I never really had chance to play the Amstrad CPC back in the day that much, as I didn't really know anyone who had one. However, with the dawn of emulation and waves of new games from the likes of Psytronik, I can't help but check out the machine. Dead on Time is a recent title released by Psytronik Software and created by Paul Kooistra. Building on Paul's original success with the impressive Star Sabre, Dead on Time isn't a scrolling spectacular this time, but is a single screen game set in space. The aim of the game depends mainly on which mode you choose, either Arcade or Score Challenge.
In the arcade mode - the aim is to try and survive as long as possible. You start with a default of 30 seconds and are struck by waves of coloured enemies, where when destroyed will leave behind coloured pick ups. Picking these up will keep topping up the time you have left by three seconds. If you pick up 3 of the same colour, you gain a temporary bullet field shield which allows you to absorb enemy fire of the same colour to increase your time by eight seconds. At the same time, a score multiplier is increased to further help boost your score. Additionally as you shoot enemies, your shot power meter will increase - once hitting a different colour - you will get a higher rate of fire. Getting hit by enemy fire also will not destroy you right away, but it will eat away at your time. Certain bullets will deplete more of your time!
TIME FLIES LIKE AND ARROW, FRUIT FLIES LIKE A BANANA
With the Score Challenge mode, you get a set 5 minutes and simply have to score as many points as possible, whilst following most of the rules above. Here you don't gain extra time, but can still lose time by colliding with bullets.
You may find that the game starts a little tough in the arcade mode, as most likely you'll find the 30 seconds will deplete before you know it and you're back on the title screen. It's recommended to play the score challenge mode to get a feel for the game and get familiar with the general system. And it is worth spending the effort to get to grips with! The longer you manage to survive in the game, the more you will get to see of the game's variety. Getting good at the game, you'll be rewarded by new attack waves - such as enemies which split up, homing spheres and snake formed ships.
If I was to compare Dead on Time to other games, I'd say it was a sort of mixture of Mega Apocalypse for its ship movement and control, Centipede and Geometry Wars. Actually, the controls are almost identical to Mega Apocalypse with the ability to fix your ships shot direction as you move - a control method which works very well with the game and is simple to pick up.
Graphically the game is simple, but brilliant. The title presentation uses Mode 1 brilliantly on the CPC, and the game itself uses a clever mix of Mode 1 and 2 to bring clarity and colour to the fray. The ships are well animated and well defined, as is your main ship - so the action, although frantic at times, is clear. There is also a lovely starfield which moves based on the direction you are facing. Sonically the game doesn't disappoint; there is a brilliant mixture of music and sound effects available with frantic in-game music and nice classic sound effects accompanying the action perfectly.
Wanting to master the game and get that high score gives Dead on Time the playability and lastability which makes it a game to grab now and get playing. It is very comparable to Geometry Wars, which has the same kind of addictive pull, and all of this on the humble CPC - which continues to impress me. And on the real thing, the title is stunning. Grab it now and burn some hours away trying to beat it!