It's 3106 A.D. (of course) and the Earth is a charred, chewed up and spot out wreck. The surface is inhospitable and all the ragged remnants of mankind live in the underground (worshipping the great god, Mynda-de-Dors). The governments, whose wars caused the aforementioned chewing up and fitting action, have come together and built the Dome city, a breast-shaped icon of peace and motherhood. But, unfortunately, they used (uh-oh) cyborgs to construct the cities and these normally docile 'borgs have gone ape and killed their human foremen, demanding equality. You play Stryx, stolid robotic figure of heroic dimensions, who has been sent in to wipe out the uppety cyborgs once and for all. The atmospheric front end sets the scene. A hover car bullets along a corridor, overhead lights slipping across the windscreen. We catch a brief glimpse of the driver, a stolid robotic figure, the lights flickering on his sunglasses. The car glides to a halt, pauses, then enters...
The Domes. There are five Dome cities. You start in the centre dome which acts as the hub for the other four. From here, you must scour multiple levels and platforms and find entrances to the other four complexes. Each dome is a huge flatplan of platforms, corridors and ladders, interlinked with tunnels, ante-rooms, and elevators. And the whole place, every square inch, is chock-a-flippin-block with droids. Your adversaries vary in toughness. But size and colourfulness of a sprite is usually a good gauge of how tough their hides are. The bigger and more iridescent nasties were obviously meant to last, so the programmer made them murderously tough, whereas your squidgy scuttling boot-size aliens only take one good shot in the squealies to disintegrate. Passes are dotted here and there across the width of the central dome. These provide access to the other dome segments via a windspeed tunnel. Underneath the other cities are mining outposts which can be plundered for extra fuel, energy and gun power. Exploration and cartography are the keys to mastering this game. The levels are gigantic and sprawling, the tunnels are huge and complex, and the cities are even bigger.
There's more to Stryx than meets the eye. What meets the eye in fact are lots of small, multicoloured sprites, huge, rambling levels and an incessant continous, endless, perpetual outpouring of aliens, robots, security guns, assassins and cyborgs. And they all want to blow you off the planet. But behind all that arcade stuff is a meaty backdrop of strategy and puzzlings. A cunning combination of thought and reflex is needed to bypass most major conflicts, and the instructions mention a puzzle subgame, although I have yet to discover it.
The graphics are great - but small. However, as we all know (and as my psycho analyst will tell you) "size is not important" and no more so than in Stryx. Okay, so in a pint-glass of pixels most of the game's characters will only fill up 3 cc's, but they compensate by being exquisitely animated and brilliant to watch. Stryx himself tumbles through a whole dictionary of animated moves: flying kicks, sommersaults, falling, aiming his gun, crouching and riding a hoverbike. Loads.
The in-game sound is fairly basic and functional. The clickety-click of Stryx's footsteps, the bangety-bang of his gun, the rumbly-thundery of the explosions, the vroom-vroom of the hoverbike...
Game-play wise, Stryx plays very much like the old platform-and-ladders type scenarios - lots of trundling about, leaping gaps and dodging nasties. However, the weapons, the huge levels and the sub-games all make it more professional and playable.
The qualm I really have about the gameplay is the toughness of Stryx himself. It all wouldn't be so bad if he was a bit of a poetry writer and was shredded by the first shot from a robot's gun. Oh no. It's like a flippin' Stryx-in-the-Box! Another slight gripe I have is the lack of a 'save game' feature; the game is so immense it must be nearly impossible to complete it in one sitting. It can be pretty frustrating when you die and the old 'go back to the start' cliche rears its ugly head.
So there's a certain trial-and-error element to the game, as well as a certain arcade-action element and a certain arcade-adventure element, alongside a certain fire-button-pressing element too. In fact you could probably affix several labels onto Stryx - without being cynical - but the one that sticks the best is 'Real Good Fun'.
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