Cybermorph (Jaguar) review
"Indulge me as I start this review by talking about marketing tactics. My reasoning will soon become clear. When Nintendo wanted to boost sales of their ailing N64 console in the UK they produced special promotional packs that included a top N64 title into the bargain. For example, Goldeneye or Mario 64. Buy the console and get a classic game into the bargain. A great way of stimulating interest and showing off the very best your console has to offer. "
Indulge me as I start this review by talking about marketing tactics. My reasoning will soon become clear. When Nintendo wanted to boost sales of their ailing N64 console in the UK they produced special promotional packs that included a top N64 title into the bargain. For example, Goldeneye or Mario 64. Buy the console and get a classic game into the bargain. A great way of stimulating interest and showing off the very best your console has to offer.
You have to wonder then what the folks at Atari Jaguar HQ were smoking when they decided to bundle Cybermorph with their console in order to promote the hardware. Imagine if instead of sticking Goldeneye in with the N64, Nintendo instead choose to place a copy of Chameleon Twist or Iggys Reckin Balls (two of the lamest N64 games ever) in those promo packs. Well you just wouldn’t would you? Yet that’s basically what Atari did by bundling this gaudy, complicated, confusing and boring game with their supposed 64-bit console.
Cybermorph then. An intriguing name. I was minded to expect a game where you took control of a cybernetic version of the famous plasticine animated 1970’s kids TV star “Morph”. Perhaps as he ran amok on Tony Harts desk firing laser cannons at Chas and setting fire to Tony’s cravat. Unfortunately that is a game I will have to wait a while longer to play. Alas for me, when I bought my Atari Jaguar and turned it on excitedly for the first time Cybermorph is all I had to play. I have taunted you enough, now I shall get to the game proper.
Cybermorph is what can only be described as a “flying about and picking stuff up game”. You play a pilot of a futuristic spaceship – the Cybermorph Transmogriffin, or T-Griffen. The trick this spaceship has is he ability to morph between one type of flying ship to another. Oh good grief, Xenon did that years before and at least had the imagination to make it a spaceship to tank change. You then take control of this craft and fly around eight worlds collecting yellow pods. These pods contain weapons and supplies that have been captured by the evil Pernitia Empire. Your goal is to find all the pods.
This basically involves your ship flying and hovering over the planets surface as you wrestle with the extremely unfriendly controls and the fact that one wrong button press sees your state of the art craft fly into a mountain and blow up. The Jaguar controller is at it worst here. The game creators have forced every button into usage. Now since the controller has three action buttons, a d-pad and 12 rubber keys in the middle of its rectangular shape this means you spend more time looking at the keypad overlay than at the screen. Also the ship is so over sensitive it’s untrue. Delicate hovering manoeuvres are rendered unbearably hard simply because the controller is so crude, ugly and unwieldy.
The graphics don’t help much either. Like many Jaguar games it seems the creators got as far as putting a one colour overlay on a basic wire frame then went to lunch. When they got back, the game had already been released. I can only assume that’s why there are no textures to be seen anywhere. Everything is in bright one-shade colours. The state of the art ship you drive is a spiky polygonal thing. The rolling hills and mountains are quite drug-addled shades of pink, yellow and blue and the draw distances are shocking. Hills seem to rise up in front of your ships nose like magic. Considering the speed the stupid thing will go at if you keep your finger on the A button a nanosecond to long. Not good really when you are being encouraged to drive your ship fast by the scary Skylar.
Skylar is quite the most disturbing thing about this game. This bald lady-boy appears in the top right corner of your cockpit display and mouths scary words at you. The actual instructions appear as text in a message window. Skylar makes a kind of talking noise like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoon. Indistinct word-like sounds. And he/she is bright green! Its all the more disturbing as there is no music in this game. For most of the time you are enveloped in silence, only the thrumming of your engine and the burst of gunfire to break the monotony.
So what of these pods you have to find, the actual point of this game after all? Actually not very impressive they are small yellow blobs you have to fly through to collect. Often they are placed near to the ground, or near traps and other enemy craft. Oh the hilarity of simultaneously trying collect the pod, not turbo boost into the nearest cliff, fire your lame gun at the enemy ships and not be scared by Skylar honking at you. Best get a friend over so you have plenty of spare fingers to press all the buttons.
This game came out around 1993. I remember playing a similar looking game on my schools BBC Acorn Archimedes PC, I believe it was called “Lander”. This was in 1989 by the way. Here you piloted a crude polygonal craft over a plain landscape and had to practice complicated hovering and firing manoeuvres. It was an ace game and very easy to use as it had keyboard and mouse support. The tragedy of Cybermorph is it is struck down at the first hurdle due to the incompatibility of this kind of precision flying game with a console controller.
Apart from the bland graphics, almost zero sound, dull gameplay and duff controls, Cybermorph offends as it would have been the first game many new jaguar owners would have played with their console. It’s likely for many it was their last. Its unbelievable to me that Atari couldn’t have put in a better game to promote the console, maybe Alien vs. Predator, and erm… did I already say Alien vs. Predator?
Ok, so maybe nothing was going to save the Jaguar from an ugly demise as a mass market console (new games still come out for it today and can be bought online), but it sure has hell must have hastened its demise. If you do see a second-hand Jaguar offering this title as part of the package, by all means get the console. But don’t think Cybermorph is the best it can do.
Community review by falsehead (March 08, 2004)
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