Oldschool Gaming - reviewing new games on classic computers
Main review :: written by Jason 

It's amazing what stuff hangs around in space, isn't it? If I had a fiver for every ancient civilisation wiped out by some undocumented cataclysm where there was loads of goodies to be plundered I'd have at least enough for next years domain forwarding bill and a little left on the side to buy more 8-bit games! Because yes, once again the player takes control of a would-be galactic tomb robber named Henri Latrine (I bet he's had the... erm, mickey taken out of his name in the past!) who, armed only with a small but maneuverable space ship, wants to do a spot of "wealth reallocation".

Starting off within the burial chambers of the first moon, the player is given an easy ride for a while to allow them to grab some booty (in the form of orbs, for some reason) and get used to the controls of Latrine's ship; this is a must too because, although the system is simple to understand, it's a lot harder to master and moving around the later levels safely can take some fairly skillful flying! The controls themselves are left and right to rotate the ship accordingly and up to fire the main thruster in whichever direction the ship is pointing. What makes things a little more tricky are inertia and gravity and, unless the motion of the ship is juggled with constantly, it'll either drift off and slam into a wall or be pulled down to it's doom on the ground below. Of course, reducing the ship and indeed it's occupant into a shower of pixels isn't a good thing...

Things get harder as the player progresses because, as well as each having a larger tomb to navigate and tighter gaps to slide the ship through, there are ground defences scattered around from the second moon onwards that take great delight in taking a pop at the player. The controls take a bit of getting used to as well, they're very responsive and the gravitational pull is pretty strong too so the juggling required to keep the ship in the air whilst getting a shot aimed at the ground defences is real seat-of-the-pants stuff by about the third moon since the ship takes pretty much constant attention. Of course, with all these orbs and gravity knocking about the place a comparison had to be drawn to the all-time classic Thrust, but the overall game styles only bear a passing resemblance since everything is so much more immediate in Lunaris.

This game was built in a mere five hours at the 2004 ORSAM show, then extended a little and the soundtrack that was composed at the same event added, but this minute development cycle doesn't show. Lunaris is tidily presented with titles page, highscore table and control options, the graphics are average but functional and the music burbles away happily to itself without being offensive or intrusive. The difficulty curve is quite steep to start with, the initial learning of the controls and some very precise collisions make things quite hard but, despite what I may have exclaimed whilst playing over the last few days, not unfair so if you break the ship, you can see that it's your fault and not the game being picky. Due to it's background this isn't a major release, it was just something done for the fun of it - but that's not a bad thing when it's this fun!

Second opinion :: written by Jeff 

Well, what we have here is one of those floaty gravity games, sort of like that Thrust thing except it's got more gravity, maze like areas to explore and you don't actually drag anything behind you because you pick it up instead, but apart from that, it's exactly the same. Just like that other game though, the way to survive is by gentle taps, keeping everything stable and under control, which takes a fair bit of practise because the controls are so sensitive and gravity is so effective that you barely get any time to correct your mistake if you turn that little bit too far. Most of the time you'll spend inching across the screen, carefully threading the needle of some of the most claustrophobic levels around. If, however, you get tired of slowly crawling carefully through the levels and give a good firm manly press on your controls, you'll end up careering into the rather odd assortment of walls littered about the place, and possibly a few choice words might be said too.

Once you get past the initial hurdles of the controls though, it's great, nerve-racking fun. It's got that wonderful one-more-try factor and while the learning curve is very, very steep, you always get just a bit further each time, enticing you to see what's around the corner. Unfortunately though, there aren't too many corners or levels. It takes a more than a few goes to actually get past the fourth and final level though, but when you finally do, you get told to play again with more gravity. This is the worst part of the whole design, the passwords are the same so there's no way of starting in the harder gravity levels and it just seems like a cheap and dirty way of extending the game.

In case I haven't mentioned it enough, the force of gravity is really really strong, brutally so in fact. The turrets that are scattered about the levels are pretty poor shots and since they can only shoot at a few angles it's simply easier to avoid them and their slow, predictable bullets, than it is to take them out. This is made worse since only the small white bit at the top is vulnerable and if you try, you learn that keeping your craft stable, turning sideways and hit the tiny little area which will actually destroy the stupid thing is extremely difficult, in some cases it's almost impossible to do so without losing a life. Forget about shooting anything at all once you've looped it once though, there just isn't enough time.

There is very little in Lunaris to complain about. The music is nice, it's a good little tune, even if it gets very repetitive, very quickly. The collision is amazing, you never get cheated near the walls, although you do have to aim pretty carefully on the turrets. The graphics are functional, they're a bit bland at times but they're varied and clean. But, while the game is great fun, there is nothing to make you take risks, try stunts, (apart from the fact that once you've picked up the last orb you can career into the landscape and explode with no loss of life whatsoever) and generally whizz about.

It would be nice if you were rewarded for clearing a level fast, something to add a bit more challenge once you've gone through it. It's still great breakdown-inspiring fun though, and if you'll excuse me I'm off to try and loop it twice.

Editor's note: at the time this review was written, Lunaris was available for free download via Jonathan Cauldwell's website - since then it's been added to Retro-Soft's catalogue and is now commercial, but the reviewers felt that because of the small price asked, their original comments and scores should stand.

Information

LUNARIS

Format Sinclair Spectrum
Developer Jonathan Cauldwell
Publisher Retro-Soft
Released 2004
Price CFP
Review Jason and Jeff
Screenshots
Titles Screen
Titles Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
Scores
Graphics
Sound
Playability
Lastability
6
7
8
6
   Overall 7
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