Sunday 31 January 2010

Llamatron 2112

A couple of years ago while browsing the internet I was educated about the arcade classic, Robotron 2084. Shortly afterwards, I found myself emulating the game in MAME. Though I was certain I had never played the game before, it seemed strangely reminiscent to something I had somehow played in the past. I quickly stopped caring and went about my daily business until the other day when I accidentally came across this

Llamatron 2112, a clone of Robotron 2084 for DOS made by legendary game programmer/designer Jeff Minter and his company, Llamasoft in 1992. Llamasoft were responsible for many llama and camel-based games during the 80s and early 90s, and Jeff would later go on to create the Atari Jaguar classic, Tempest 2000, and more recently, Space Giraffe.

Llamatron is a game I played very briefly as a youngling, having since completely forgotten about its existence. It's not a game that I owned, but it was owned by the neighbours along with hundreds of other games on the amazing technology that was a CD-ROM. It exists mainly because the only official DOS port of Robotron came out in 1983, and with four colour CGA graphics, didn't really do the game justice.

Having said that, Llamatron is by no means a straight port of Robotron. First of all, it contains llamas and other seemingly random objects. Secondly, it doesn't use the "two joysticks" approach that Robotron was known for, instead simply relying on the arrow keys and a "fire" button. To compensate, there are powerups, and a wide range of strange digitized sound effects, similar to what Jill of the Jungle offered a year later. Some even seem identical to Williams' game.

Though it's not quite as revolutionary as Robotron, Llamatron is still good fun. The problem I assume though is that because it was released a full ten years later, it wouldn't have been seen as groundbreaking, thus being doomed to a life of obscurity from the start. But these days it's easy to find and even easier to emulate, so give it a go sometime.

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