After centuries of collapsing, the sun that the planet Arth orbits is about to explode - the fireworks are due to take place in only sixty minutes and the planet itself is going to be turned into pebbledash in the process - obviously, subtlety goes out of the window in these circumstances and a pair of robots called Voto and Veti (who are male and female robots respectively, although their gender doesn't have any direct bearing on the gameplay) would quite like to be watching the destruction from a safe distance and must therefore get to the space port, leap into their sporty escape craft and leg it before everything goes "foom". In short, they have to Escape From Arth!
Of course there's a bit more to it than that - for a start, there's a series of force barriers between Veti or Voto and the shuttle and each will require deactivation via its colour coded switch and the access code needed to get into the craft itself is scattered around in five parts. And then there's the out of control robots of course, because a saunter through the levels to collect a few items and throw a few switches wouldn't make for a particularly exciting game and somebody has to look after those pieces of code.
Arth is a flip screen planet and, as well as moving left and right between locations, our mechanical heroes can also travel into and out of the screen using doorways that, when the droid is positioned by them, allow movement into rooms that would have been in front of or behind the current one - this system is a little disorienting to begin with but soon feels quite natural and with a little time and practise can even be used to dodge enemies and bullets.
WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF THIS PLACE
A few of our readers may be "old" enough to remember Escape From Arth the first time around, distributed through the post by Jon Wells himself on hand-labelled disks with black and white photocopied covers - it was a very good game then but this version, whilst retaining the looks and sounds of the original, is greatly improved by the addition of the player's jet pack. Although the play area has always extended into the upper border, the airborne enemies had to be picked off using trick shots from the ground and it was generally easier to just dodge their bullets, now that space is really opened up as Veti or Voto rocket into the sky to deal out electric death.
This seemingly simple modification has made Escape From Arth almost a new game and, to my mind at least, an excellent improvement to something that was already pretty decent; the colourful landscapes of planet Arth are reasonably well drawn and complement a fairly wide range of ground-based and airborne attack bots, any one of which could be a threat to Voto or Veti and may be carrying part of the code they're seeking and the sound a mixture of beefy effects and tunes by Paul "Feekzoid" Hannay. The original version of Escape From Arth is available to download from Gamebase64, but has become merely a taster for this enhanced release and whilst there might be a few other games in the Psytronik range that deserve your pennies first, this one certainly shouldn't be ignored.