There is a very high probability that you have never played a game called ‘Katakis’. The reason why not is because it was a blatent rip-off of that classic shoot-em-up ‘R-Type’ and was never published, but rather pulled from the shelves for copyright infringement.
The reason I mentioned Katakis here is because a similar fate might almost have befallen another game. In the late 1990s, the company Psygnosis was due to publish a shooter called ‘Draconia’. One reviewer described it as “a quite brazen rip-off of R-Type and went on to mention that each level “has the name of a coin-up company named after it [‘Jungles of Capcom’ for example]...Someone had better hops that arcade manufacturers have a sense of humour”.
Well, I guess that sense of humour was lacking because I never saw ‘Draconia’ on sale in the shops. Presumably, this blatent rip-off of R-Type suffered the same fate as Katakis.
Almost, but not quite. Psygnosis did go onto release a game called ‘Menace’. In this side-scrolling shoot-em-up, the player must fight their way through several stages, with names like ‘Sea of Karnagh’, ‘Ruins of Kruger’ and....’Plateaus of Draconia’.
Aha! I am guessing that the company tweaked the original game so that it was not quite the brazen rip-off of R-Type it started off as.
Anyway, enough history. What was ‘Menace’ actually like? Well, it’s safe to say that it still owes a lot to that classic shooter R-Type. At the very start your ship is launched from a mothership that resembles a giant woodlouse (because, I guess, why not?) and you must fight your way through wave after wave of enemy attacks.
So far, so typical. But Menace did add one or two twists. The main one was that you did not have infinite ammo. I know in modern shooters it’s typical to have to resupply limited ammunition but this was unknown when Menace came out. In this game, at the bottom of the screen were three bars showing you how much ‘shield’, ‘cannon’ and ‘lasers’ you have left. In order to replenish these, you had to pick up these packs. They contained eiher ‘1000 point bonus’, ‘cannons and energy’, ‘speed up’, ‘outriders’, ‘force field’ or ‘full shield power’. Whenever you shot these containers you would cycle through the inventory options, so the trick was to shoot them the right amount of times to get the item you needed.
There was some great enemy designs in this game. You fought your way through an undersea level with jellyfish and crablike monsters, industrial-looking levels, and one bizarre level where the enemy consisted of skulls and bones!
Naturally, at the end of each level there was a boss, whose demise was ensured by learning to work around its attack patterns and exploiting a rather obvious weak spot.
Gameplay-wise, you knew what you were getting into here, as the game trod very familiar paths. Since it very much resembled one of the best shoot-em-ups ever, Menace could not help but be pretty good. Indeed, when it came out there weren’t that many shooters available for Amiga owners, so it’s fair to say it was amongst the best of a paltry selection.
Gripes? Well, the music was not all that, and it was the same old tune for every level. It got on my nerves before long. Also, the pace of the game was maybe a bit slow for those used to the frantic pace of, say ‘Defender’ Myself, I was Ok with the pace of Defender, but then I was never that great at split-second twitch gaming.