After yesterday's less than successful effort, I felt like I wanted to play Uridium properly. And then I realised it was the ideal candidate for the next episode of FIGHT! This is particularly true when you compare them on the main platform-specific websites... on Lemon64, the Commodore 64 version (which is the original) only averages a user rating of 7.79, and doesn't manage to crack the top 100, whereas on World of Spectrum, their version does hit the top 100 and averages a user rating of 8.49. Intriguing. So who's right?
I'm very familiar with the Commodore 64 version. Programmed by Andrew Braybrook, one of the 64's premier coders, at the height of his powers, it's a slick arcade shoot 'em up that requires quick reflexes and a fast trigger finger. It's incredibly polished and a lot of fun, and I spent hours and hours with it in my younger days.
Five-to-one problem... need fast trigger finger to deal with!
For the uninitiated, Uridium is a two-way horizontally scrolling arcade shooter, which sees you piloting a spacecraft against fifteen massive enemy Dreadnaughts. Each of these must be destroyed, but it's not as simple as just flying up there and blowing them out of space... they'll send waves of fighter ships at you. They also have proximity mines on board, which are released if you fly over or even near their ports. And finally, just getting from beginning to end can be very difficult... the Dreadnaughts are littered with structures, which prove deadly if crashed into. And you do have to get from beginning to end... you have to land on the runway before you can destroy the Dreadnaught.
Sneaky... I fly down this narrow track and they swoop in behind me. Clever...
Slipping back into the pilot's seat of the C64's Manta felt very comfortable. It's a pretty fly ride, nice and responsive, able to accelerate quickly although braking is sluggish, capable of flipping in a 180 degree manoeuvre, and also of flipping onto its side, which is handy as there are some tight gaps to squeeze through. It also pumps out a more-than-passable amount of bullets, and even though enemy attack waves number no more than five or six, they're accurate, so you need those bullets to take out as many as possible as quickly as possible.
Mine! Mine! Hey, if you want it that much, you can have it!
The 64 version is a glorious arcade blast. Always was, and probably always will be. It's not perfect... the gameplay is by its very nature repetitive, but the different dreadnaught layouts help to make up for that, as you're always on edge, wondering where the next tiny gap or obtrusive structure will be. It's a bit of a pain having to wait around by the runway for the Land Now signal (if you get there too early... there's a very real danger that you'll be blown to bits before then. There's a sequel, though... Uridium+. And that game rectifies the Land Now issue, moving it one step closer to perfection.
The red square is a mine port... they're really fast, so I'd get out of there!
What of the Spectrum version, then? Is it better than the Commodore game? Is it even as good? My honest opinion is... no, it's not as good. It is a fine game, though, and a great acheivement for the Spectrum. The Dreadnaught layouts are different, which I appreciated as it effectively makes it another game to learn. Attack patterns are similar though, although the game is even more unforgiving and difficult. The Manta controls well, but the game is let down slightly by the scrolling, which although not exactly jerky, tended to give me a headache after any reasonable length of time.
Those enemy ships on the runway are sitting docks... blast them while you can!
There are a couple of things missing from the Speccy version, too... neither of which is gamebreaking, but worth a mention. When you end a level, you play a brief bonus game on the Commodore 64 to determine your bonus. That's gone on the Spectrum. Also gone is the cool fly-by at the end of the level, where the dreadnaught boils away and you get the chance to blast some of the ground features youDmay have missed before you landed. Like I said, not gamebreakers, but just little touches that add to the overall experience.
One down, fourteen to go. Spectrum owners are unlikely to have seen this bit.
I'm not entirely sure why the Spectrum version is rated that much more highly on the internet than the 64 version. When you play them back-to-back, Braybrook's original is clearly superior. Maybe it's because there aren't many great arcade shoot 'em ups on the Spectrum, whereas the 64 did them really well? I'm not sure, I can't vouch for that having not played many Spectrum games. What's clear is that both platforms had a really good game in Uridium, so everybody wins in that respect. As for this comparison:
RESULT: Commodore wins!