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Friday, 24 February 2012

Gridrunner (iOS)

Less than a month after the release of Caverns of Minos, Jeff Minter and Llamasoft are back with an iOS update of one of the Yak's early classics... Gridrunner.

Back in the day, and we're talking thirty years ago here, programmers of home computer games would routinely rip off existing arcade games, creating inferior clones in the hope of making a quick buck. Jeff Minter was one notable name who decided this wasn't good enough. Sure, he loved those arcade games like the rest of us. But he didn't want to merely copy those games. Instead, he took their influence and added his own stamp to the games he loved, and in the process created some of the most memorable and challenging games of the 8-bit era.


No, it's not the latest Cave game. Refreshingly, they're your bullets dishing out the death.

One of his most well-known and successful games was Gridrunner. Taking an obvious cue from Centipede, the addition of moving lasers at the bottom and left hand side of the screen added a different dimension and ensured you were constantly on your toes. Gridrunner was originally released on the VIC-20, but such was its popularity that it saw release on the Commodore 64, 16-bit computers and PC and Mac, each time evolving as it made the leap in time.

Its latest version, Gridrunner Revolution, was quite a long way removed from the original game, and you can see its influence in Llamasoft's first iOS game, Minotaur Rescue. But for iOS Gridrunner, Jeff Minter has gone back to its roots and to his love of classic arcade games. The result is an unmissable shoot 'em up treat.


Everything must die.

The object of the game is to shoot things, last as long as you can and get as high a score as possible. How's that for uncomplicated? And that's what you'd expect of a game with this lineage.

It all seems easy enough at first... those Centipede-esque enemies are short and slow, and they trundle down as cannon fodder. Even those bastard lasers are fairly benign at this point. Oh, and just to note... the vertically-firing horizontally-moving laser has cleverly been switched to the top of the screen, so as not to be obscured by your controlling finger. Very thoughtful.


That's a big laser. You just might be a match for it, though.

After just a few levels, though, things really get ramped up. The Centipede-droid-train things get longer and faster, and more and more enemies make appearances, and you really have to concentrate on what you're doing if you want to survive. With each level the action gets more intense and you're given a real adrenalin rush. Luckily, pick-ups can furnish you with a variety of impressive weapons, with firepower to frighten even the bravest of foes.

As if this mighty effort wasn't enough, we're treated to a history of Gridrunner. Included for your 69p are the original VIC-20 and Commodore 64 versions of the game. You'll have to figure out how to unlock them first, though... The VIC-20 version feels a little cramped, with fat graphics hogging the screen. That's not to its detriment though... quite the opposite in fact, it gives the game a frantic feel.


Just like a KitKat, chunky is better.

This is lost to a degree in the 64 version. You'd expect it to be superior, but the wide open spaces make the game feel a little empty and not as much fun to play as the VIC version. Still, getting both of these for free (or for 23p each, if you want) makes for terrific value.

This iOS version of Gridrunner is pure Zone gaming at its finest. Once you're locked into the grid, you're going to be stuck there for the rest of the day, pushing and nudging your best score just that little bit higher. It might be bad for your health, but it's good for your gaming soul.


Pretty colours + laser death = joy.

Get yourself comfortable, crank up the volume and press start. Once this thing is going full-tilt, you could be forgiven for thinking you were standing in the middle of an arcade in the early Eighties. Gridrunner is a glorious celebration of arcade shoot 'em ups. I've downloaded it, played it until my phone charge ran out, given my eyes a break while my phone recharged and now I'm back on it again. iOS-sential.

Buy Gridrunner for any iDevice from 3GS and onwards, for 69p.

5 comments:

  1. Nice writeup! I'm not much of a phone-gamer but I might make an exception for this one. I used to play a good bit of GridRunner on my VIC-20 back in the day and really enjoyed it. Definitely in my top 10 list of games for the VIC.

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  2. The control scheme takes some getting used to at first, but then it's joy. And if you liked the VIC version... just rotate the phone and there it is!

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  3. Yep a good old blaster like we used to have. I'm 80, you know.

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  4. Once again I wish I had an iDevice!

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