The Commodore game they said couldn't be done on the Spectrum has finally arrived. Dominic Robinson, a newcomer to the Hewson fold of programmers, has converted Uridium from the original that was designed and written by Andy Braybrook.
High above a planet's surface huge battle cruisers called Dreadnaughts silently move into combat position. The reason for this sudden and unannounced invasion is simple; the Dreadnaughts need vast amounts of fuel. In order to get it, they must tap planetary cores and drain them of minerals. Naturally, this will result in the destruction of each planet in the sector if nothing is done.
Your task as a super pilot is to fly your nifty Manta over the Dreadnaughts and make space safe by destroying each one in turn. The odds are stacked heavily against you but size is on your side. The Manta is small and versatile enough to fly very close to the Dreadnaughts and it can attack the fighters that patrol the ship's hull. The aim is to wipe out all the ancillary craft, inflict as much damage as possible and destroy the giant space ships.
However, there is a severe drawback to this plan of action. Those fighter pilots aren't just going to sit back and let you get away with all this carnage and mayhem - they're out in force and they're gunning for you. Luckily your Manta has been equipped with powerful lasers which don't need recharging and can make short work of a fighter craft - if you're quick enough to catch it that is.
A shrill siren lets you know when an attack wave is imminent, but you never know whether this attack is coming from the front or if it's going to be a crafty assault from behind. Whichever it is, you must keep your wits about you and remain cool at all times. Bonus points are awarded for destroying a complete wave of fighters.
As well as the fighters zooming in to attack there is an added danger: the Dreadnaught hulls are a veritable obstacle course sprouting ariels, flanges and ducts. Sometimes sheer walls of metal rise up to meet you as you pilot your Manta at great speed - these can be identified by the shadows they cast on the hull. If your Manta crashes into an obstacle it is destroyed, and one of your three lives is lost. Some hull features can also be shot, adding to the amount of destruction inflicted on the huge mother ship.
Homing mines present another problem. Automatic launchers are activated when your Manta flies over them, and when they turn red they release a mine which chases your craft. A lot of quick evasive manoeuvering is called for to escape a mine.
To avoid some of the obstacles on the hull you must fly at right angles and squeeze through some tight gaps. Holding down fire and moving up or down flips the Manta sideways and slowing down brings the Manta back to its normal aspect. If you slow down and stop, the Manta loops and rolls to face in the other direction - a useful evasive manoeuvre. Looping also lifts the craft momentarily higher off the surface of the Dreadnaught, which might help to avoid an enemy fighter or an obstacle.
After your Manta has been in flight for a while the words 'Land Now' flash up at the top of the screen, accompanied by another siren. You now have to fly your Manta to the end of the Dreadnaught where there is a landing strip. Once you have set your craft down neatly on this landing strip, you automatically progress to the next Dreadnaught where the fun starts all over again.
There are fifteen Dreadnaughts to destroy. Each one has a different layout, more features and more attack waves for you to deal with - if you like you can play the two player option with a fellow pilot and race to save the universe...
Control keys: Left Z, Right X, Up L, Down SYMBOL SHIFT, FIRE ENTER, Pause P
Keyboard play: joystick is easier
Use of colour: mainly monochromatic
Graphics: very neat fast scrolling
Sound: really exciting and useful spot effects plus a tune at the beginning
Skill levels: one
Screens: scrolling play area
'Wowee!! This game is absolutely mega. I don't care how well it compares to the Commodore version, because it's probably the best shoot em up that I've ever seen on a Spectrum. The graphics are brilliant, with some excellent scrolling, which of course isn't up to the standard of the 64 version, but it is quite stunning for the Spectrum. The title tune is very good, and the game moves at a frantic pace, often resulting in cries of 'What hit me?' and 'it missed!', but this is all jolly good, destructive fun, and that's what I like about it.'
'I really didn't expect Uridium to be up to the standards of the Commodore version, and it isn't - but it is an extremely good, fast translation. The graphics are very well done, but the monochromatic display can make it difficult to see the action. The scrolling is very fast and smooth, but I found that the Manta took quite a long time to respond when turning around. The sound consists of a good title tune and decent spot effects during the game. Overall, a first rate shoot em up.'
'I can't really say that I was looking forward to seeing this on the Spectrum as so many games C64 games die when they're converted for our faithful Sinclair. Thankfully there is still plenty of life in Uridium ZX - admittedly it has lost its colour and some of its sound but it's one of the best shoot em ups around. The speed at which the game plays is truly amazing, the screen scrolls at a tremendous rate and nothing slows down when a load of nasties come on the screen. The graphics are excellent, and everything is superbly drawn. The sound too is top hole: the tune on the title screen is marvellous and there are some worthy sound effects during the game. If you are a shoot em up freak then go out and buy this, you're not going to see better for a long while.'
Hewson's Uridium caused quite a stir when it was released for the Commodore early in 1986. Nobody thought a successful Spectrum conversion was possible. But then they hadn't reckoned with Dominic Robinson, had they! His version of this immensely successful, horizontally scrolling shoot- 'em-up retained all the excitement and atmosphere of the original.
As your Manta craft moves over a series of enemy cruisers, inflicting crucial damage and shooting ancillary craft, it can loop and roll to avoid obstructions on each battle cruiser's hull. Fail to negotiate a treacherous obstacle in time and your sophisticated craft explodes. A two-player option allows you to tackle the vital mission with a friend.
Uridium's smooth scrolling and impeccably presented gameplay combined with the slick shadow effects which denote the position of your craft as it moves over the bas-relief landscape, were extremely smart in their time and haven't been successfully emulated since. Dominic Robinson's conversion of Andrew Braybrook's successful game remains almost unique - at £2.99 it's a steal!
Suddenly scrolling shoot 'em ups are back in style, so we shot off to our very own stylish lovebirds and asked Gwyn Hughes and Rachael Smith whether they've got the scrolls, or if they always walk like that?
From the depths of space they come... and they want our minerals. With a cry of 'Land - mine!' they prepare to plumb the planetary depths in search of metals, precious and otherwise. They are... the interplanetary scrap merchants!!!
They put their rag and bone carts into orbit round each of the planets of our solar system. But these aren't flea-bitten horses dragging Steptoe wagons. These aren't even interstellar skips These are sooper-dooper Dreadnoughts. And they're bi-i-i-g!!!
This is obviously the sort of situation that calls for a hero. And you are the sort of person who volunteers to fly a low level mission in a teensy weensy Manta fighter, against a huge, heavily defended hulk... aren't you? Stop trying to hide behind that potted palm - I can see you!
Strapped into your cockpit - to stop you running away - you set off on what will be the flight of your life. The last flight of your life. So long, suicide jockey. It's been good to know ya!
Or to put it another way - Uridium, the Commodore (boo) smash hit, has found its way onto the Spectrum, and its difficult to imagine a faster blast everything up. It's one of those rare, perfectly balanced games. One that'll keep you up into the early hours unable to pull the plug because next time you might just make the next level.
So what makes Uridium the megagame, it undoubtedly is? Could it be the turn-on-two-and-a-half-new-pence handling of your Manta, as it twists, turns and spins through space? Perhaps! Not only is the manoeuvrability of the little ship a joy to behold, it soon becomes second nature as you wrench the joystick round for another 180 degree turn. You're really in touch with the on-screen action.
Then there's the strategy element. Of course you can plough on in, taking pot shots at anything and everything, but if you do you'll soon be just another entry in an alien junk man's inventory. This calls for a little subtlety, see.
For one thing you need to know your way round the behemoths, because their surfaces are covered in aerials, fortifications and even the odd outside loo (for your convenience). If you don't want to wrap yourself round one of these obstacles you'll need a fairly close knowledge of th best path particularly since you'll be flying fast!
Second trick is to learn what class of fighter's going to make your life a misery next. Some are fairly easy, flying a nice neat pattern, but others cause more of a problem. You'll have to decide whether there's a chink in their strategy or just to avoid them.
Eventually you'll beat a behemoth and see that welcoming message flashing at the top of the screen, telling you it's time to land. But not to relax. Never relax! Within seconds you'll be spacebound again, battling against a new foe, with a whole new flight path to learn.
The most obvious omission, compared to the Commie original, is the colour. Hewson has sensibly opted for monochrome backgrounds, though the stars still sparkle most colourfully. This sometimes causes problems if you're trying to spot small bombs against a textured surface. But the horizontal scrolling, never easy on the Speccy, is superfast and smooth.
Uridrum has to be the ultimate shooting match. So remember - in space nobody can hear you scream... but your folks will tell you to shut up every time your ship gets shot to smithereens!
Gasp! Well, it had to happen, I suppose. It has been said (by me, after a few) that when Uridium finally reached cheapie status, civilisation would finally have ground to a halt. So here it is, and I haven't noticed anarchy, death and destruction yet (except in the YS offices).
Uridium is of course the king and queen of scrolling shoot 'em ups, the game that proved it could be done on the Spectrum and how. Since then Hewson has moved on to such glories as Zynaps, Exolon and Cybernoid, but Uridium holds a special place in all our hearts, 'cos when it came out, it was really special.
And it remains a rip-roaring blastarama, the sort of violent experience that stops normal people like us going out on the streets and taking things out on innocent bystanders. Unless of course you've been blasted out of the sky just before reaching the end of this particular Dreadnought, in which case you could probably plead justifiable homicide. Copied to death by lesser hacks, Uridium is still as playable as ever and a cracking good zap.
Superb shaded graphics, impeccable animation, fast and smooth scrolling (not a common combination on the Speccy) and of course that completely addictive gameplay all go to make Uridium possibly the greatest Commodore to Spectrum conversion of all time - no kidding.
You cruise along in space as the impressive battleship rolls under you. Its defence systems are activated, alert sirens sound. Intricate waves of aliens streak forwards (mechanical doughnuts, starfights and lemons) intending to mount your head over their mantelpieces. You fight - a fiery altercation in space - spinning and weaving, flipping over with stylish animation to avoid their fire, dodging the walls and pillars that rear up all round, raining your lasers on the surface of the ship. You win the fight, land and warp to the next mechanical behemoth - wondering about the fifteen more to be destroyed after that.
The graphics are fluid and fast, and grappling with inertia is a difficult and skillful affair. The scrolling is impeccable and alien attack waves tough and faster than a speeding bullet or clichés to that effect. In fact though Uridium was released in October of '86 it still looks pretty good today.
If you are extremely prejudiced towards aliens, want to fry their butts off, and would like to pilot a ship at incredible speeds then Uridium's the game for you.
At the last count about twenty-seven people had explained to me, why it would never be possible to convert Uridium to the Spectrum.
I almost believed them. A mistake. Here is Uridium on the Spectrum and its a closer conversion than anyone could have ever dared hoped.
Uridium was No 1 game on the Commodore, and proved that, done correctly, there was photon power in the old zap 'em up yet.
More than life - freshness, excitement and exuberance.
The plot: destroy a giant space aircraft carrier (that's what it looks like), by first destroying all of its defensive forces - waves and waves of variously shaped ships that hurtle along its length. At the same time blast various gun emplacements, shields, blocks and other features built on the fuselage.
Now, aside from the problem of not being shot down by the increasingly vicious defensive ships there is another problem - it is very easy to hurtle straight into any one of a dozen or more obstacles on the ships surface. This causes you to explode into a ball of flames, generally a bad thing.
Actually, if you think about it, the above description would do for any one of a thousand arcade games. So what makes Uridium so special? Not easy to say but I think it's the slickness of the presentation and the speed and smoothness of the movement.
The only other program around at the moment to compete with it as far as making the Spectrum look like an arcade machine is Lightforce.
The sprites are elegant and sharply defined, the scrolling is very smooth (17 frames per second it says in the blurb) and virtually flickerless.
Maybe my favourite section to the whole game is the way your attack fighters turn in a tight corner - executing a perfect 90 degree roll combined with a half turn. And on later levels, you'll need to fly edge-on to swoop between narrow channels on the ship's surface.
What doesn't it have? Well it is mostly two-colour to prevent attribute problems and the sound is, well, limited.
Uridium is going to generate vast numbers of letters to our John Riglar pleading for infinite lives Pokes, tips and tricks. Things will get very het up and competitive - what does that all prove?
That Uridium is wonderful.
Author: Dominic Robinson
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
Just in case you missed it the first time, Hewson have re-released Uridium for a piddling £2.99. It's your job to save the universe (again) by flying out into space and intercepting a fleet of alien dreadnought cruisers, currently winging their way towards earth on a mission of bug-eyed nastiness.
You fly your manta fighter over the surface of the spaceship, dodging the aerials and buildings and blowing the Sam Hill out of the alien defence fighters.
The graphics throughout are fantastic, and the action is some of the best we've seen. At the new budget price, you'd have to be completely bonkers not to buy it.
Author: Dominic Robinson
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
C64/128, £9.95cs, £12.95dk
Andrew Braybrook's game took about five minutes to become a classic - punters were dazzled by the super-smooth scrolling and knocked out by the metallic and menacing graphics.
Basically, you have to fly around blasting the mighty Dreadnoughts - massive structures floating in space. Your ship has plenty of inertia, which some people find annoying in play. Or maybe they just find it too tricky...
They said it couldn't be done! But Hewson programmer Dominic Robinson has done it. And done it extremely well. What has he done? Only converted the classic space zapper Uridium on to the Spectrum that's all.
Andrew Braybrook's original on the 64 has spawned a billion imitators on many different machines. But there's nothing quite like original a this Spectrum version is destined to become an instant classic.
The basic idea remains the same - you zip among the mobile defence forces of an alien fleet of super-dreadnoughts, blasting everything and anything that comes your way.
Your Manta fighter is amazingly aerobatic - you can loop back on yourself and spin sideways in order to squeeze through tight gaps on the dreadnought's superstructure.
Don't think that just because you've played the 64 version you're going to find the Spectrum game a piece of cake - 'cos it isn't. The dreadnoughts are different. As are the attack waves.
In fact the dreadnoughts seem to be longer than on the 64 version. This may well be an optical illusion brought on by all the extra hazards Dominic has built in to the superstructure, which makes flying the length of the ship a REAL challenge.
The Spectrum version includes all the features of the original - including the lethal space mines which are fired from the dreadnought's glowing generator ports.
If anything these mines are more deadly than the 64 version's! Very fast and they very seldom miss unless you're quick to spot one emerging and escape from that sector of the ship extremely quickly.
The Manta fighter is very manoeuvrable and has built in inertia which means you can slow down by throwing one of the essential 90 degree loops. You can use this manoeuvre to avoid on-coming missiles.
You get bonus points for destroying a wave of alien defenders and for zapping destroyable bits on the dreadnought's surface.
Score 10,000 plus points and you get a replacement Manta - you'll need as many as you can get.
Like the 64 version you'll see a Land Now message flash when you've scored so many points. Land on the master runway and you'll get a further bonus for destroying the dreadnought totally.
Graphics capture all the feel of the 64 original - solid and metallic looking. The animation of the Manta fighter is excellent and action is as fast as the original.
Dominic has even managed to fit in the Uridium tune and a nice hi-score chart complete with glowing letters and numbers.
Don't bother with imitators - there's only one Uridium. Get it.
A HIGH SPEED SHOOT-EM-UP FROM HEWSON THAT CONFOUNDED THE DOUBTERS
We seem to be seeing a lot of games at the moment that were deemed impossible to create on the Spectrum even six months ago. Uridium is such a game and the fact that it has been converted so effectively from the Commodore would seem to suggest that the rule book on what is currently possible on the Spectrum will have to be rewritten yet again.
All this is good news for the game player as standards are rising significantly and Uridium is a shoot-em-up which is surprising both in its speed and subtlety.
As with the best arcade games the plot is almost irrelevant, but for the record the solar system is under attack from huge platform spaceships called Super Dreadnoughts. The aliens need the earth's mineral resources and each dreadnought is assigned a different metal are to collect. This gives the game its structure as you are put in command of a Manta Class space fighter and sent out to destroy first the Lead dreadnought then the Zinc and so on.
The action plays from left to right as opposed to the more traditional vertical shoot-em-up game. Your first objective is to knock out the enemy fighters which protect the dreadnought and then destroy the surface defences. The deck of the dreadnought is studded with structures that you can collide with and there are also generator ports which if you are unlucky enough to activate them dispense homing mines which unless you can outrun them, blow you to smithereens.
Once you have fought your way through all this you fly off the end of the dreadnought and the instruction 'Land now' flashes up. It's then time to double back and land on the main runway of the ship's deck. Even when you think you've accomplished this a mine may be activated and destroy you as you land. Successfully landing enables you to vaporise the dreadnought.
As described. Uridium may sound like 101 other shoot-em-up but it distinguishes itself both by its speed and the manoeuverability of the fighter under your control. A particularly neat touch is the fighter's method of turning - a smooth acrobatic flip which means you can literally turn on a sixpence even when travelling at speed.
The graphics too are impressive with a lot of detail. To avoid attribute clashes Uridium is fashionably monochrome with a change in colour to indicate level changes.
The game can be played with either joystick or keyboard with one or two player options and it's definitely a game that will spark endless squabbles over whose turn it is next to have a crack at the dreadnought.
Uridium proves there is still a lot of life left in the shoot-em-up format especially at this level of sophistication and it is highly recommended for anyone with an itchy trigger finger.
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