Battlemorph (CD)

Atari Jaguar CD

from AEO magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9

 |||   Jaguar Review: Battlemorph

 |||   By: Charles Wells

/ | \  GEnie: C.WELLS10


Battlemorph takes place thirty years after the original Cybermorph.

It seems that with the T-Griffon fighter, Earth was able to push back

the Pernitian invasion. After that, the Earth Defense Council built a

fleet of battle cruisers to patrol the colonies as a deterrent against

future invasions. For some time, things were peaceful, but it was not

to last. The trouble began in the Perseus Star Cluster. Several battle

cruisers disappeared in that area, and Pernitian activity was reported

in eight different clusters of worlds - then all contact was lost with

those worlds. The last remaining cruiser has been by the defense

council on a search and destroy mission, starting with the Perseus


This battlecruiser, the Sutherland, has a very special cargo - the

newest version of the T-Griffon, known as the War Griffon. This ship

comes with morphing technology, customizable weapons bays, underwater

capability, and built-in satellite mapping hookups. By the time you

reach the Perseus cluster, the Sutherland has almost totally exhausted

her energy reserves, so you must defeat the Pernitian general in each

of the eight star clusters. This will give you enough energy to reach

the Pernish cluster, homeworld of the alien menace. It's up to you to

stop the threat at its source, once and for all!


//// Starting Out


Battlemorph, like Highlander, is playable in several different

languages: English, French or German, selectable from the options

screen. Once you are ready to start your first game, you'll be able to

enter your name in a screen very similar in layout (and sound effects)

to the one in Blue Lightning. There are five Save Game slots available

if you are using the Memory Track cart, which is highly recommended!!

There are also three difficulty settings (Easy, Medium and Hard), so

those who may not be familiar with the original game can tinker around

on Easy, while Cybermorph vets can plow right in on the higher

settings. There is a box on the right side of the screen which gives

you information about the Save Game slot you currently have

highlighted, such as the weapons you have accumulated, ships in

reserve, etc.

When you start the game, you will move on to the planet select screen.

As in the original game, you can pick any planet in any order you wish

- each planet has its own mission to complete. You must finish off all

the planets before moving on to the next cluster of planets. Each

cluster has its own general, or "boss", to defeat for valuable plasma

energy which the Sutherland needs. When you select a planet you want

to play, you will be given a briefing on the mission objective for

that planet. If this doesn't sound to your liking, you can come back

to this one later - just select Reject and choose another planet. Once

you've decided on the planet you want, it's on to select your weapons.

Your War-Griffon has a built-in twin shot cannon. In addition, you

have four weapons bays to customize as you wish, with the exception

that you can't choose a weapon more than once. Also, you have to find

weapons in this game, so when you start out, you won't have a weapon

for every bay. You start with cruise bombs (great for knocking out

tanks and buildings) and decoys. Decoys are really neat - duplicates

of your ship, they fly around for a brief time and are great for

dodging homing missiles and nasty kamikazes. Although they can't shoot

enemies, decoys can fly through forcefields for you to get at

power-ups you'd normally have a hard time getting to (if you can get

them at all). There are many weapons to be found later on in the game

(in the form of fragments which must be collected) including mines,

mortars and flame-throwers.

Control is similar to the original, with the keypad heavily

utilized. (The game comes with an overlay to help out.)

A moves the ship forward

B fires your selected weapon

C moves the ship backward

Option selects the Map mode. This is a satellite's view of the

landscape of the world, highlighting important structures, items and

objectives. When you move the pointer around on the map screen, your

radar's white arrow will point to it.

Different buttons on the keypad select between your four weapons bays,

turn your targeting crosshair on/off, cycle through several different

cockpit views from your ship (plus a few overhead views). As is usual,

the buttons are customizable to fit different tastes. I'm happy to say

that the new ProController is supported and works quite well. The

Options screen also lets you customize several other things, such as

the volume levels for the music, sound effects and Skylar, or turning

the Cinemas on or off. (I leave them on, since you can bypass them

with a button press if you wish.)


//// The Game Screen


The majority of the screen is taken up by your view of the world. A HUD

at the top of the screen displays your score, your ships in reserve,

and your radar. Skylar (your talking computer, who still looks kinda

like Sinead O'Conner) also pops up from time-to-time here with helpful

comments. (Or the occasional trash talking.) The radar will be

familiar to Cybermorph veterans - skulls are enemies (red ones are

hostile, green are passive, a skull with yellow eyes is an enemy

carrying a powerup), red dots for enemy shots, diamonds are power-ups,

and rectangles are special buildings. Powerups and buildings only show

up if you've collected an enhanced scanning powerup. A closed yellow

arrow points to your mission objective (or to the exit, if the

objectives have been found).

The instrument panel at the bottom of the screen has been changed

a little from the first game. It looks cleaner, less cluttered. There

are readouts for speed (forward or reverse), altitude and energy. When

all your energy is gone, your ship is destroyed. You lose energy from

enemy fire and from crashes. There are "monitors" which display your

different weapons bays (including ammo levels for each weapon), or

other special objects you've collected (such as data pods, batteries,

weapon fragments and keys).

The middle of the screen is where your ship resides. As it flies along

in the virtual worlds, it morphs as it changes velocity, climbs, dives

underwater, etc. As before, the game is not on rails like other games

of similar nature (i.e., Starfox on the Super NES) - you can fly where

you want, when you want. The only real restriction to this is your

ship can't fly above a certain altitude, so certain mountain ranges

will block or hamper access to some areas. If you fly past the

boundaries of the world, you will "wrap" around to the other side. Not

being on rails opens up many possibilities on how you choose to play

the game. You can fly along rather leisurely, exploring every nook and

cranny. Or you can be very quick and aggressive, blasting non-stop as

you fly by enemy tanks, only to turn around to pick off the ones you

missed on your first fly-by.


//// Powerups


Powerups are floating cubes texturemapped with differing icons on

them. Some are floating around on the planets when you arrive, others

are dropped when you destroy enemies or buildings. Simply fly through

them to pick them up. Ammo pods supply whatever is pictured on the

pod. Occasionally, these pods will cycle through different kinds of

ammo or energy for your shields. Hint pods, which are textured with a

big question mark, will display a hint for the planet you are on. Keys

open the locked security domes on the surface (or doors in the

underground tunnels), and look like... well... big keys of different

colors. Magazines increase the maximum amount of ammo you can carry

for your weapons.  Rapid fire is just that, and works for the entire

level once you pick it up. The powerup with the big eyeball on it is

an enhanced scan, which increases the effectiveness of your radar.

Batteries are used in the power stations. Place one in a power station

to activate the station (or remove it to cut off power to certain

things like forcefields). Weapon fragments are very valuable, find

four and when you get back to the Sutherland, you'll have a new weapon

to use in your fight against the Pernitians. Also keep an eye out for

gold-colored War Griffons; picking one of those up will net you an

extra ship! The rings from the first game are back, too; blue (power)

rings increase your energy back to full and flashing (speed) rings

boost you to incredible speeds, during which you are invincible!


//// Buildings and Special Objects


You will encounter many different buildings in your travels, including

power stations and power lines (which may need to be shut down in

order to drop a forcefield somewhere on the level), teleporters,

security domes (needs a key of matching color to open it), bridges

(blow 'em up and watch the enemies stupidly drive off to a watery

death, hee hee), underground tunnel entrances and a variety of

different bases and silos which launch tanks and fighter craft. There

is also a special building known as a planet cloaker. Take this sucker

out and a bonus planet will be revealed on the planet selection

screen! (The "Tree Planet" is funny...death to all trees! =)

As mentioned earlier, your War-Griffon can now go underwater - this is

really cool and has a nice underwater blur effect (like in Missile

Command 3D), plus bubbles, fish swimming around, and aquatic plants

gently swaying in the current. There are different types of water,

too. Some is acidic and drains your energy, while others heal you or

have a viscosity that allows you to fly through it as if it were air.

Tunnels are another new way of commuting. They are often blocked by

several different types of doors, and are texture mapped and probably

the coolest looking areas in the game. Movement through them is

extremely smooth and fluid - my favorite ones are the dark corridors

with the lights on the sides of the walls.


//// Enemies


There is a wide range of enemies out to do you in, some slightly

familiar. In addition to the standard tanks, destroyers, subs and

fighter craft there are some interesting foes such as fans (which blow

your ship around), worms (remember them? heh heh), leeches (drain your

energy), springs (pop up out of the ground and skewer things, like

your ship), bandits (steal your weapons!) and more. As before, some

enemies are pretty passive, while some seek you out with a vengeance.


//// Graphics and Sound


Graphics are pretty faithful to the original game, with the Gourad

shading on the terrain being very impressive. There seems to be a much

better use of color this time around, too. The water is now animated,

and there is quite a bit of texturemapping on the enemies and

structures. The cinemas, tunnel and underwater sequences are all also

very impressive. Rather than just a black sky on the horizon, there

are now assorted mountain ranges, planets and more, which really adds

a lot to the look of the game. The framerate and terrain pop-up have

even been cleaned up since the original game. There are also a lot of

nice touches in the game. I like flying just above the surface of the

water so that you are barely skimming it, leaving a wake behind you.

In-game music has been added to the game, which was one of the major

things missing from Cybermorph. The music in Battlemorph is excellent,

and there appears to be a wide variety of different tunes. One nice

touch is the music changes when you fly either underwater or through

tunnels. Sound effects are also very good, with nice use made of

stereo and depth cueing. I love to listen to this game on a pair of

headphones through the Catbox.


//// The Good, the Bad and the Overall


Well, I honestly don't have anything really bad to say about this

game. The main complaint many people had about Cybermorph was that it

looked like they rushed it out the door, which meant things like

in-game music, polished transitional screens and other minor details

didn't make it into the game in time. That is not the case here, and

there is an obvious... well... attention to detail <g> in this one.

The gameplay is very solid and will offer many repeat playings. This

game also proves you don't have to texturemap everything into oblivion

to make an excellent game. If I was Atari, I would make sure this is

one of the Jag titles that gets ported to the other platforms.

Battlemorph is easily the best game for the Jag CD yet. Fans of the

original will flip over this one.


//// Final Ratings


        Title: Battlemorph                      Jaglink: No

    Developer: Attention to Detail              Players: 1

 Published by: Atari                              Media: JagCD

       Retail: $59.95                       Availability: Now

 A Summary of Ratings:

              "*" is a whole

              "+" is a half

              5 stars Maximum

 Graphics - ****     Nothing mind-blowing, but very good nonetheless.

    Audio - *****    Excellent tunes and voices, very good sound


  Control - *****    Easy to learn, very precise, flexible, supports

                     the ProController.

 Gameplay - *****    Even better than the first! Not on rails, set

                     your own pace, tons to explore and do, selectable

                     difficulty levels.

  Overall - *****    The best Jag CD game yet and one of the best Jag

                     games, period.

Pts Stars  AEO Ratings

""" """""  """""""""""

 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.

  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.

  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.

  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.

  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.

  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.

  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.

  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.

  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.

  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.

  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.

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