Freeware Friday: Tyrian 2000,
I don’t have a review this week. I was going to review Tyrian 2000, one of the best vertical-scrolling shmups of all time but nope, that ain’t happening today. It’s a shame too, since the game’s original release, Tyrian was in 1995 and it was published by Epic Megagames, before they changed their names to Epic Games, the same publisher who released games like Unreal, Jazz Jackrabbit, and Gears of War, putting it in good company. Not to mention, the game is certified freeware with the blessings of its creators and… it can be run on just about anything.
What do I mean? Well, after Jason Emery (the game developer, not the rugby player) handed over the source code to a group of enthusiastic fans, ports (all free) of the game were quickly made for a number of systems and devices, including: Android, Amiga, Dingoo, Dreamcast, Nintendo DS, Gamecube, Gizmondo (you know, the console that had the game Sticky Balls), GP2X + GP2X Wiz, GP32, Nokia tablets, PSP, PS3 Linux, Symbian (Nokia phone OS), Nintendo Wii, and Zune HD (wait, what?), in addition to the Windows and Mac versions if you’re feeling less adventurous.
Of course, this game would have to be pretty good to deserve such an active community and it deserves all the attention it has received. The game takes the fast arcade action that people look for in shmups like Twin Bee, Genetos, or Cho Ren Sha 68k but adds in branching paths, shopping for customizations, a save system, bonus levels, minigames, and more modes than you can shake a stick at. The game has smooth controls and only takes minutes to jump into.
That’s a good thing, because the action is fast and furious due to the highly varied stages and enemies you’ll encounter. One moment you might be casually shooting at small spinning disks, then the next might have you racing around obstacles while dragons or attack blimps charge you. That’s to say nothing of the multitude of bosses you’ll encounter across the game’s five episodes and dozens of levels. The bosses can range from your typical featureless mega-ship, to nightmarish monsters, and the final boss who is… well, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. The levels take you through asteroid belts, underground caverns where your sight is limited, and tropical forests where turrets and giant organisms wait to kill you, meaning that you’ll always something new to experience and branching paths, minigames (like the arcade game where you’ll have to track down a beer thief) and hidden bonus levels guarantee you’ll be replaying the game again and again to see what Tyrian 2000 offers.
Of course, the other big factor that boosts the game’s replayability is the ship customization. In addition to upgrading your shields, hull, and gun, you can also equip two sidekicks, a rear gun, and choose your ship’s generator. What’s cool about this is that weapons drain power from the generator, meaning that, if you equip weapons that are too powerful for your generator, you won’t be able to continually fire them and your shields will be restored at a much slower rate. Your weapons also become more visually impressive as you upgrade them, so even the most basic gun will turn into a screen-clearing weapon of mass destruction and you can even get bonus upgrades for your weapons by finding special power-ups in levels. If you like the sillier side of customization, you can even get ships that resemble things like carrots.
Of course, not all is perfect with this classic. For example, while the levels are all action-packed, they vary greatly in difficulty. You might be having trouble with an underground level, only to get a break for the next five, before the next episode starts with an even tougher course. Additionally, the bosses in the game can be especially cheap. For example, one boss I encountered just tried to slam into me after a firing a few shots (you can usually absorb lots of bullets but a single collision can rip your hull apart) and one boss’s death explosion can take you out, forcing you to restart the entire level. However, if you like your games when they have old-school difficulty, you’ll probably take these problems as a plus.
A plus all gamers can appreciate is the multitude of modes the game has. In addition to the story mode (this game does have a plot, but its relegated to data cubes you collect in levels), there is a faster-paced arcade mode, a two player mode where players control two ships through the arcade mode that can be combined, a ‘Super Tyrian’ mode that lets you use almost all the weapons, but you must enter special commands to activate each one, a time attack mode, and a ‘Super Arcade’ mode where you can play through the game with special, customized ships. Then there’s the previously mentioned minigames, including a secret one you have to know a code for (HINT: type ‘destruct’ at the main menu screen). All in-all, this game gives you much more content than you would expect from a shooter.
Finally, there’s the awesome soundtrack and graphics. Sure, they might look dated by today’s standards but the bosses look fantastic and the explosions and effects are a nostalgia bomb from the days of DOS. The music is extremely catchy and perfectly fits every scene it is used in, with the main Tyrian theme and the Beer tune being my favorite tracks.
Overall, this is a great game that all gamers, not just shooter fans, would love, no matter what system they play it on (though if you just want to play it on your desktop or laptop, get the PC and Mac version from GOG since they were nice enough to bundle some extras with the game) and I really would have liked to have reviewed this game. Unfortunately, I was just too busy.
Trying to get the game to work on my toilet.
Download Tyrian 2000 HERE (Mac and PC)
Download OpenTyrian (same thing as 2000, it’s just available for more platforms) HERE
Freeware Friday is a series by Gabriel B. That casts a spotlight on some of the exemplary (or just plain weird) games that are completely free to play.