Saturday, 23 February 2013

Goldrunner Theme

I think it's fair to say that there were more than enough shooters saturating the arcades and home consoles in the early days of videogames that it's difficult to find some standout and unique examples of the genre that were not just clones or ports of their arcade counterparts. This is probably in part due to the standout success of Space Invaders, Galaga, Galaxians, Defender and the rest, with all of these coming to Commodores, STs and Amigas at some point. To say it bluntly, I think it was quite difficult to come up with something different for home video game makers in their bedrooms.

That aside, Goldrunner is one of those rare examples of a fairly original, top down, space-style shooting game that exists only on home computers that is actually good and fun to play. Featuring a very characterful soundtrack that only the YM chips of the Atari ST can produce (read: square wave blips and bloops), Goldrunner invited you to blast away at your fictional enemy's buildings and battle stations while avoiding indestructible landmarks that punished you for using your boost to get away or fly around endlessly. Destroy enough towers, devices and buildings and the exit opens up to escape to a bonus round. Add in the colourful assortment of fighters and UFOs that peeled off in different directions and left bombs all over the screen and you can start to get a real sense of panic as you avoid enemy fire, shoot enemies and avoid smashing your goldrunner craft into the nearest tower.

Of course, the slow, pounding theme music keeps on going throughout the game and due to the limitations of the Atari ST sound chip, it uses the noise generator to do drums and explosions, so the drum parts do drop out as you smash away at the buildings. This aside, the game keeps you hooked with sampled speech, pushing you on as it praises "you're doing great" or punishes "don't fail now" for game performance. Again, for a game that was quite early on in the development of the Atari ST, it's great to see things like sampled speech in games - something of a rare treat for home computers as I have previously covered in games like Starglider.