Video games are killing pop music. That's what some people say. If it's true, Andy Braybrook stands accused of being a mass murderer. You wouldn't think it to look at him, but his 'rap sheet' says it all. In April of 1990 Andy's conversion of the coin-op classic Rainbow Islands hit the shelves Milli Vanilli's chart career never recovered, later that same year Andy delivered the second barrel of his Amiga assault. Paradroid 90 scored 88 per cent (Andy's lowest ever), but Now Kids On The Block never scored another chart success. Throughout 1991 the bubblegum bubbleheads breathed easily as Andy toiled with Fire And Ice. But its June 92 release was like a rain of fire and damnation on EMF who haven't had a top ten hit since.
Take That must be quivering in their designer trainers right now, as Andy is about to unleash his meisterwerk on a suspecting world. I say suspecting world because this game has existed as a concept since 1986. It was in February of that year that Andy released the 8-bit classic space shoot-em-up Uridium (putting paid to A Flock of Seagulls at the same time). After its release on every 8-bit format you can possibly imagine, including the Atari ST (which wasn't strictly an 8-bit, but was almost as powerful as one), Andy decided it would be a good idea to do a version for the then-new Amiga.
So that's what he has done. Well, almost. The truth is that the Amiga version takes the original concept and expands upon it so that it nearly bursts, culminating in Uridium 2. The basic concept of the game is simple. You control a single-seater fighter-craft called a Manta. Your mission is to intercept fleets of enemy dreadnoughts and inflict a crippling amount of damage on them. That's the main idea, but things are never that simple in shoot-em-ups. Well, not in the good ones anyway.
Your Manta is dropped off the prow of the dreadnought, leaving you to scream over the surface and blast away deck guns, landing strips, surface fighters, radar towers, mine ports and other fairly technical-looking items. Surprisingly enough, the dreadnought crews don't particularly want you to do this, so they throw all sorts at you to try to stop you.
The first line of defence is the dock guns, swiftly followed up by the deadly Uridimines. As if this wasn't enough, there are lighter squadrons to take into account. These fly in fast, deadly waves trying to blast you with their lasers. If you destroy an entire wave, the lead ship drops a pick-up, which can either be a weapon or a bonus. Things get even harder on later levels, because the enemies get smarter and there are also walls and narrow gaps to squeeze past.
Once you've knackered the outside of the ship enough and taken out the odd wave of enemy fighters, you are given a landing signal. At this point you have to ram the throttle to max and get yourself on the landing strip. You can get the landing signal to appear earlier by destroying specific ground targets or ships to reveal a Victory Point. These accelerate proceedings, and hitting one with your ship triples its value.
On the original version, landing your Manta was as far as you needed to get to destroy a dreadnought (as this was only followed by a fruit machine type bonus stage). However, Uridium 2 doesn't let you off that lightly. After landing, you have to tool yourself up with a Gundam-style assault suit and enter the main engine core which has to be blasted with your Vulcan cannon before the entire ship is destroyed. Uridium 2 creates exactly the kind of crazed, frantic, adrenaline-addled response that a shoot-em-up should, but not straight away. The controls take a little getting used to, as does the updated weapon system and end-of-level section. Once you've got your head round it though, you'll be seriously hooked (I only stopped playing because I had to do some real work).
Uridium 2's graphics are some of the best yet seen in a shoot-em-up. The sprites may be small, but the animation is fast and fluid, and the dreadnoughts look wonderful. The futuristic, cyber (sorry) feel is definitely there, especially when you see the later fleets. A1200 owners get even better visuals, since the missiles leave smoke trails, the fighters blast exhaust flames and crashing ships dive in a hail of smoke and flames.
Blast from the past
Those who remember the original version will be glad to know that the feel is still there - only better. The scope has been widened, the action increased and the challenge doubled (at least). Forget all these other namby Defender clones, Uridium 2 is THE Defender variant... with knobs, bells, whistles, coloured flags, hooters and fluffy dice on.
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