Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Degz (Atari Jaguar)

It was back in the bleak December of last year that I reviewed Kobayashi Maru, a 360-degree shooter for the Atari Jaguar with bright, summery graphics, and so it seems fitting that now in the sweltering British "summer" I'm having a crack at a Jaguar game set in the cold vacuum of space.

Degz is both an homage to the classic arcade game Scramble and a demonstration piece to show off the RaptoR engine that the game's producers Reboot are working on, and comes packing a solid, atmospheric chiptune soundtrack to go along with its fast-paced sideways-shooter gameplay. And what gameplay! I actually hurt my hand playing this game. That's not a flowery confabulation, I literally got cramps in my left hand from hammering the fire button (there's a version of Degz with autofire enabled for those of us who don't want to ruin their careers as hand models or whatever) and still with a hand that keeps clawing up and making me wince as I type this I can't hold it against this fun little blaster.

Degz retains the fast, laser-spamming gameplay of Scramble's original cabinet incarnation and lashes the whole thing with a sonic and visual makeover that gives the Jaguar free reign to show off its strengths. The starfield background is distractingly, crash-causingly impressive as it goes through smooth transitions from light to dark, and the realistic explosions from Kobayashi Maru (also by Reboot) make a return as the Reboot guys begin to carve out their own unified visual style.

The soundtrack passes my "leave the game playing while you do other stuff" test; creating nice sci-fi backing music for doing futuristic stuff like making a bagel or paying the window cleaner. It's a mean and moody, beepy pulser of a soundtrack, and the sound effects merge with it brilliantly, especially the sounds the bombs make as they fall- it's like you're adding little musical licks to the background tunes with every warhead you dump on the enemy!

Then there's that Easter Egg to talk about. I'm sure half of the internet knows about this already, but for the unenlightened here it is. There's an unlockable Nyan Cat mode!

I won't tell you how to do it because there's always fun in solving these kinds of things, but flying everyone's favourite cat/poptart hybrid over an alien moon firing Hello Kitty faces and dropping explosive hearts on your enemies is exactly as fun as it sounds. I may or may not have clapped my hands like a child the first time I activated Nyan mode.

As appears to be a running trend with Reboot games, there's a lot of artfulness packed into a deceptively simple looking bundle. Like Kobayashi Maru before it this has left me very excited to see what the Reboot chaps are going to come out with next. Incidentally, it took two days for my hand to stop cramping up at random moments. Thanks Reboot!

Download the game here (from the Reboot website).
Run it using Virtual Jaguar (freeware).

4 out of 5