Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/20/review_igamer_llamasoft_minotaur_2112/

Minotron: 2112 on iOS 4

Blast from the past

By Andrew Bailey

Posted in Games, 20th April 2011 06:00 GMT

iGamer A psychedelic 8-bit arena shooter featuring amorous ungulates and minotaurs in rainbow-coloured jumpers. The more you try to explain a Jeff Minter game, the more ridiculous it sounds.

Llamasoft Minotron 2112

No need to dust down your Amiga or Atari thanks to the Minotaur Project

For over 20 years, his company Llamasoft has created digital nonsense: games that defy explanation and split opinion quicker than you can spread Marmite on toast. And Minotron: 2112, the second iOS game to come out of Llamasoft's Minotaur Project, is no different.

The philosophy behind the Minotaur Project is simple: to make new games in the style of old hardware, to recapture the pure, abstract aesthetic of gaming's early days and serve it as a nostalgic counterpoint to today's reality-laden gameplay experience.

The first release, Minotaur Rescue, was a delightful blend of Asteroids and Defender served up in an Atari VCS style with a novel touchscreen control scheme and Minter's trademark bizarre art direction.

In Minotron, Llamasoft raids its own back catalogue to re-imagine its classic Amiga and Atari ST shareware title, Llamatron: 2112 – itself a reworking of the original arcade twin-stick shooter, Robotron 2084.

Llamasoft Minotron 2112

8-bit graphics, tasteful as ever

Minotron's premise is, if predictably nonsensical, at least uncomplicated. You need to guide your Minotaur through 99 cluttered arenas, rescuing various cloven-hoofed Beasties while clearing each stage of Gruntles – an 8-bit motley crew of 1980s gaming and pop-culture ephemera, from space invaders and manic miners, to coke cans and even giant Mandelbrot fractals.

More complicated, unfortunately, is the adjustment required by Minotron's unique control system. A new take on the standard twin-stick scheme, the first finger to touch the screen moves your Minotaur, while the second directs your bullets. It's a clever way to instantly interchange controls and avoid losing any action under a finger, but years of twin-stick muscle memory proves difficult to unlearn, and it's a novelty that won't please everyone.

Llamasoft Minotron 2112

Numerous levels maintain the challenge

A variety of power-ups and obstacles are added to the mix to provide tactical variation between levels. Raindrops, screen-bisecting lasers and suicidal running men all increase the chaos, while collectibles such as three-way shots, bombs, invincibility and extra lives ease progress through the game's stern test of skill and reflex.

Despite its game of yesteryear punitive feel, there's also plenty for casual players to enjoy. In Simplified Mode, players only have to avoid enemies, with aiming and firing controlled automatically, whereas Assisted Mode tempers the challenge by providing an indestructible helper droid. Even on Hard, completion is made tantalisingly possible by an option to resume after defeat at the highest level reached, albeit with only one life intact.

Minotron's real compulsion arrives not from its mechanics or difficulty, however, but from its playful, esoteric nostalgia. From the Intellivision title screen and the phosphorous afterglow of text, to the 8-bit speech synthesis and arcade sound sampling, the game is a treasure trove of 1980s gaming.

Llamasoft Minotron 2112

The eternal pocket money challenge

You might struggle to place every reference, but if, like me, you misspent your youth in front of a Colecovision and your pocket money in dingy Fairground arcades, you'll instantly recognise them all.

Verdict

Whoever said nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days had clearly never heard of Llamasoft's Minotaur Project. As with Minotaur Rescue, Minotron delivers an authentic 8-bit trip down memory lane, pixellated warts and all. Minotron may feel like a unpolished blast from the past, but it is also, happily, just a blast. ®

iOS and Android - Reg Hardware's resident game guru, Andrew Bailey, will be making his pick from all the key mobile gaming platforms every month.