Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 1

 |||   Cybermorph by the Book

 |||   By: Chuck Klimushyn

/ | \  GEnie: L.FULGENZI


It was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I booted up

Cybermorph for Atari's new 64-bit Jaguar. A friend living on the East

Coast had gone to heroic lengths to find and ship it overnight UPS to

ensure that I received my unit on Thanksgiving weekend. I had read all

about the impressive specs in the major gaming magazines, which were

falling over themselves to cover Atari's new cat. I knew however, that

it would be all for naught, and that Atari would have a hard time

getting their new multimedia system off the ground if Cybermorph was a

dud. I anxiously wondered how it would compare to such polished

efforts as Star Fox for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

and Slipheed for the Genesis/SegaCD. Little did I know that I would

find the game play so enthralling that I would spend every free moment

over the next week mesmerized in a virtual universe, liberating

planets from a tyrannical dark empire. I returned from this pleasant

departure from reality to find that I was apparently the first person

on GEnie to have beaten the game.

In their previous AEO articles on the Jaguar and Cybermorph, Peter

Smith and Albert Dayes have done an excellent job describing the

premise and the mechanics of playing the game. There's no need to

repeat what they thoroughly and decisively covered. I would like to

take a closer look at the Cybermorph universe, the interesting planets

(read dangerous planets), special enemies, effective tactics, and

maybe even a cheat or two that will help others make it to the reward

sequence at the end of the game. Along the way, I'll also point out

how my initial anxieties over Cybermorph were groundless and that the

game in almost all aspects, exceeds what the best of the 16-bit market

has to offer.

//// Beginnings

I was struck quickly by two things when I booted up Cybermorph:

first, the terrain. There are polygon rendered mountains, valleys,

winding canyons, small rises, recessed riverbeds and more in the

fifty planets of the game. All are in a wide variety of colors and

shadings. In contrast, the terrain in StarFox is relatively flat, and

in Slipheed it's all a just pretty full motion video that you can only

interact with to a very limited degree. Second, I found I had total

360 degree control over the movement of my ship, my choice of its

speed, and up to a modest ceiling, its altitude. I was ecstatic when I

buzzed a full circle around the nearest building, an impossibility in

either StarFox or Slipheed. At one point, I found myself having a

blast, playing hide-and-seek with a pesky group of interceptors by

weaving around and through a large group of buildings. This is

something I never expected to be able to do on a mere "gaming"


The next thing I noticed was that Cybermorph, ironically, was very

"mendable" to a gamer's playing style. If you like to play slow and

cautiously, scouting areas before committing yourself to an attack, do

so - the game generally gives you total freedom to be as methodical

as you wish. If your reflexes have been honed into deadly weapons from

playing countless shooters on the SNES and Genesis, Cybermorph will

gladly supply all the action you can handle. Speechless, I watched my

13 year old nephew kick the throttle open to a speed I only dared when

I was trying to run from something and proceed to obliterate

everything in sight. He did as well on the first stage, as I did using

a playing style that was somewhere between these two extremes. My

nephew pronounced judgement on the game, saying simply, "this is

really cool!"


//// Stages, Strategies, and Tactics


//// Codes and "the" cheat:

Ok, so you don't want to complete each stage and just want to visit

the few that interest you. Here are the codes for each stage:

  First Stage   = 1008

  Second Stage  = 1328

  Third Stage   = 9325

  Fourth Stage  = 9226

  Fifth Stage   = 3444

The infamous "6009" cheat has made the rounds on most of the

electronic nets. (Later, I'll tell you how to "find" the code hidden

in the game!) Enter this code at any planet select screen and you'll

be transported to a special stage with four identical Saturn-like

planets. Select the one in the lower right hand corner and you'll be

launched on to a planet that is a weapons cache. Not only are there

power-ups for all your weapons, but extra ship tokens too. The

remaining three planets on the stage are hit and run firefights as

you seek the extra portal, but there's no reason to complete them.

Just enter the codes of the level you wish to go to and you'll be

taken there. Interesting, during each gaming session, as long as you

don't reset the game or turn off the power, the program will remember

which planets you've completed on each stage. This allows you to visit

earlier levels if you've started the game from the advanced stages.

You can easily pick up those last few thousand points to gain an extra

ship or more power-ups using this trick (I wish I could take credit

for discovering this cheat, but I read it on the boards too).

//// Stage One

Cybermorph's strength lies in the wide variety of strategy and tactics

a player can employ during the game. This applies not only to how to

complete a mission on a planet, but even how one goes about completing

a stage. Some planets are loaded with power-ups that will be helpful

for tackling more difficult planets in the stage, or the boss at the

end of the stage. Each stage also has a bonus planet which can be

found by locating and flying through a dark blue hexagon (as opposed

to the light blue supply ring). The player will be allowed to enter

the bonus planet after completing the current planet. These bonus

planets are worth locating, often right before completing a stage and

tackling a boss. Except for terrain features, they are devoid of

hazards and not only contain power-ups of plenty, but frequently

valuable extra ship tokens. The only catch is that you must exit

through the portal before the bonus planet's time limit (45-180

seconds) is up, or lose all your gathered goodies.

Stage one is a perfectly balanced introduction to the game. You're

given a variety of moderately tough missions to complete with a great

looking, but none too difficult boss at its end. After becoming

familiar with the controls of the T-Griffon, you may want to think

about completing Kapitol first. Don't let the large number of pods to

be rescued and large number of apparent defenders imitate you. Find

the radar dish on a purple mount and destroy it. Except for fire from

ground installations and a few circling green pod guardians, you'll

have the run of the planet. There's lots of cargo-carriers with power

ups that will help you on other planets of the stage. Lingering on

Olope to find the bonus planet ring is worthwhile as it contains extra

ship tokens (relax Travis, I promise not to tell them were they all

are). Codex with deep winding canyons, and not too many hostiles, is a

good place to build your flying skills. In long and winding canyons

like these, your triple shot is a good weapon to stop packs of angry

interceptors. You can find where the 6009 cheat came from by flying

through a narrow passage tucked between mountains - slip through it to

find a canyon with a big "6009" imprinted on the ground. (Hmmm. A

planet named Codex. A number on the ground there. Must be a code!) Oh,

how could I forget Zuel? Here you'll be introduced to one of the game's

niceties, WORMS!!

Every good game should have a monster or enemy that the mere sight of

which will cause the player's adrenaline glands to kick into high

gear, and Cybermorph does not disappoint. There's no more chilling

sight in the game than to see one of these beasts bearing down on you

like a demon-possessed freight train from hell. Worms are a snake like

string of rounded-triangles of various and changing colors. They're

one of the quickest enemies in the game and have the infuriating

ability to destroy a ship with a single hit by ramming. To make

matters suck eggs even more, worms don't die very easily.

Dealing with worms has been the subject of much on-line debate.

There's no pat answer and the correct response depends on the current

terrain and available weapons. Thunderquakers, one of the T-Griffon's

special weapons, will kill them instantly *IF* you're lucky enough to

have them. Mines are especially effective in canyons and areas with

lots of obstacles, but require ice-water in your veins because you

have to rely on the tactical display of your scanner to judge the

best distance for releasing the mine, while not splattering your ship

against a canyon wall. In open areas you can hit the reverse

thrusters and wail away with incinerators, or lacking them, normal

fire. I have a theory that when the worms change to a dark blue they

are the most vulnerable, but don't go staking your ship on that hunch.

Yes, you can always crank open the throttle and run, hoping they'll go

away... but they don't always. In early stages you can beat a retreat

and often complete the planet, but in later levels you may find two,

three, or more of these creatures drawing a bead on your ship all at

once (at such times I was glad the programmers were kind and included


One last thing regarding stage one: its boss. Gaming purists may

scream foul at the first stage's boss, called a headhunter. It has a

striking resemblance to the last boss in StarFox, namely being a huge

disembodied head. Cybermorph's boss just doesn't sit there and lob

laser blasts at you, though like its counterpart in StarFox, it'll

chase your ship all around the planet given half a chance! It has an

especially nasty attack of disappearing into the ground and deep

sixing you from behind with missile fire. Fortunately, this makes the

headhunter a sitting duck for a few well placed mines. What, you

don't have any mines? I thought I hinted at completing Olope last and

finding the bonus planet ring to prevent such an embarrassing


//// Stage Two:

Ok, you've blown through the first level and wasted the first boss in

a manner that would have made Han Solo proud, and now it's time to get

down to brass tacks. Things quickly get much harder, both with the

fighting and puzzle solving aspects of the game. Here, you're

introduced to the two barriers that form the basis of the game's

puzzles. These are force-fields and spikes. Each is impervious to

almost all direct weapons fire and will destroy your ship on contact.

They must be de-activated by destroying their corresponding control

units. Force fields are controlled by a generator building which is

tall and narrow that's always on the ground. Spikes are controlled by

squat buildings that are always suspended slightly in the air. Taking

out force fields is straightforward, find the generator and kill it.

Spikes have a catch. If you fly too close to a pod that's surrounded

by spikes and trigger them to spring, they'll remain even after you

destroy their control unit. Therefore, you get the difficult task of

locating the control units without getting too close to the pods they

guard. If you fly to a different part of the planet and come back,

the spikes sometimes reset so you can reach the pod. One intrepid

gamer recently posted that you can reach pods in spikes by hovering

over the exact center of the trap and carefully lowering your ship to

the pods. I found it does indeed work! (Thanks, Rick!) In the

pre-launch briefing before entering a planet, you'll generally

informed if there are spikes below, but not always. On new planets you

may want to approach pods with caution as these spikes spring up at

the last second and may impale your ship if you're not quick on the

reverse thrusters.

The worlds in stage two are wonderfully varied. One of the most

difficult is Galitzia. Here you meet jack-in-the-box Joker faces that

lie flat on the ground and "pop up" to spray you with missile fire

when your ship gets too close. Cruise missiles are the weapon of

choice, line up for a torpedo run and release your missile as soon as

the face begins to raise. Hitting the reverse thrust immediately

after this will generally get your ship out of the way of return fire.

Galitzia also has a large number of cargo carriers for power-ups.

Metropol is a test of flying and shooting ability. You have to rescue

all the planet's pods before even one is destroy by vortex towers.

Watch the intro as the T-Griffin is released on the planet to get an

idea of which direction to head first. Taking out the radar tower will

make your task easier.

In fact, Metropol, Fragocia, and Rosam all have radar towers that

should be primary targets. Metropol also hides the bonus planet ring

(oops, sorry about that Travis). On Bross, your scanner is

dysfunctional so you have to locate the pods visually, which isn't too

bad, but finding your escape portal can be trying. Look around the

tall yellow towers. Ulmtri is a test of dog-fighting skills. Keep your

speed up and don't be afraid to use a lot of mines.

Throughout stage two and in later levels you'll meet another rather

stubborn enemy I've nicknamed "pod guardians." These stocky green

ships casually circle pods as their charges. Pod guardians take a lot

of damage and fire missiles at an alarmingly fast rate. Luckily they

are harmless until you decide to fire on them. Those with finely tuned

reflexes may want to try flying in and snatching a pod. I found

cruising over the pod guardians and laying down a mine spread to be

the safest way to take them out. Two or three incinerator hits will

also destroy them if you're the frontal assault type.

That brings us to stage two's boss(s). There are two twinblaster

gunships which were affectionately dubbed "battleships" on Genie.

They guard a number of pods that are in danger of being destroyed by a

vortex tower. Each of these ships has two wing pods that must be taken

out before the boss can be defeated. They're most vulnerable to cruise

missiles and incinerators. They may be attacked from fairly long

range - listen for the auditory feedback of your weapons striking a

target. After destroying both wing-pods, the ship will rush you.

Continue firing at it with incinerators if you have them, and as

rapidly as possible with normal fire if you don't. Remember there are

two of these ships. Attack at an angle that allows you to deal with

them one at a time. If you lose too many ships, retreat and let the

vortex tower destroy enough pods to allow you a retrial.

//// Stage Three:

Stage three includes some of the most innovative planets in the game.

JoJo contains an interesting puzzle of how to remove pods from spikes

without an apparent controller building on the planet. Look in the

hangers for the solution. It pays to spend time on JoJo - if you

rescue all the pods you'll earn a quick 25,000 bonus points.

Greenstone is the "politically incorrect" planet of the game. You have

to rescue pods by destroying the trees they are encased in. (Don't

anyone tell Greenpeace or Al Gore about this.) Greenstone is also

infested with worms, so bring your mines and thunderquakers!

Ladan has a worm or two to boot. You'll have an easier time of it on

Ladan if you follow the blue, then red transporters to take out the

generator of the force field guarding the radar tower. Shooting the

resulting immobile ships is a great way to gain power ups. Spykre

would be an easy planet if it weren't for the worms. Monicalia is one

tough planet too. Look for its radar tower across the river from the

central group of buildings on the planet. If you follow one of the

bridges across the river you'll also find the spike's controller

building. There are a number of cargo carriers on Monicalia for power

ups. The level's bonus planet ring is hidden on Pico (who said

that?!). Lastly, beginning in stage three and on the remaining levels,

don't be afraid to use your valuable thunderquakers if you're

overpowered by a swarm of enemies. You'll often get them back with the

power ups the destroyed ships leave behind.

Ready for the boss planets to get harder? Good, because there isn't a

vortex tower on the planet with stage three's bosses. This means you

only get one chance to beat them. No retakes, bud. You get to deal

with a headhunter and twinblasters. The headhunter is encountered

first. Be careful to destroy it without moving too far from your

launching point, otherwise you may fly smack into a missile spread

sent out from the planet's friendly twinblasters. One more tip on the

twinblasters: attack from a path where you can hit the reverse

thrusters without fear of backing into something. Beat a retreat as

soon as one missile hits the T-Griffon, as two dozen more will be

following quickly.

//// Stage Four:

I found stage four to be the most difficult level in the game (stage

five cuts you some slack, more on that later). Zahav is a tough

dogfight while you search for pods that don't show up on the scanner

screen because they are encased in metallic containers. Follow the

red transporter surrounded by tall yellow towers, to help find a few

hard to locate pods hidden in the planet's mountains. Your launch

point on Squib has you facing a ton of tempting pods. DON'T rush to

them. The pods are guarded by spikes that'll impale your ship.

Instead, take the red portal and locate a flat area with four yellow

towers along its perimeter. The pod carriers will helpfully remove

the pods from the spikes and drop them in this area. Olyotris may be

the toughest planet in the stage. There are a large number of trapped

pods guarded by overwhelming numbers of interceptors. Learn to destroy

the pod's shackles from a long enough range that won't bring a flock

of interceptors down on your head. Then open the throttle, grab the

pod, and back out before you attract too much attention.

I found Olyotris so tough, I took the suggestion in Cybermorph's game

manual and tackled the planet first. If I lost too many ships, I

restarted the level before moving on. The T-Griffon's scanner is

jammed again on Grand Piten. To make matters worse, there's a couple

of worms that attack from behind. You may want to set mines as your

default weapon and make frequent use of your aft viewer. On Grunge

there are no hostile enemies, just pod carriers and vortex towers. The

carriers drop pods into the fields of the vortex towers at a rate that

will test your flying skills. If you rescue all the pods you'll pick

up 15,000 bonus points. (What, I didn't spill the goods on the stage's

bonus planet ring? Well, it's on Olyotris but you may find your hands

full just trying to deal with the interceptors on the planet).

Hee, hee, hee. Just wait till you meet stage four's bosses - mutated

worms!! Like stage three, there isn't a vortex tower, so you get only

one chance at these babies before having to do the whole level again.

Stay in the open. Each segment of the worm must be destroyed, one-at-

a-time. I still like the advice I posted on GEnie after getting by

these suckers:

"Bring plenty of mines, kick the throttle open, and don't look BACK!!"

//// Stage Five:

Ok, I promised you a break on the fifth stage. The layout of the

planets are the most devious of the game, but most of them have

vortex towers with a very high percentage of pods to rescue. So, if

you lose too many ships let the vortex fields take out enough pods and

redo the planet. Just make sure when you sit down to complete this

level you've got a good three to four hours of free time. <grin>

Booshka may be the weirdest planet of the game. You've got one pod to

rescue among what seems like hundreds of hangers. Keep shooting the

hangers and looking for transporters that are hidden inside them until

you come to an area marked by two criss-crossing canyons. You'll find

the pod hidden in this area. Don't attack the hangers from too close.

They often contain nasty surprises. On Eeelaaz, your scanner will be

jammed again. Keep checking the two passages that run through the

central mountain range if you're having trouble locating those last

few pods. I've got two things to say about Janwelch. Blue-yellow-

blue, and if you don't mind dodging worms, you can find the stage's

bonus planet ring (well Travis, it's the last one, I might as well

tell them).

Thetazan is a frenzied race against time. Look for a force field

generator not too far from your launch point and destroy it. There's

a red transporter that will take you to the opening of a mountain

canyon. Take it, but *avoid* collecting pods and fighting with as

many hostiles as possible. You've got to get to the end of the canyon

as quickly as possible. Don't worry - everything will be there on the

way out.

On Gantlet, you'll need a building detonator to complete the planet.

There's two ways to accomplish this task. One: fly down the very long

and dangerous canyon marked by the tall yellow towers to obtain a

detonator power-up, then fly back through the same canyon and down

another long and dangerous canyon to reach the trapped pods (wrong).

Two: before leaving Thetazan, shoot one of the several cargo carriers

which has the detonators as power-ups, then go directly to Gantlet

(right). In addition, stay slightly to the left as you fly down the

canyon. There are a couple of sets of spikes that pop up as you fly

over them.

Hellfire was my favorite planet of the game. Its color scheme is

foreboding shades of red and black that get darker as the vortex

fields spread. You start off dealing with a headhunter and then must

spend the rest of the planet dodging missile fire from the overly

numerous Joker faces. There's no easy way to complete the planet. If

you get off Hellfire with just losing one ship, count yourself lucky.

Everything comes together with the bosses for the last stage. Your

flying and fighting skills must exceed anything that's been required

of you so far to make it past the two headhunters, two twinblasters,

and a few worms while rescuing your pods from the vortex towers.

Saving the pods will have to be your first priority. You can only lose

a few before having to restart the planet. There's not enough time to

destroy all the enemies on the planet and still save your quota of

pods. You'll have to snatch them from the fields of the vortex towers

at close to top speed while running a gauntlet of missiles sent out

by the twinblasters and being pursued by the headhunters. You may be

fortunate enough to take out the headhunters with mines while they

trial the T-Griffon, but don't go out of your way - save the pods


Skylar will let you know when you're close to the required number. If

you've taken too much damage, allow the pods to be destroyed and

restart the planet. Once the pods are safe and your ship is still in

good shape, you can concentrate on the bosses themselves. Use the

tactics from previous levels and all your wits to get by the

twinblasters and worms. To trigger your escape portal you'll have to

kill *all* the enemies on the planet. If you get off the planet you'll

be taken to a short reward sequence.

        Congratulations and welcome to the rank of CYBERJOCK!!


//// Improvements and Conclusions


Cybermorph easily surpasses similar games in the 16-bit market. No

other game available provides its unique combination of freedom of

movement, variation of terrain, and options for tactics and strategy.

Even so, it is lacking a few "finishing touches" that are common in

top-of-the-line cartridges. Most notable is the lack of in-play

music. One has only to listen to the soundtrack of StarFox or Batman

Returns (SNES) to know how much a good musical score can enhance game

play. Extended and compelling introduction and reward sequences are

now considered almost a necessity for a game to be labelled "great" by

current standards. Some may argue that such things are merely wasted

memory, but look at the intro for Super Empire Strikes Back (SNES) or

Flashback (Genesis) to see how they set the proper "mood" for their

games. Cybermorph lacks any type of extended introduction sequence and

the reward sequence is far too short. Lastly, a shooter's bosses need

more variation. Cybermorph's headhunters and twinblasters are fine,

but they're recycled too many times.

That being said, Cybermorph is one heck of an engrossing pack-in and a

great preview of things to come for Atari's new gaming console.

Looking at the game as it runs on my television, I can't help but

sense that the end of the 16-bit era for home video games is near.

Let's wish Atari well in making the "next level" of gaming theirs!

(No scores provided...)

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