"'Attack of the Mutant Camels' is a creation of the warped mind of Jeff Minter, also known as the one man company Llamasoft. Between 1982 and 1987, Jeff Minter has come up with roughly a dozen Commodore games, often simple in concept, but sharing one common characteristic: they all have a twist of insanity. AMC demonstrates this point nicely, for the player is put in a starfighter with only one purpose: to save the galaxy from an attacking horde of huge mutant camels. The concept is silly enough,..."
'Attack of the Mutant Camels' is a creation of the warped mind of Jeff Minter, also known as the one man company Llamasoft. Between 1982 and 1987, Jeff Minter has come up with roughly a dozen Commodore games, often simple in concept, but sharing one common characteristic: they all have a twist of insanity. AMC demonstrates this point nicely, for the player is put in a starfighter with only one purpose: to save the galaxy from an attacking horde of huge mutant camels. The concept is silly enough, but to actually make the game and then release it requires a special sort. Jeff did it, and Llamasoft has been moderately successful throughout the Commodore age.
Many of Llamasoft's titles are not just silly, but also solid and fun to play. That cannot be said of AMC, unfortunately. It is a lackluster game that looks mostly like an amateur creation, and though I have no doubt that Minter does not style himself a professional, it is not up to scratch compared to some of his other Commodore titles, like the brilliant Sheep in Space or Hover Bovver. Don't expect more than a quick laugh out of this one.
AMC's style of gameplay appears to have been inspired by the arcade hit Defender. You move your fighter in a two-dimensional side-scrolling environment, and the only correct way to use your cannon is the triggerhappy way. Punch that button and shots come out like there's no tomorrow. Each sector (i.e. level) of the game has a group of huge mutant camels (think twenty times the size of your ship) slowly ambling from the left side of the area to the right, and when they reach the right border, they've penetrated the sector defenses and it's all over. Your task would be to keep that from happening. The way to do that is to simply fly over to the nearest camel, hover behind him, and start shooting. Lots. The camels are heavily armored (dare I say 'obviously'?) and they do shoot back, hurling white bullets from their mouth with frightening accuracy. If you manage to dodge these bullets and keep up the pressure, the camel will change colours several times under the influence of your lasers, and eventually go down. Next camel. And so forth. Or, if your dodging is not up to the task, you go down in flames and lose one of your lives.
The idea is fun enough and even a simple concept like this could have been turned into a silly but cool action game. The gameplay is rather poor, however. The screen scrolls erratically when you fly from camel to camel, making it very hard to judge your speed. Often, you'll zoom right past the camel and have to turn around, and you'll usually be shot down trying to do so. The bullets the camels fire at you act strangely too, because when you start scrolling the screen while a bullet is on it, it will go completely out of whack, turning weird angles, speeding up and slowing down, and generally becoming unpredictable. This doesn't look like an intentional effect, it's more likely that the calculations for moving the bullet do not work out well while the screen scrolls. Hit detection isn't too good either - often you can fly against a camel or right through their shots without being destroyed, but your shots harmlessly pass through the camels just as often. All these problems scream lack of testing.
The graphics aren't so spectacular either. Your ship is a very simple blue graphic which has been spiced up by a small flickering engine exhaust. The camels, while huge, look silly rather than menacing (probably intentional). The main problem with them, as I see it, is that they don't have humps. If you're going to introduce camels, at least make them look like camels, somewhat. On the plus side, they do walk at an amble, so that's accurate at least. The sound effects are mostly annoying, with a lot of beeps and whooshes. They do sound silly most of the time, so that's done well, but after a few minutes you'll want to turn them off, if you're still playing.
The game has 30 levels and you can start at whatever level you desire, but the only difference is the camels and their shots moving faster. The game's hard enough at the lower levels and the highest ones are basically impossible to beat. There is also a two player mode, but unfortunately this just means that you switch places after losing lives, you don't get to fly simultaneously. Missed opportunity, hunting camels together, colliding with each other and shooting each other out of the air every 20 seconds would have made for an interesting party game, if you're sufficiently drunk. I should know.
All in all AMC isn't a very interesting title. It's a fun concept, but the game itself appears rushed. Particularly the various gameplay mechanics could really have used more testing and tweaking, although even then this would be a mediocre title at best. I don't recommend this game as an afternoon filler - you'll be tired of it very quickly - but it's fun to try out if you consider yourself a Llamasoft fan. Otherwise, stick to some of Minter's equally insane but far better creations. Sheep in Space, for instance, will give you all the silliness you want *and* a solid game. AMC is unfortunately little more than Jeff Minter's black sheep, or perhaps, yellow camel.
Community review by sashanan (April 28, 2009)
Sashanan doesn't drink coffee; he takes tea, my dear. And sometimes writes reviews. His roots lie with the Commodore 64 he grew up with, and his gaming remains fragmented among the very old, the somewhat old, and rarely the new.
If you enjoyed this Attack of the Mutant Camels review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!