Sunday, 25 August 2013

Gommy Medieval Defender (MSX)

"Let's rock!" The sampled voice at the beginning of early nineties Amiga coverdisk game Ork Attack plays in my head every time I fire up Gommy Medieval Defender. I used to play Ork Attack to an eye-bleeding extent and to see a game very similar to it appear on the MSX is exciting indeed!

There's something primevally satisfying about belting enemies on the head with a rock as they try to scale the walls of your castle. Like a hard-coded impulse in the mind to really get jollies from defending a huge pile of masonry. Maybe that's why we're such territorial dicks at times. Retroworks' Gommy Medieval Defender, which recently came fourth in this year's MSXDev coding contest, has a direct line to this ancient butthead sector of the human brain and is a clobbering good laugh.

Gommy Medieval Defender fits slick, stripped down and fast gameplay onto 16 kilobytes of cartridge space, and sees the player controlling Gommy, the lone defender of Gommyland castle, as he runs back and forth on the battlements tossing rocks down at the invading foes. Whereas Ork Attack (and I know both games do have a common ancestor on the C64) gave the player an option to summon a sword from a sidekick to fight enemies who had scaled all the way to the top of the walls Gommy doesn't have this luxury - it's rocks to the head or nothing, with enemies successfully scaling the wall meaning instant death. There's a decent difficulty curve and a surprisingly large number of stages for such a tiny game.

None of this stopped me failing horribly the first time I ran into a boss fight, as Gommy climbed surprisingly into a cannon and I panicked and just kept hitting the space bar, quickly learning that every time you miss the big boss you lose a life. This is a particularly nice touch, a well implemented turnaround from the frantic back and forth of the main levels which calls for a steady hand and good timing.

The graphics are cute, a little on the crude side but there's character enough in Gommy to make him a likeable little protagonist, not that the game's pace gives the player much of a chance to eye up the hero, as the stream of green meanies and skeletons just doesn't quit until defeated. Palette changes keep the graphics varied, with a shift over to black and blues at one point early in the game making for a really effective short stage of night levels with enemies and blocking walls not so easy to spot (at least for this short sighted games writer!)

The soundtrack is bouncy and gels well with the pace of gameplay, and in fact created an illusion of the game playing faster with the sound turned up! Either that or playing it in silence made it a more tense, slow paced affair. I've played a few of the MSXDev entries from previous years and while this doesn't feel like a winning game, it certainly holds its head high up among the runners up. It's solidly built, well designed and, most importantly, a lot of block rocking fun.

Download the game here (from the website).
Run it using blueMSX (freeware).
3 out of 5