Callisto. No, not the X-Men character or the Greek Nymph, or even the Finnish band. And neither is it a malapropism of the music identified with the Caribbean, before you ask. It is in fact a reference to one of the moons of Jupiter. "Ah!" I hear you cry, "we're in space thus I deduce a shmup must be the order of the day!" And you'd be correct.
You control a Deathkiller Mk. 7 ship and must, blah, waffle, blah, fire, shoot, blah, waffle, destroy aliens, blah, blah, blah... to be honest, I never bother to read the story outline of any shmup because they're all basically the same, with evil aliens wanting to eradicate human beings from the universe for some inane reason. Suffice to say, the game reflects this circumstance and you basically have to shoot everything that moves in your general direction.
WITHOUT A DREAM IN MY HEART, WITHOUT A LOVE OF MY OWN
The game is well presented; the title screen is colourful and includes a rather neat rendition of Rydeen by Yellow Magic Orchestra, which is also what the loading tune from Daley Thompson's Decathlon on the C64 is based on - Martin Galway would be impressed methinks! Pressing fire takes you to the game itself and it's the usual move a ship around the scenery blasting the little ships that are out to kill you, all drawn in a multitude of colours and with smooth animation and movement that convey the action really quite pleasantly. Yes, this is indeed a nice game to look at. It's also nice to listen to, with appropriate effects to accompany the onscreen action - the alien explosions have a particularly satisfying gutsy boom to them.
I do have a bit of an issue with the status panel at the bottom of the screen being a bit difficult to read, but this is probably a combination of the Atari "stretched" text and my personal preference, so isn't a deal breaker.
The gameplay is refreshingly simple. No power-ups, smart-bombs, shops, doodahs or anything else. Just shoot. Having said that, Callisto is almost an "avoid 'em up" just as much as a shmup because knowing when not to blast that there alien scrum and to just manoeuvre around them, using the background to help, is a vital tactic that needs to be learned quickly. Fans of the R-Type genre will be disappointed that there are no end-of-level mega bosses to dispatch, but then they would be out of place in this game were they present.
There are just four levels, but the difficulty curve increases nicely and, even when you complete all the levels, the urge is there to play again to achieve a higher score. I do have to moan about the firing mechanism though. One press of the fire button equals one shot from the space ship; holding down said fire button does diddly-squat. So you face a choice of repeated stabs of the button risking a finger strain or auto-fire. I'll give you zero guesses as to which I picked.
So overall we have a simple game that is really fun to play in bursts and is devilishly addictive when you're out to beat your previous score. I've been playing this in between bouts of Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 on the Xbox 360 (which I seem to have become obsessed by again) and, although the polar opposite in terms of gameplay, control and style, Callisto holds the attention just as much. Add in a blog entry where the coder has explained the creation and development of the game (and from the sounds of it, the simplicity hides an awful lot happening on the hardware side) plus the fact that this game earned second place in the ABBUC Competition 2012, and you have a tidy little package that's well worth a download and blast. Recommended.