Once upon a time, Llamasoft developed for the Gamecube. Jeff Minter had an idea, and that idea was to marry three of his great loves: music, colourful lights, and the shooty destruction of everything in sight. The idea was called Unity, and it was a game that saw many people buy a Gamecube in anticipation of its release.
And then, it was cancelled. For a number of reasons, it wasn't working out. And a lot of people were sad.
Still, Llamasoft ploughed on. Space Giraffe came next, on the XBox 360 and PC. I like Space Giraffe, but it's rock. I only enjoy it up to a point, and then I can't do it any more. I still put it on for a blast every now and then, but I'm not good at it.
The latest Llamasoft game, which has appeared on the PC after a couple of setbacks, is Gridrunner Revolution. It's the latest in what must be one of the longest running game series around, and in a very welcome move, the original VIC-20 and Commodore 64 versions are available here as (very easy to obtain) unlockables!
But those are just added bonuses. The game itself is way, way different to those historical documents. And it's a very interesting beast. For a pretty large part of the game, it's a very chilled-out, laid-back experience. The previous game in the series was Gridrunner++, and at first glance this seems like it's merely a prettier version. But then the different game mechanic kicks in and changes it into an altogether different animal.
My eyes! My beautiful... oh, hang on... it's actually quite pretty.
In this game, you not only move around the screen, your ship can (and must!) rotate. But the biggest change comes in the behaviour of your ship, or more accurately, your ship's firepower. Most screens feature a sun, around which you can bend your bullets. Finding a good position in relation to the sun will see your ship firing a beautifully symmetrical arc of death. The prettier the pattern, the higher your boost multiplier goes, and the bigger your score is.
It has to be said, the feeling you get when you move into place and watch your bullet path slowly lock into position is fantastic. And this laid-back gameplay is very relaxing, almost therapeutic. But then you start to unlock the harder difficulty levels, and as hell is unleashed, it becomes another game altogether. And then when you think you've got that sussed, there's the unlockable Thrusty mode...
Like most Llamasoft games, Gridrunner Revolution is not going to appeal to everyone. And in fact, this time around, it even appears to have split the Llamasoft fanbase to a degree, with some loving it and some thinking it's not hardcore enough. Personally, I'm enjoying it a heck of a lot, and I play a different area of the game depending on my mood. In fact, in my opinion, this may be as close to Unity as Jeff Minter gets...