Saturday, 16 July 2011

Uridium (Commodore 64)

I doubt that Andrew Braybrook had time to rest on his laurels, or even to really celebrate the success of Paradroid. In those days, time was most definitely money... although you didn't realise it as a thirteen-year-old, the Commodore 64 (and all comparable systems of the era) were saddled with a ticking time-bomb known as shelf-life, and as soon as the next generation of technology became available and affordable, the money to be made on current machines would dwindle dramatically. If you had a big hit, you had to strike while the iron was hot and write another one.

Breathe in... aaaaaand relax.

Braybrook had had a massive hit with Paradroid, so it would be imperative to capitalise on that and get a hot new game out there as soon as possible. He decided to mine a similar vein and set his next game around massive Dreadnought spaceships... but rather than being inside them, you were attacking them from the outside in an arcade space blaster. It was called Uridium.

The game sees our solar system under attack from a fleet of giant Dreadnoughts, and we can't have that. So off you go in your nimble little space fighter to go and bring the blighters down. Each ship is named after a metallic element, getting progressively more valuable (and difficult!) as you go on. The ships are long but narrow, with superstructures causing difficulty in navigating from one end to the other.

Mine! Mine! Mine!

Also making things difficult are the enemy attack ships which fly in to defend each Dreadnought. These things are highly efficient and well-drilled, keeping tight formations in an attempt to bring your little mission to a swift end. This can be their downfall, too... you can obliterate entire formations with just a few blasts. But some of those buggers are really fast and nasty. Luckily your ship is very manouevrable, and a quick flip can see you dodging bullets and heading out of trouble.

As if these dangers weren't enough, there are little portals all over the Dreadnoughts, and if you hang around these for too long, they will release homing mines. Possibly even more dangerous than the craft that shoot at you, these things will chase you around meaning evasive action is imperative. That's all very well if you've got some open space, but if there are any structures nearby, you're in real trouble...

I love... goooooold. The look of it, the smell of it, the texture...

Reach the end of a Dreadnought and survive long enough, and a siren will blare, alerting you that you can "Land now!" If you manage this (not necessarily as easy as it sounds... I've often been blown to pieces before I could hit the runway), then you get to land and set off the destruct sequence. Awesome! All you do, though, is play a quick bonus game for extra points, and then you're outta there, completing a fly-by back to the front of the ship... and watching it dissolve underneath you. You'll then be whisked off to tackle the next, more difficult ship...

Uridium is another game that gave my Zipstik a severe working-over when I was younger. Unfortunately, once the game loads up and the excellent title tune starts, memories come flooding back... of my mate Neil Steadman, dancing stupidly to the music in his bedroom. Some things, once they are seen, can never be unseen...

Phew, it's boiling!

Childhood tortures aside, Uridium is quite literally a blast. You can fire more bullets in this game than almost any other Commodore 64 game, as long as you've got a trigger finger that's up to the task. It's hard to say you'll need them... attack waves are fairly small and well spread out. But there are some vicious bastards in there, so wiping them out as quickly as possible can be quite advantageous, seeing that it's probably the difference between life and death...

A large part of the game, though, does not involve shooting. The Dreadnoughts, you see, are very cleverly designed, getting more and more difficult to navigate the further you progress. It's really important that you memorise each ship's layout if you want to weave your way to the end at speed. When you reach a new one, for the first few goes you have to tiptoe your way through, which is a real problem when you're being assaulted by deadly attack ships. After a few games, though, you start to zip around with more confidence, and it's a real thrill to shoot through a tight gap and onto the runway, with a squadron of enemy fighters on your tail.

Hey, don't go blowing that up, it's platinum! It's worth a fortune!

It's fair to say that Uridium is a mite repetitive, but you could say that about most arcade shooters. What's important is how well it plays, how it feels to play. And Uridium feels really good. There's not much to it... there are no extra weapons to discover, and little new from ship one to ship fifteen. It just gets harder, and challenges you to get better, and it remains enjoyable all the way. It's not perfect... it can be a touch annoying, for instance, having to hwait around for the "Land Now" signal (although this would be rectified a couple of years later...), but it is damn good, it looks fantastic and is certainly one of the best arcade-style shoot 'em ups on the Commodore 64.


  1. Oooooh, Uridium. This resonated with me far more than Paradroid, and was one of the first games I can remember practicing, rather than just playing. In the end, I was unable to get any further than the eleventh level... but then came my first experience with tool-assisted gaming, using my crapulent FreezeFrame cartridge to baby-step my way through the levels until the eponymous final Dreadnought.

    But my favourite Uridium moment came from its successor, Uridium+. With the ability to land at any time, levels became a stunning speed-run... hammering through the seventh (I think! memory is hazy... it was the pinky light-red colour, I reckon) Dreadnought at full speed, ship on its side, flicking up and down to the precise locations of the thin wall gaps, before flattening out for a full-speed landing... now that was exhilarating!

  2. What a fantastic -nay, classic- shooter. Always loved it to bits!

  3. Good shooting game but speed of bullets is not the best.

    Apple iPhones