• Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
ReviewJason and Paul

Main review

Originally released in 1988, Io (sometimes erroneously referred to as Into Oblivion) is almost the archetypal horizontal scrolling shoot ’em up on the C64; there may only be four levels in there (in part because it crams a huge amount of graphics into a single load) but beautiful to look at courtesy of graphics legend Bob Stevenson and absolutely rock hard with it! And as with all shoot ’em ups, the “back story” itself is incredibly simple; the player has pilot their small but manoeuverable fighter into battle against insurmountable odds, sneaking under the alien hoarde’s radar. This heroic if somewhat foolish mission is aided by the handy power-up pods that have been left lying around the landscape. Simply collecting them in their default state will discharge their energy and effectively using them as a smart bomb but, if they’re shot a couple of times, they’ll change into a weapon power-up. There are four levels of weapon extension, the first two increase the overall firepower of the ship and the remaining two will activate o couple of indestructible outriders that travel along with the ship, offering covering fire.

Graphically this is a straight homage to the C64 original, all of the original backgrounds, airborne and ground-based nasties have been redrawn and, apart from the player ship (which is now somewhat triangular) bear a reasonable resemblance to the original graphics. In a similar way, the sound is a mixture of remixed music for the titles and completion screens, whilst during play there is a combination of an ambient, spacey noise which is overlaid by a collection of sound effects; most of these sounds are taken from the C64, whilst the rest are generic samples such as explosions – it all sounds fairly generic to be honest, although in this particular case it’s fair to say that the same is true of the C64 version, the sound on Io was always it’s weakest point.


But really, Io – The Remake isn’t really a remake as such because, whilst it does bear a visual resemblance and the levels themselves retain their overall shape, the differences in the way it plays are just far too great; the collisions between the player’s ship and the backgrounds are far less forgiving to the point where some early ground-based nasties are essentially invulnerable because the player is destroyed before they can move close enough to the landscape get a clear shot. And annoyingly, these hard to destroy ground bases are some of the most aggressive in the game because, whilst the player has gained loads of extra artillery, the majority of the attacking hoardes either won’t fire, have been severely neutered or, in the case of the detaching spikes on the fourth level, have been removed from the game.

Similarly, shooting the head of one of the serpents in the original will cause it to split into segments and fly apart, whilst here it merely causes the on-screen segments to explode, occasionally leaving the rear end still tootling around the play area and totally indestructible. These serpents also lack a lot of the original’s movement patterns and it’s not just them either, because other objects simply don’t move the way they should; the fourth level is usually populated by chains of spinning rings that follow huge, majestic arcs as they cross the screen and these are now reduced to a comparative wobble and far more easy to avoid.

But the real issue is that this game is buggy and most of the issues seem to centre around the power-up system; rather than powering the ship down when it’s destroyed (and, if equipped with outriders, that should take three hits and it doesn’t), Io – The Remake is very erratic and will sometimes leave the ship’s extras still bolted on. But the power-up icons themselves are the main issue, since they’ll occasionally “crash” when shot (which is required to change between smart bombs and weapon power-ups) and leave any subsequent power-ups impossible to collect; dying seems to be the only way to correct the problem during play. It might have been possible to recommend it as a game in it’s own right (rather than as an inaccurate remake of Io) under other circumstances, but the overly strict collision detection combined with the occasional loss of the power-up system makes it far too frustrating to play despite, ironically, being a far easier game to complete.

Second opinion

Io, being one of my favourite games (there were a few) on the trusty old C64, I was looking forward to having a pop at the PC remake, and as a whole I wasn’t disappointed. Okay, the original was pretty simple to play, straightforward shoot ’em up, well as far as I managed to get to on my gaming sessions (if it changed later on I never got to find out), so I was expecting more the same from this.

I did like the simple touch that Smila put about “if you’ve paid for the game demand your money back” keeping things free, keeps things alive; good for him for doing that. Okay, the game starts up, but what are the controls…? After a trip back to the documentation to see, I start it back up, and notice the little scroller telling me the controls… doh! Maybe they should have been displayed on the screen, just in small text perhaps. After all, the original game on the C64 would have had packaging, instructions, etc and a remake can get away with displaying things like that. But that is only a small problem, and probably just only a personal choice.

So, aesthetically the game is pleasing, there are nice reproductions of the original graphics from the C64; I don’t know if they are hand drawn, or have been rendered (my guess is rendered) but none the less they look nice, and closely reproduce the graphics on the C64 version. For sound, there wasn’t much to it really, the title tune by Infamous was okay, but didn’t come across as chirpy and fast like the original Io title music, but again, the in-game sounds effects seemed pretty close to the original.

Gameplay is pretty much the same as the original (which does show it is a good “remake”) and the only thing I didn’t like was that collision wasn’t as forgiving as the C64 version; when you are moving up and down the ship goes into a side roll, and then returns the over head view, on the C64 version you could have a couple of pixels overlapping the graphics and this helped when I was shooting the turrets, since I could line up with it, but on the remake I had to be careful that I wasn’t too close to the background, since when I’d stop moving the ship straightened up and bang, I was dead. Also, again a personal choice, I would have preferred CTRL to shoot and not Z as I was playing this in a darkened room (that sounds even more dubious than usual! – J =-) I had to keep looking down, and using the light from my monitor to see where the fire button was; CTRL is much easier to find in the dark.