For a title that was equated to Sonic the Hedgehog by The Edge Magazine, Guardian is a little disappointing. While it is an early polygon game, it is still lacking in some areas, including sound. In-game sound effects are almost nonexistent and those that are present could have been greatly improved considering the CD format.
Gameplay itself is relatively simple and easy to grasp. After only a few minutes, you will find that it is a fun game despite the simple presentation. Whenever an enemy, tree, building, or anything for that matter is destroyed, it breaks into approximately 50 separate polygons that scatter about the screen. Surprisingly there is no apparent slowdown when this occurs. The inclusion of two separate radar screens, one for main enemies and one for fighters, is quite useful and a large portion of your time will be spent watching these small screens instead of the main display.
Two-player mode is an alternating one that allows for the second player to get his or her turn after the first player dies. Also notable is that clearing a stage does not allow the second player to play right away; instead he or she must wait until the first player dies, regardless of the level. Even though this is not a cooperative two-player game, the challenge of besting your opponent keeps competition high. Once a player is killed however, the stage reverts to its original form, with all enemies present and no progress saved from the last life.
One notable flaw that greatly reduces the game's challenge is that when the "mother ship" drops the fighters and main destroyer ships, they are all in a centralized area and can easily be eliminated with one smart bomb. While some might consider this a gift, many will view this as a programming oversight.
While there are some flaws to the game, and it hardly lives up to the hype thrust upon it by the CD32 community at the time of its release, it is nevertheless enjoyable. Although there is a story present within the manual, the cover of the game itself boasts "if you want to play something where you don't have to think, you'll find it a refreshing tonic." This statement is revealing, as the game was intended to be nothing more than a shooter, where everything is secondary to the action. And while the "action" isn't that exciting, it does offer some challenge as the game progresses.
Graphics: This is a polygon-based game that has no textures, but a rendered background. It is a 3D playing field without directional guidelines, but there is an altitude limit.
Sound: Not many sounds are included within the game, and those that were included could be much better.
Enjoyment: While the sum of its parts might suggest otherwise, the ease of control and the increased challenge of each level make it enjoyable.
Replay Value: Without an immersive storyline, this game remains a shooter, and as such is just as playable on the hundredth time as it is on the tenth.
My word, I'd forgotten how exciting this game was. Cursed by a trough in the Yorkshire Dale of my spatial perception, I'd been dismissed from the high score table of the CD32 version by shadowy music promoter Paul Mellerick and, after a few embarrassing attempts to regain former glories, I'd left the Guardian arena, spotlit and to a terrible silence.
Then, suddenly, the A1200 conversion turned up. In a pointlessly big box with a nice picture on the front, and everything. Minutes later I was careening through the pyramid back streets of level 3.3 with no lives and no energy, one lander to kill and a couple of tanks hurting laser bolts across my scattering path with terrifying accuracy. I died, of course, but not before wresting a hash from the lander's claws and settling it decisively. The game of champions once more had me in its grasp.
Guardian (the Game of Champions) (that I'm once again the best at) is Defender in first-person 3D. And Defender being one of the most fearsome, claustrophobically exhilarating games ever In the history of all things, this is no bad deal. The A1200 game's a faultless conversion from the CD32 original. No bombastic CD music. (The third planet's 1970s cop show track (Stock exterior shot of mismatched partners strutting down busy US street with people in background looking at the camera) is sorely missed.)
Slightly irritating disk access between levels. Slightly irritating non-recognition of second drive although once you've swapped from the program to the levels disk that's it. Befuddling mouse control option for non-CD32 joypad owners involving the mouse and buttons dictating your ship's direction and speed, plus the space bar for smart bomb, return for fire, tab for missiles and the left alt key for 'flip'. While mouse control is fun for the novelty of it, and certainly helps in those swishy sharp turn manoeuvres, I find it practically impossible to use seriously. Lunging across the keyboard to 'flip' or dash off a rocket is extremely silly and even flying stably straight up in the air so I can switch the viewing angle to the superior long, high shot is agonisingly difficult. No keyboard-only option. And - it's alarmingly unplayable.
To keep up the speed of the game, every third frame (or whatever) is missed out, so objects flick from spot to spot. It's impenetrably confusing and means you're always reacting far too late to something. Fortunate then that Guardian defaults to a low detail view which limits the distance at which objects appear on the screen, maintains the CD32s frightening and impressive running speed and subtly improves the game as obstacles lurch violently into your path. Not, in truth, alarmingly unplayable at all then, but it's nice to have a little excitement in a review that basically says "Guardian A1200 - it's just as fantastically exciting as the CD32 original."
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