This is an isometric arcade game set in the futuristic city of Amaurote (named after the ideal city from Sir Thomas More’s Utopia). You control a robot walker, the Arachnus-4. Your task is to clear each of Amaurote’s 25 sectors which are under attack from marauding alien insects.
I chose this game because I played it briefly at the time and was intrigued by it. It felt like I was controlling a powerful robot in a strange alien world. A world with fields, highways and strange buildings to explore. I imagined I could pick up more powerful weapons and fight more interesting enemies as the game went on.
The graphics are superb for the Spectrum. The Arachnus-4 moves and animates beautifully in 4 directions. The sectors of Amaurote all look suitably alien and otherworldly with strange and intriguing free-standing structures. At the time this would have been a stunning looking game. The colours of the world change depending on which sector you are in but you can alter them yourself if you wish by pressing the ‘V’ key. The buildings and trees are also destructable but destroy too many and you’ll get into trouble and it will be game over.
You clear each sector by killing all the enemy insects with your bouncing bombs. This is tricky because you can only fire one bomb at a time and they bounce (they can easy bounce over your target) *AND* they are slow moving so you have to time your shot perfectly. Your first task should be to destroy the queen. Once you have done this no more insects can be produced. However the queen is invulnerable to your standard bombs and you’ll need to radio in for a Supabomb – which is delivered from your mothership and arrives by parachute.
Once the queen is dead you’ll have to mop up all the remaining insects to clear the sector. Sadly this is quite tedious since the alien insects become even harder to hit once the queen is destroyed. Rather than coming straight for you – which makes it easier to kill them – they now run away in unpredictable directions.
Disappointingly and contrary to my original expectations, you only really have the one weapon – your bouncing bomb – and it can’t be upgraded. Also there is only one enemy type which looks like a fly. These can fly or hover.
There’s no music. There are some fairly basic sound effects when you fire a bomb or blow up the enemy insects. Nothing special.
Three Moments From The Game
1. Kill The Queen!
The alien queen produces both drones (walking insects) and fliers (hovering insects). Kill her to stop the insects being replaced after you kill them. She can only be killed with a Supabomb.
In the above screenshots the Arachnus-4 destroys the queen using the Supabomb. You only get one chance so don’t miss!
2. Tricky Terrain
Alien insects can walk anywhere but your walker can only walk one-way down these furrowed patches (see the below screenshot). Your walker also can’t walk over the stony patches (not pictured here). This makes it even harder for you to pursue fleeing aliens.
3. Using your Radar
Your radar has 3 ‘Seek’ modes – Supabomb, Aliens, and Queen. You can flick between them to locate each respectively. The arrows show the way you should be going. Below the Arachnus-4 is searching for a recently parachuted-in Supabomb. The arrows point the way.
Interesting Fact: – the Supabomb can also be used to destroy the fence surrounding each sector but you’ll meet an invisible wall if you try to escape through the gap.
Amaurote seems to have reviewed very well at the time receiving 90%,92%,100% from the 3 main Spectrum magazines: Your Sinclair, Crash and Sinclair User respectively. Sadly it’s one of those games that has been fairly obviously over-rated. It was an impressive technical achievement but even at the time the gameplay wouldn’t have been much fun. The control of the spider robot combined with the awkward key-selection used for control makes it cumbersome and unresponsive. Add to this the difficulty of hitting anything with your bombs, means a game that isn’t much fun to play.
Probably the most annoying thing about the game is should your bouncing bomb miss it’s target – you’ll have to wait up to 5 long seconds until it explodes before you can fire another one. By then you’ll either be under attack yourself or your target will have escaped.
Amaurote is fun for a short period of time, but by the time you’ve managed to clear the first sector it’s unlikely you’ll want to continue with the other 23.
How I Would Improve this Game
Well I assume there are memory issues with adding much more to the game, because it seems like the animation of the robot would have used up a fair amount of memory. But in an ideal world I would like to see more enemy types, maybe even some kind of gun emplacements that fire at you. Some moving or animated environmental hazards that you have to dodge past would also have added extra variety to the gameplay. The game also needs upgrades to your basic bomb. The Arachnus-4 could badly do with a straight firing missile, and some other weapon upgrades too, A flame-thrower would be a great short-range weapon to to torch insects with for example.
A major problem with the control-method is that the walker has to walk a step in a direction before it can then fire in that direction. This seems like a pretty basic gameplay flaw that could have been easily fixed. Just overall better control of the walker would have made a big difference to make the game less frustrating. Lateral movement would also be very useful.
48K or 128K?
The 128K version gets added cut-scenes before you start a level and also when you blow up the insect queen. It’s debatable whether these are a good thing or not. Personally I prefer no cut-scenes. However the 128K version does also get a David Whittaker tune, which while not one of his best, does sound suitably mysterious and other-worldly.
It’s atmospheric and interesting and would have been graphically outstanding game for the time. However the gameplay would always have been stodgy and boring. I have to give this a disappointing. 3/10