• Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatCommodore 64
DeveloperSmash Designs
ReviewDan and Jason

Main review

There isn’t too much to look forward to in C64 game land these days, shame really but that’s the way it is. I don’t mean games aren’t been written I just mean that something huge and spectacular doesn’t hit us that often any more. Last summer things were different, there was a word on every ones lips that sent a mere C64 fan into a dribbling mess, that word was Turrican.

Set twelve years after the last game (who says real time gaming isn’t allowed on the 64!) in the year 3038 (ok, maybe not) and the spaceship Avalon 3 is on a mission to explore the furthest reaches of space. Close to where Avalon 1 went missing which started the invasion of the Machine last time round, ground control looses contact with the ship and so decide to send up a crew to see what has happened, fearing another attack. They call upon the now retired Bren McGuire, hero of the last war, but he refuses due to, erm, well being retired. As Bren leaves the base, Earth is suddenly under a full scale attack, forcing him to don his famous suit once more for an all out battle…

You start the game with three lives (with energy) and a continue. This may seem like a lot but believe me it isn’t. You are soon bombarded by a multitude of enemies and, when there’s also a clock counting down as well, you seen realise that you are going to be in for a tough time. Luckily for you, you have a few defences to fall back on; the first is your trusty laser rifle which has a some nifty upgrades featuring a three way shot, a bolt which explodes into three and bounces around upon hitting a surface and also a powerful laser weapon which can be upgraded several times. By holding down the fire button you can unleash your beam weapon which can be rotated 360 degrees and destroys most things it touches after a couple of seconds. By pressing space you can unleash a wall of laser death (you start with three of these but can pick up more along the way) which bursts out to the left and right covering the screen and destroying anything it comes across. Last but not least you have your gyroscope, by holding down and pressing space you transform into a spiked ball which you can control left or right. Although you are invincible in this mode you can not shoot anything so it’s very useful for covering large areas of the maps and getting past annoying aliens.

Large areas of the maps? You heard me right. Set over five worlds each containing two to three stages and each stage itself being huge, this game follows its predecessors as being massive. Exploring the maps is essential to finding bonus extra lives, crystals (collecting 100 crystals gives you an extra continue) and hidden bonus blocks. These appear when shot and, after destroyed, they unleash a handful of pickups which range between weapons add-ons, health power ups and an invincibility pick up which lasts for a short time. The only thing you need to watch out for when exploring is the timer, when this runs out you lose a life so you need to decide if exploring the map is going to be worth it as some levels take nearly the entire clock to play through.

Graphically the game is as good as its predecessors using some of the same graphics but with a lot of new stuff thrown in, making it a visual treat. It features some stunning parallax scrolling, especially on the shoot em up levels, and some very detailed environments. The only gripe is that the game doesn’t feature huge end of level bosses that made the first two games unique. Thankfully the bosses are incredibly detailed and any Turrican fan will recognise the first boss from the first game. What is different from the originals is that, instead of sound effects, this version has a different tune accompanying each level. All the tunes throughout the levels are of a consistently high standard and carry the atmosphere of the music in the original games (which is no bad thing of course).

The first Turrican game was released in 1990 followed by its successor in 1991 and was bombarded with the highest accolades from everyone and is now regarded as an all time classic. To follow this was a huge task for the Smash Designs team but thankfully they have done a very faithful, but flawed job. Everything is here that should make it a classic, but unfortunately there are a lot of bugs which I wish had been ironed out. There is also a lot of slow down in places (especially the shoot em up levels) which may also be due to the music playing in the background. A trade off perhaps? That is up to you to decide. Overall though this is a product quality and you don’t have to pay anything for it, how good it that! And, looking past its flaws, the game is a worthy sequel to the others and deserves a place in any C64 fan’s game collection.

Second opinion

I’d always assumed that the “glory” days where 8-bit games were hyped were well and truly over now, that nobody could create media interest or even a level of excitement over a new release with a little teasing and hyperbole… but then Smash Designs became the first people to prove me wrong. The little frenzy of excitement generated over Turrican 3 was almost as exciting as actually getting the game into a 1541 and actually playing it. Almost, but not quite because Smash have managed to put together something that was actually worth all that anticipation.

On the graphics front, this game is excellent and it’s look is well in keeping with it’s predecessors even to the point of “borrowing” a few tiles here and there and, although it was never planned as a direct conversion, there are a couple of level layouts that feel very familiar to those who have played Turrican 3 on the Amiga (or indeed Mega Turrican for the Megadrive since they’re the same game). Add to that some absolutely amazing parallax scrolling in the shoot ’em up world (I spent my first life dodging rocks only to find out they were the background layer as some larger ones scrolled onto the screen!) and the only real niggle I have is that there aren’t many larger guardians – that said, the ones that do appear are very nicely presented and there is that fabulous mothership in level 3.2 that’s a beast to get past…!

Sonically, the playing of music during the levels is a major plus to the game and adds a little bit of extra atmosphere that the C64 Turricans previously lacked compared to their Amiga and even ST counterparts, but the tunes used are a somewhat mixed bag so, whilst the majority of the music is at the very least unobtrusive and sometimes rather good (most of the tunes are, if memory serves, cover versions of Turrican 3 on the Amiga) there’s a couple of tunes that use what I’d consider to be some very grating sounds and the first level is a particular offender on this front.

As far as the difficulty curve goes, this isn’t a game for the faint hearted and only seasoned action heroes (and preferably those with an autofire joystick if at all possible) need fill in the application forms; to be honest, I’m not sure if it’s old age on my part but I swear this game is harder than the first two and it’s certainly a lot less generous with the “hidden” power up blocks and 1up tokens… that said, I wanted it to be a challenge, so that’s certainly not going to affect the overall score adversely. Speaking of challenges, it has to be said that Turrican 3 had an incredibly difficult job, not only were people hoping it would be a good game in it’s own right, it had to compete with it’s fore-bears and that was never going to be an easy task.

But, apart from a couple of bugs which, whilst annoying, can be overlooked, this is an epic of a game; not quite as good as Turrican 2 but still very playable and certainly worth the investment of time a game this size requires to play properly. We can’t give it an overall score of nine or ten because it’s a flawed masterpiece, but it is a masterpiece all the same.