Morpheus (Rainbird) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

Commodore User

By Rainbird
Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #53


After nine months of intensive design and programming, followed by a three month legal tug o' war, Andrew Braybrook's long awaited follow-up to AlleyKat finally sees the light of day. The reason for the lengthy gestation period is that Morpheus is far more involved than previous Braybrook offerings - it's much more than a run-of-the-mill blaster, which is why a hefty manual forms an integral part of the package.

The objective is to shut down the fifty levels of the Morpheus universe and ultimately destroy Morpheus himself. Each level comprises a nucleus surrounded by an arrangement of orbitals, with aliens patrolling the vicinity. A level is completed by destroying the requisite number of orbitals, thus forcing the nucleus to shut down.

You start with a basic ship, armed with a single, orbital and alien-destroying laser. Extra equipment can be bought and bolted onto the ship - provided you have sufficient funds and the ship's hull is large enough to support any additions. Points, and more importantly money are earned by shooting aliens and completing levels.

There are two types of equipment available: Weapons and Systems. The weaponry ranges from multi-directional, rapid fire laser guns to intelligent smart bombs and remote droids which can be controlled independently of the ship. On the Systems front there are shields, tracking devices, movement to energy converters, solar cells, devices to confuse aliens, and a host of other nifty hi-tech gadgetry. However, the equipment takes time to build, so you have to survive in space long enough to collect anything you've paid for in advance. This results in many tense moments, especially when your energy level is low and you're on the brink of death, fighting for survival.

The basic ship isn't capable of carrying any other weapons and can only support one extra system. So you have to buy one of the three larger hulls - the largest capable of carrying four weapons and seven systems.

Being able to modify the ship in this way is one of Morpheus' most appealing aspects. The feeling of power is unmatched as your ship gets bigger and bigger and more and more powerful. And you certainly need the equipment. As time passes, the aliens become more intelligent, and more aggressive with it. They also gradually become immune to older weaponry, which causes no end of problems when wounded aliens start spewing bullets everywhere. Fortunately, as the technology improves with time, so does the service, and it doesn't take too long to build other equipment.

The idea is to build the best ship possible before you take on Morpheus on level 50. However, by Timeslice 50 (roughly 100 minutes of play) no new equipment is produced, so you have to buy old stock, and by Timeslice 60 you simply can't buy any more weapons or systems. So, speed is of the essence. It's not wise to hand around on the earlier levels for long, as when you get to the later levels the aliens prove far more formidable.

Morpheus is not a game which can be mastered in one easy sitting. It takes time to familiarise yourself with the inertial control mode and the unique playing environment, in particular the aliens and their many characteristics. The action varies from quiet and ominous to very hectic and nerve-racking, and the feeling of being there, in the thick of it all, is ever present. All the usual Braybrook polish is present, too, with a pleasant attract sequence and the ubiquitous plethora of options. Steve Turner's sound effects are first class, with an atmospheric heartbeat sound during play, and a piercing scream when the nucleus concedes defeat and shuts down the level.

Morpheus reek of quality and the professionalism. Andrew Braybook has excelled himself and produced his most playable and involved game to date. My only criticism is the lack of a load and game save facility - it's quite disheartening to build up a decent ship only to make one small mistake and lose everything. Still, there's a chance that the disk version at least may support this option.

It would be all too easy to overlook Morpheus and dismiss it after only a few plays. Its many subtleties are what make Morpheus so absorbing, and put it in the same class as such timeless classics as Elite, Mercenary and The Sentinel. While it may well fail to appeal to shoot-'em-up fans who like their action a little less subtle and more immediate. Morpheus will certainly enthral those who get hooked for many months to come.

Gary Penn

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