them in the center or very edge. It's frustrating to gun them down, and the problem of continual enemy firing is exacerbated by them being lined up. You have to swerve in and out and hope a bit.
The final enemy to face is a dome-shaped mother-ship with a beanie propeller. By now you may be low on fuel, so you need to beat it pretty quickly to avoid losing your fuel and the game. It moves back and forth, faster with each wave, and while it reverses randomly, it's not bad to figure how to kill it. Now win this loop twice and you get an extra ship, docking in a cool space-bubble city. Win four times, and you win the game. Each wave gets a bit faster, and you lose fuel more quickly, so it isn't too repetitive. And because you have so many ships, sometimes you can calculate if a sacrifice is worth it. In fact, it's prohibitively bad to be forced to move up the screen when the monsters escape to the bottom, so you will often find yourself sacrificing a life.
If the gameplay is messy, the graphics are rather good. The needles that fire at you are almost too cute, and the first wave's fighters are interesting squashed versions of your own. The weird bottle/glider enemies are intriguing, and everyone likes to shoot tie fighters. The final wave is nicely done in perspective, with lines running from a central point off to the edge of play. The play field is mostly black and white, but the comets provide some color, and the space-bubble city is impressive. I suppose even in the early eighties, the parallax of scrolling stars was old hat, but so many Apple games froze them in place due to lazy programming. Oh, and the xylophone whack-a-mole end tune rocks, too.
I was never good enough to get through the game as a kid, and I wondered if it went on forever. It's rather nice of the authors to have given an interlude and then an ending. So many games just let you play on forever even though they weren't worth it, but here the shortening of the game at mitigates the random annoying kills. Gamma Goblins has limitations, but it doesn't try to exceed them. It's a fun little game, and you won't go running to tell everyone else about it, but it works well enough for blowing away a couple of hours.
Community review by aschultz (April 07, 2009)
Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.
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