Tuesday 19 May 2015

Cybernoid - The Fighting Machine (Hewson, 1988)

Designed by Raffaele Cecco and Nick Jones for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Programming by Raffaele Cecco. Music by J. Dave Rogers.

Converted for the Commodore 64 by Nicholas A. Jones, with graphics by Hugh Binns and music by Jeroen Tel.

Converted for the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga by Tony Cooper. Graphics for the Amiga version by Stephen Robertson, and for the ST version by Stephen Robertson and Tony West.

Converted for the Nintendo Entertainment System by Chris Harvey with artwork by Adrian Carless. Published by Acclaim Entertainment in 1989.



This month's already half-way through and we're only getting to the second entry now. And it should be an interesting one, since it's the first comparison from a Hewson game - kind of surprising it took me this long to get here, but there you go. Cybernoid was always a C64 game for me due to the awesome Jeroen Tel soundtrack, but then I have never really played any of the other versions, so it's about time I took a proper look at them. I'm aware that Retro Sanctuary has made a comparison of Cybernoid a long time ago, but it doesn't feature the 16-bit versions in it, and besides, this will be a different view of the game anyway.

As I'm starting to work on this entry at the end of April 2015, the ratings at our favourite websites are: 8.44 from 170 votes at World of Spectrum, 16.54 out of 20 at CPC-Power.com, 6 out 10 at CPC Game Reviews, 7.6 from 84 votes at Lemon64, 6.4 from 25 votes at LemonAmiga, 7.1 from 10 votes at Atarimania, and finally, the NES version get a B- rating at Questicle. So, from all this I gather that we should be expecting a Spectrum masterpiece if anything.



I never really paid much attention to what the game is all about - to me it's just a flip-screen shoot'em-up, in which your job is to collect as much of stuff dropped by killed enemies as you can, before you unload your ship at the end of each of the game's three levels. The official story goes like this: "Federation storage depots have been raided by pirates, taking valuable minerals, jewels, ammunition and the latest battle weaponry. You have been commissioned by the Federation to retrieve the cargo and return it to a storage within a specified time limit."

Hewson games were known to introduce some new elements to gametypes that had been done often enough before. What Cybernoid had was four different special weapons in addition to your regular weapon, a couple of different shield mechanisms and a possible rear firing extra gun. It also featured obstacles you had to shoot through in order to make progress, as well as all the randomly appearing pirate crafts and indestructible defence mechanisms. The game also has a time limit, within which you need to complete a level in order to have any chance of completing the game.

I shall have to be honest with you: this game can be aggravating and frustrating to the point where exaggerations cease to exist. But at the same time, the gameplay is so good that it's practically idiot-proof, were it not for all the random non-patterns of the enemies and the actions of the Federation defence systems. It's one of the least well-aged games from Hewson, but it does still offer a very different experience where shoot'em-ups are concerned. In that sense, Cybernoid is very much recommendable, but I can't say it's a particularly enjoyable game in the long run.



If there's one thing I can confess to have always been highly disappointed about this game is its loader. Earlier Hewson games used to have completely unique loading screens, and some of them had multiple ones to accomodate full instructions and whatnot. Well, at least there were such things on C64 and Spectrum; I confess my experience with the Amstrad in this regard has been practically non-existent. But anyway, Cybernoid only featured a regular loading screen, if that.

Loading screens, left to right: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 (re-release), Atari ST.

It's a rare occurence when a C64 version of a Hewson game doesn't feature a proper loading screen on the initial release; the one you see above was made by Stephen "SIR'88" Robertson for one of the re-releases of the game. Curiously, the AMIGA version only has a green screen for the entire duration of the loading, while the ST version has a nice rendition of the cover picture. And now, here are the obligatory loading times for the original tape versions of the game...

C64: 4 min 43 sec
CPC: 5 min 31 sec
SPE: 4 min 43 sec



Your Cybernoid ship is controlled with either a joystick or a keyboard setup of your choice, but using the keyboard is the preferred choice here. Not because it makes the Cybernoid easier to control - it's all the same, really - but because you will need to be using the keyboard for changing the special weapon every now and then. The basic controls are fairly simple: you only need to use left, right and up for controlling the ship, because gravity will always pull you down. Fire button works in two ways: short tap of the button will fire your primary gun, which is only effective in destroying all the small enemies; and keeping the button down for a longer period will use the special weapon.

Choosing a special weapon happens by pushing the numeric keys from 1 to 5. Behind key 1 is your default special weapon, the bombs, which are able to destroy large defence emplacements. The maximum amount of bombs is 20, and they can be fired consecutively, so you might want to be careful with them. Note that while the bombs will always move forwards from your ship, they will either fall down (gravity again), or go up, if you move the ship upwards when shooting the bombs. Behind key 2 are impact mines, which are used mostly for killing those small enemies, so the usefulness of this item is mostly questionable. Behind key 3 is the defence shield, which can temporarily render your ship invincible, so you can pass through bullets, enemy ships and defence droids. Behind key 4 are the bounce bombs, which I think are probably the most useful special weapons in the game, as there are certain bits in the game that can be difficult to get through without one of these. Finally, behind key 5 you can find the seeker missiles, which are similarly useful against large defence emplacements as bombs, but if there is something closer to your ship which can be construed as an enemy target, the seeker will go for that instead, even if it's of less consequence to you.

In addition to your default equipment, you can occasionally pick up an additional weapon that is placed at your ship's rear, so it fires regular bullets backwards. Also, you can find sort of ball-shaped shields lying around, which you can also pick up to get that shield circling around you, destroying every destroyable thing it can reach. Enemy ships will often drop not only these two equipment items when destroyed, but also extra ammutions and shields, as well as lots of cargo items, which you need to retrieve as much as you can within a time limit in order to be able to pass each level.

The three levels of the game each feature more screens to get through than the previous: on the first level, there are only 15 screens, the second level already has 23 screens, and the final level has a rather bothersome 34 screens, which should bring even the most hardcore gamers to their knees without a cheat mode.

It's difficult to say, which version came first - the SPECTRUM or the AMSTRAD one, so I shall assume they were created and released at the same time. As far as I could tell, the two versions play very much the same, just as they should, since they were both programmed by Cecco himself. The only notable difference on the AMSTRAD is that using the shield doesn't give any sort of visual sign that it's actually in use, but it's effective for the exact same amount of time. But everything necessary about the two originals has already been told, and the rest will be told during the comparison.

Compared to the Cecco originals, the C64 version plays surprisingly differently, and it's about 50/50 how the good and bad differences go. The most instantly notable difference to the originals is the screen size, which has forced all of the rooms to have been redesigned to feel more at home on the slightly wider C64 screen. Often, it can be a good thing, but there are some occasions when the original room feels more to the purpose. Of course, some might easily argue the opposite, but it's just my experience. It doesn't really have all that much difference compared to, for example, the falling speed of all the collectable objects, which is the same as what the Cybernoid can descend, whereas in the originals the items fall at a slower speed than your ship. Thus, collecting any items in a room where the bottom is completely open to the next/previous screen on the C64 is impossible, if the falling object starts descending from below your altitude, giving the original a rather notable advantage. Another notable advantage in the originals is that the enemies drop cargo items more often than in the C64 version, making a successful level completion fairly possible. Also, there often seems to be more bullets flying on the C64 screen than in the originals, but I might be wrong there due to the bullets looking quite a bit different - or it could be that certain rooms feature different sorts of enemies that like to shoot more than in the originals. But in any case, it does feel slightly more difficult in certain areas. Speaking of shooting, the #1 special weapon (bombs) fly out in a milder curve than in the Cecco versions, which is not necessarily either a good or a bad thing, just different and made to accommodate the version better. The best enhanced feature on the C64, at least to me, is the second circling shield ball, which isn't featured in either of the Cecco versions. The other enhancements have more to do with the size and design of certain big defence mechanisms and aliens. Also, the hit detection is just a tad loosened up from the originals, so it's slightly easier to get through the narrow sections with security drones going up and down. Finally, solid terrain objects are now more effective at keeping enemy bullets from reaching you - in the originals, the enemy bullets would often go through walls and kill you, so the C64 version is a bit more logical in this. So, while it looks like there are more positive differences on the C64 than negatives, the negatives have more weight, thus making the overall experience less rewarding.

When I first tried out the 16-bit versions, I didn't really know what to think, so great was the inital shock of seeing how different the game looked and felt. If we don't take the graphics into account just yet, it's easier to analyse the feel of the game. First off, you will notice that it's a bit slower to play than the originals, but after a while, it doesn't really matter, because the game has been balanced nicely to fit the new pace. Here are the positives: the falling speed of the collectable items has been corrected from the C64 version, the random shooting of the security cannons has been changed to more logical and sedate pace, you can now collect up to three shield balls, the shields are effective for a longer time, you get six lives to start with instead of four, and the amount of special weapon bullets (and shields) has been doubled. Well, at least they could be considered positive, if you wanted to make the game easier. However, there are some rather worrying negatives as well, for example: the hit detection is now a bit too sensitive - you can get killed by an enemy flying about 4-5 pixels away from you. Also, some of the rooms are either missing some important elements or then they have been added some, making the game's progression often feel completely different. And depending on how much you latch on to certain keyboard configurations, it could also be considered a bad thing that the special weapon keys have been assigned to the first five function keys (F1-F5) from numerals. There is just one fairly notable difference between the AMIGA and ATARI ST versions: someone forgot to include the rear cannon into the AMIGA version. Oops.

There is also one massive difference in the 16-bit versions to the 8-bits, which I'm sure some of you have been as happily unaware of until now as I: a fourth level, which adds up the amount of playable rooms to a whopping 96. It appears that the AMIGA and ATARI ST versions also feature an actual ending screen of sorts, which the 8-bit versions are completely devoid of, but I have only seen it on the internet. That said, the ending is not worth the bother of playing through the game if you're not trying to complete it just for the sake of completion.

Cybernoid isn't exactly the sort of game you would expect to find on the NES, which is why I nearly forgot about it and thus accidentally left it to be the last one to compare. While testing the said version, my suspicions of badness were only confirmed. I didn't have to go further than the start menu of the game to find something completely different from the original: a difficulty level setup, which is the only menu you will get. No choice for music or sound effects or different control methods or anything. So naturally, being the easy-going gamer that I am, I chose the easy level. The game turned out to be appallingly difficult even on the easiest level (which I will talk more about in a second), so I took a look at what sort of difference would it make to pick the higher difficulty levels. The only notable effect was less time for completing a level. At least the game always starts with nine lives, as if it balanced the game. Anyway, the NES version plays quicker than the original, and after a session of either of the 16-bit versions, it feels almost like controlling a lightning. The speed isn't the biggest problem here, though; it's the way enemies spawn on the screens where they do. Already in the second room, you get attacked by a constant stream of enemy ships, with almost no place to hide, so you practically need to waste one shield in the second screen already. Not a good sign to begin the game with. Also, all the enemies move around at speeds almost impossible to react to, unless you slow the game down on an emulator. There are some other unfortunate exclusive features in the NES version that I came across, but I'm pretty sure there are some that I couldn't get to. It's just too difficult to bother for too long with. There are only a couple of curious things probably worth mentioning that I came across: first, there are at least two different sorts obstacle bricks you need to break, the other of which needs to be destroyed specifically with the bombs; and second, the mines have been replaced with a special weapon called "Genocide", which kills every enemy on the screen at once.

Of course, I still need to talk about the NES controls. The NES pad doesn't give you five buttons to choose your weapons from, so you need to use the Select button to scroll through your arsenal. You can pause the game with the Start button to keep the time from running out while browsing through the weapons, which is a nice feature, but which would be a bit useless, if the timer ran a bit slower or if the NES had a keyboard. To make things even more unnecessarily complex, both of the pad's fire buttons have been utilised for the regular cannon (A button) and the special weapons (B button), probably to minimize the possibility of accidentally firing the specials. Since the game has no autofire feature, I wonder how did they come up with this masterplan, but I suppose everyone is supposed to have a pad with turbo buttons. Well, since the buttons are there, I guess it's only logical to use them somehow, but I do think it's a bit unnecessary.

For the most part, the Cecco originals are the best versions around, at least when it comes to playability. All of the conversions do feature some interesting differences, which make each of them worth taking a look at, and might even work so well to some people as to make certain non-originals their favourite. The AMSTRAD version loses by a hair's width to the SPECTRUM version due to the non-existent shield effect, making the otherwise uncomfortable C64 version practically equal to it. The only thing that makes the C64 version potentially rise above the other 8-bits is that it suffers no slowdown from a higher amount of action on screen, but then it rarely features as much of action as the originals. The 16-bit versions are unnecessarily long, but apart from the slightly annoying hit detection, the gameplay is as good, if not better, as in the originals. So, it's a close one...




Since Cybernoid's graphical design is mostly science fiction, I feel it's not my job to say what's good and what's not about each version - I honestly think in these cases, one version works just as well as any other. It's only the details, colours and visual effects I need to worry about.

Title screens and high score tables, left to right:
ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Amiga/Atari ST, NES.

All versions of the game start similarly enough - a fairly traditional title screen with a bunch of options. Only the NES version differs from the form in any radical manner by basically dedicating 75% of the title screen to copyrights and all that other necessary fluff, and giving the fairly useless options screen lots of room for additional decorative animated graphics, and a small space to show the highest score of the day instead of giving us a full high score table. This is all good if all you require from a game is lots of graphics, but frankly, the NES version has this section mostly a bit useless.

Compared to the originals, the SPECTRUM version has a scrolling conveyor belt of sorts circling around the title screen, with everything necessary regarding the makers and the copyrights included in the same screen with the main menu, which is insanely effective compared to the NES version. Sure, the title logo itself might not look quite as detailed and colourful, but it's still stylish and effective. In the menu, there is a highlighted item marking the chosen control method, which flashes through about five or six colours in quick succession. The high score table shows 10 names in the same font as is used in the title screen. These two screens change back and forth within a cycle of about 30 seconds, with more time given for the menu screen. The AMSTRAD screens go through a cycle of about 25 seconds, which is still more than enough, but they have no visual effects whatsoever - what you see in the screenshots here is what you get. The colours are different, the title logo is missing the subtitle, and there's not even an option for joystick controls, so there is no flashy highlight for the menu items. But it does its job.

The C64 version has not only the circling conveyor belt thing featured throughout the title bits, but it has also an entire screen dedicated to credits. All three screens are looped in 15 seconds, showing 5 seconds of each screen at a time, so it's a lot quicker in this than the Cecco versions, if it makes any difference to anyone. The title logo is missing the subtitle again, but the C64 conversion makes up for it by bringing the logo down to its place from the top of the screen at the very beginning of the intro. There are also a bunch of stars flashing on the screen all the time, which is the only case on the 8-bits when something like this occurs.

For the 16-bits, the original subtitle has been put back in, and the title logo looks big and brilliant. There isn't much of life on the screen in any other form than the stars spreading out from the middle, which looks a bit awkward and makes all the text feel like a background. Neither of the 16-bits feature a scrolling conveyor belt, but they have some new and strange artwork decorating the left and right edges. I'm not a fan of disgusting red tentacles and weird brown matter, but I suppose it's thematic enough considering the in-game graphics.

The first two screens of the game edited together, left to right: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64.
The true state of differences is revealed once you start the game, and the graphical differences only get increasingly massive as the game progresses. Due to the size of the screenshots and the differences even between the AMIGA and ST versions, I chose to split the screenshot collages into two parts, so it will be easier for you readers to see what I'm writing about, and easier for me to write.

As usual, the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM graphics represent opposite camps. The SPECTRUM version concentrates on pixel perfect details and radically different colours to make everything look as clear as possible. All the sprites are monochrome as usual, and colour has been used to good effect. The AMSTRAD version has less details, but more colours, which are used inspiringly all over the game. Some of the design choices aren't necessarily as interesting or pretty, but for the most part, the Amstrad version has been restyled to its advantage. However, the Amstrad version has no animations in the enemy sprites, which is a big minus.

Although the C64 version looks a bit dull and colourless apart from the purple backdrop, the graphic design is smoother and less forced to look as good as it can. I like the C64 version of the Cybernoid ship better for one reason - it has not been attempted to look 3D in any way, because it doesn't need to look that way in an otherwise completely 2D game, and the overall metallic blue looks smoother than the original more "realistic" looking Cybernoid. But it doesn't look much like the Cybernoid in the cover art. While the C64 version "suffers" from a similar problem with big pixels as the Amstrad version, the shading is less radical, and the enemies are neatly animated, so it works better overall. All in all, the SPECTRUM version has the clearest look of the three, the C64 version looks the smoothest, and the AMSTRAD has the most colour.

The first two screens of the game edited together, left to right: NES, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga.
Curiously, the NES conversion has been mostly styled after the C64 conversion, but the rooms have more space in height, and there are some really strange design differences. The most curious ones are in the top panel, particularly the time counter, which now features numbers instead of a five-step meter with colours. Also, someone with a weird sense of humour decided that it was a fun thing to feature ACME boxes in the game instead of the proper item containers.

The in-game Cybernoid ship looks the closest to the cover art on the 16-bits, which feels a bit weird at first, if you have gotten used to the 8-bits, but if you want to have something that's shown in the cover, get yourself one of these. As you would expect, the 16-bit versions look easily superior to the 8-bits, but that said, they have a less organic look to them. I'm not sure which one of the lot has the best design, but each has their own good and bad points. From the two 16-bits, the AMIGA version looks a tiny bit more impressive due to a single raster bar behind the top panel, which changes its colour every now and then. There are some other strangely obvious design differences in the two versions, but I really have no preference here, apart from the strange omission of the rear cannon on the AMIGA version.

Some environmental differences, left to right:
ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, NES, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga.

Perhaps these screenshots are not the best examples to show the environmental differences, but it does offer enough to give you an impression of what to expect. Seasoned Cybernoid players will already know that the chosen shots can be located from the end of level 1, the beginning of level 2 and somewhere from the middle of level 2. The idea here is to show the differences in screen size, decorations and overall graphic design.

Compared to the original SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions, the C64 version is clearly wider, the NES version is vertically more spaceous and the 16-bits have more space in both ways. All the versions have been modified to make use of all the available space, but it's often clear that the wider screens are more useful in this case.

Although you can only see it in the top row pictures here, the C64 version (and therefore the NES port of it in turn) takes some liberties in adding some green growth in places, which makes the environment look more alive and breathing, even without any animations to the additional graphics. The big yellow thing that looks like a beehive in the originals has been turned into something a bit more green and alien on the C64 and NES. The beehive idea was kept for the 16-bits, but it was made into a more monstrous version of it with fangs and some scary animation.

The 16-bits have a re-designed starting platform, which is a bit strange, but it does look good. Between the two 16-bits, these three screens only seem to feature one barely notable difference - the security rockets look a bit smaller in the AMIGA version. Also, I have to mention one thing regarding the NES version for the level 2 starting room, as it affects the gameplay quite a lot elsewhere as well: the security rockets have their own shells from which they emerge. These can be difficult to destroy. Also, most of the rockets on the NES version do a wavy movement when they fly at you, which makes it difficult to evade them.

The bottom row in the above picture shows us the only enemy sprites on the AMSTRAD that are animated in any particular way, and even here the security droids only have a flashing headlight switching between red and yellow. Otherwise, the NES version has any radical differences to see here. Obviously, I chose to die in this room to get some screenshots of the Cybernoid's death animation, but I didn't expect how difficult it would be to get any sensible screenshot out of the NES version. It only splits the Cybernoid ship in four parts and quickly blasts it off in all diagonals, much like what happens with your car in City Connection and numerous other early NES games. It's cheap and it looks bad. All the other versions have a properly long and impressive explosion animation. The other differences in the NES screen of this room are obvious, but let's point them out anyway: the gaps between the poles are larger and there are less poles to pass through here. It's not any easier for it, though.

Cybernoid's special weapons, as shown on each version. Note that in the C64 and Spectrum versions, the shield
makes Cybernoid flash in multiple colours, and on the NES, the flashing is only red and blue.

I took some time to compile this set of pictures to show all the special weapons from all versions, because just regular screenshots would have been a bit unclear and too large. To me, the most interesting bit here was finding out the very few differences between the 16-bit versions. As I expected, there were only two different looking specials for each, the more obvious ones being the shield, which is something you will be using quite often. The Seeker weapon is also a bit different, but it's so fast that you'll barely be able to see them in action.

Of course, all the 8-bits have very different-looking specials as well, but in all honesty, I think the C64 and SPECTRUM versions have the most showy ones in context. Curiously, in the NES version, the Seeker looks nothing like the rolling shield (them being a lot smaller), while in all the other 8-bit versions, it is the same object. Then again, the NES version has no mines, and the Genocide special has no other effect than all the enemies exploding on the screen like they normally would do.

Level completed - good and bad versions. Left to right: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64.

At the end of each level, we get to see your Cybernoid ship descending a service chute or whatever it is, and land at the bottom. The screen features some sparse decorations, which are familiar items from elsewhere in the game. In the case of the 8-bit versions shown above, the decorative items are defence rockets and another decorative item with no other function. In the C64 version, the useless decorative item is at least a biological one, which can be destroyed elsewhere in the game, and is thematically consistent and more interesting.

However, the most interesting part of this section is the text below the action screen. In these three versions, the mission rating text will appear once the Cybernoid has reached the bottom. Depending on your collected value of cargo, the appearing text will be accordingly appreciative or depreciative. In the SPECTRUM version, the texts are of a different colour, and even the bonus points are highlighted in yellow. The AMSTRAD version says "Bien jove" instead of "Well Done", as well as "No chance" instead of "Bad luck", and while both texts are of a similar colouring, they are multicoloured and have all the numerals highlighted in red. The C64 version has the most boring texts, all of it being in greyscale with slight shadings, but no highlighted bits and not even punctuation.

Level completion screens, left to right: Commodore Amiga (good), NES (bad), Atari ST (bad).

For the life of me, I could not pass a level in the NES version with even the slightest possibility of getting enough cargo, so the only screenshot for it is the failed completion. I tried to search for it from the internet, but it seems no one else has been able to successfully complete a level either. I suppose it tells a lot about the game, but if it needs to be made perfectly clear... The ratio for cargo item drops from destroyed enemy vessels is somewhere around 1 to 20. Even though the game is pretty quick, it doesn't help that there is a timer for you to stay in each room before your ship spontaneously explodes (the NES version actually warns you of it), so in order to get through a level without dying once, you cannot stay around to collect cargo on the rare occasion when you can do so. Anyway, the level completion screen is boringly undecorative, and unfortunately, I cannot tell whether this is the case for a good completion screen.

As for the 16-bits, I thought they looked similar enough in any case so there was no need to show them both. There's only the successful completion screen for the AMIGA version, and the unsuccessful one for the ATARI ST. Much like every other aspect of the game's graphics, they look much better on the 16-bits, and feature much more graphics than the 8-bits. The security cannons on both sides of the chute are animated to fire every few seconds, too.

Amiga level 4 screenshots and the ending screen, copied from Hall of Light.

And here are a few pictures showing some of the extra material in the 16-bit versions, if anyone's interested. As you see, it's pretty much just more of the same in a new environment, and a bad ending screen on top of it. I copied these from the Hall of Light screenshots page, because for some reason I couldn't get past one block in level 3, which was supposed to be a destroyable one. But apparently, someone has gotten past it, so I guess I can't reconsider the playability based on my own inabilities.

There are some other bits that I know I have missed here, mostly because I want something to be left for everyone's own discovery, if there happens to be someone out there who hasn't played Cybernoid yet... but also because I have better things to do with my time than to dig out every detail in the game. The most obvious omissions here have been the metallic centipedes, the destroyable blocks and the cargo items, but since they're all just part of each version's own design, I'll leave them for you to find out.

It is clear that Cybernoid is a Spectrum game by design, since it's a flip-screener instead of a scroller. Any conversions for more powerful machines, or even less powerful ones, would be of little use in terms of appliable resources, but the game is good, and so it has plenty enough of conversions. Sure, the 16-bits have an undeniable advantage in many things, and win many battles without a fight, but when you consider each version on their own terms, you will find plenty to be impressed about. And this is how I would see this lot, realistically considered in the game's terms:




Having played the C64 version first and most, I will probably always link the game with the fantastic Jeroen Tel tune, but after having gotten used to the original theme tune by J. Dave Rogers, I think it's only fair to say it's quite as catchy, melodic and fitting for the game as the Jeroen Tel tune on the C64. The original theme tune feels more like it could be a synth-rockish theme from a mid-1980's crime comedy/drama show (as a Matt Grey'ish sort of a rendition), while the C64 tune feels more timeless with its clear early techno-like chord progressions, a disco-beat based rhythm track and almost Jarresque melodies.

Strangely, the 48k SPECTRUM tune sounds almost completely different to the 128k tune - probably because it is different, and clearly shorter, but it has a similar feel to it than the 128k tune. Even more strangely, the title screen is completely still while the 48k title tune is playing, and only starts the animations once any key has been pressed to allow any progression. The 48k SPECTRUM version only has familiar splurty sound effects in addition to the almost separate title tune, but the 128k version plays enhanced sound effects while also playing the title tune in the background. The 128k version also has a strange Game Over tune (or sound effect?) which has been made to sound like someone is laughing at you, and a rather annoying little tune that plays a single melody on a seemingly randomized chord progression. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to choose either sound effects or music - they come together or otherwise you will get no sounds at all. It's the same thing in the AMSTRAD version as well, but from what I could tell, the Amstrad version has an overall more percussive sound, which, at least to my ears, works a bit better than the 128k Spectrum version, but I know some people will disagree on this view so I'll give the 128k Spectrum and Amstrad a tied spot.

The C64 version, on the other hand, gives you the option to play either music or sound effects during the game, but not both simultaneously. It's understandable, though, because the three-channel SID chip would have only made a sorry mess of the brilliant music by switching priorities for every sound effect with some instrument from the tune. You also cannot turn the sounds completely off either, but I think that option would have been a bit silly in any case, since the C64 doesn't play the sounds from within the computer - you can just mute the sound from your TV or monitor, if you want to have peace and quiet. In which case, why would you play a shoot'em-up in the first place? Before I move on, I would like to point out that there is one other tune in the C64 version, which is a short and sad little Game Over tune, which does offer a little welcome break from the otherwise ever present title tune, if that is what you have chosen to listen to.

If the unfortunate gameplay of the NES version wasn't enough to alarm you, the soundtrack should give some additional warning. There is a title tune, which can only be toggled by pressing the Start key during play and pressing the B button afterwards. It is a unique 3-minute tune in 5/4 time signature, and it is a bit repetitive with no percussive sounds in use. It can be argued, whether it is any better than the very basic shooting and exploding sounds, coupled with a constant warning-type low-range siren going up and down. It's just painful to listen to for more than three seconds, and since the music is barely more acceptable, it makes the NES version feel nothing more than a wasted opportunity.

You might be surprised to know, but only one of the 16-bit versions feature any theme tune, and it's on the ATARI ST. The conversion team decided to go with the original theme tune in a slightly rearranged form, but it's only natural that with the additional memory and other capabilities, it also features some new unique music as well for the bit where you enter your name for the high scores list. The sound effects aren't too shabby either, just not sampled ones like on the AMIGA. The sound setup in the main menu is a bit confusing, and doesn't always work as it suggests. A couple of times, I have managed to get the game completely silent, even though the menu showed me that the sound effects were off and the music was on, but I have never managed to get any in-game music to play, so I guess either the version I found is faulty or the game was released unfinished.

When it comes to music, you cannot really say which version is better from the rest, because the C64 version has an entirely different theme tune to the Cecco other versions with music, making it a matter of taste, and the original theme tune sounds pretty much the same on each of the three computers it was made for. So, I'm going to have to base the scores here this time on whether the version in question has any music at all, and how well the sound effects fits each version.




Right, it's time to look at the final overall scores again. This time, I think it's all pretty much what I imagined it would be, even if the chosen method of giving scores is a bit questionable in its reliability. As I mentioned before, Retro Sanctuary has made a comparison of this game earlier, with a bigger emphasis on the graphical aspects, but no mention of the 16-bits, so you are advised to go there if you're interested in another view on the game.

1. ZX SPECTRUM 128k: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 9
1. ATARI ST: Playability 3, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 9
2. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 2, Graphics 2, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 8
3. COMMODORE 64: Playability 2, Graphics 2, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 7
3. COMMODORE AMIGA: Playability 2, Graphics 3, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 7
4. ZX SPECTRUM 48k: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 6
5. NINTENDO: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 3

While there are many aspects to Cybernoid that still makes us old-timers feel all warm and fuzzy, I have to admit that the game hasn't aged too well. It's hard as nails most of the time, and unfair in a similar manner to Rick Dangerous, but the graphics make our imaginations jog a bit and the music (not counting the Amiga and NES versions) can be considered two of the best chip tunes in 1988. Precisely due to these things, Cybernoid has a way to get under your skin, even if it's not a very often recurring addiction. Those of you who actually manage to enjoy the game, will be happy to remember that there was a sequel called Cybernoid II: The Revenge released in 1988 for all the same platforms except for the NES.

That's it for now, hope that wasn't too bad. Next time, there's another big one coming up, so watch out for that. While you're waiting, well... you know.


  1. amazing work!

  2. Replies
    1. Uridium is on my to-do list, but I don't know when will I get to it, if I will.

    2. Ok, since I wanted to know if you going to do a comparison of some of Braybrook's games, such as Uridium or Paradroid.

    3. Yeah, Braybrook is one of my favourite C64 game designers, so I'm not very keen on writing about his games, since I'm not sure if I could do them proper justice. But Paradroid I have mentioned in my first Unique Games entry, since it never had an actual conversion for any machine, only redesigned versions. http://frgcb.blogspot.fi/2014/01/unique-games-part-1.html

  3. Would Paradroid 90 for the Amiga and Atari ST count as a conversion or a redesigned version?

    1. I'd say it's a complete redesign, maybe even a sequel. The title alone would suggest it's more of a sequel than anything else.

    2. What about Encounter by Paul Woakes of Novagen (Same guy who did Mercenary: Escape From Targ)? It was released for the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit computers in 1984 and later ported to the Amiga and Atari ST in 1991. The C64 version may be the first game to use the Novaload turbo loader (Novagen was the company that made Novaload.).

    3. Interesting... I thought on doing a comparison of Encounter about a year ago, but somehow completely missed the existence of the 16-bit versions, so I didn't think it back then that it really had much potential in being an interesting comparison. I'll put it on my to-do list, but I'm not sure when, if ever, will I get to it. If you read the comments section in Barbarian, you would know that I'm currently contemplating on leaving the blog. I might still come back after my summer break, but the break could be longer than previous year, and my writing pace could be much decreased. In any case, your comments are noted, so thanks for the interest.

  4. Very good review, for a very good game.

  5. Thanks a lot for this awesome post, friend. It truly resonates with me, maybe you also like rsgoldaz.com

  6. this review gets the amiga version totally wrong.

    It looks like you are using a cracked version where there is no music (if i read your comments right - it is there but simply not in-game) and the shields dont look right. You also mention missing rear cannons which simply isnt correct.

    Scoring it below the ST version is frankly insane, given they share the same graphics and much of the game engine (except where the amiga enhancements are)....

    1. Sorry if there's something wrong about the comparison, but I wrote as I found. If I've been using a cracked version, and if it indeed it is to be blamed for this lapse, it's because I hadn't found an original or an image file of the original for the occasion. Tell you what - send me a full, original version of the Amiga disk as .adf and I'll correct what needs to be corrected. My e-mail address can be found in the sidebar, although of course you need to drop the obvious bits.