Friday, February 6, 2009

Drelbs (C64, 1984)

Remember last time when you were CJ the elephant? No more! Now you are a drelb. Don't know what a drelb is? I'm afraid I don't know either. And i can't really tell from the graphics. It looks like a cute puppy robot, to be honest. Anyway, it seems that the drelbs are some sort of tribe and they have been captured and imprisoned. And it's up to you to save them, cause you're the only free drelb available.

How do you do that then? Let's see, the game is basically divided into two distinct types of play. There's the main levels, and then there's a sort of mini-game that serves as the bridge to proceed to the next level. You could describe the main levels as Pacman variants, though that would oversimplify things. Basically you run around a static screen and you're being chased by enemies (whose number and speed increases with each new level). There's a grid which is formed by lines - which you can move to form solid blocks. The main idea is to form as many solid blocks as possible, while also avoiding being caught by enemies.

The first beautiful element of the game is that it allows for different strategies. Say, do you form a big fence to trap enemies within? Or do you form narrow corridors so that you have more freedom of movement? You get the drift. The second beautiful element is the furious feeling of claustrophobia as the chasing gets more and more hectic with each successive level - accompanied by psychedelic visuals and sound effects. And the in-between mini-game? It's a Space Invaders variant, whereas you have to free as many drelbs as possible (set in formations) whilst avoiding guardians that shoot at you.

We played this recently in the Lemon-64 gaming competition and to be honest I wasn't expecting much from such an old game. But i was wrong! This is a brilliant concept and very addictive. Though, it has to be said, it's better suited for competition play; trying, in other words, to beat somebody else's high score. I'm not so sure how many times I'm gonna load this solo.


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