Tag Archives: Acclaim

Cybernoid: The Fighting Machine Review


Hewson. That isn’t a name that many people remember but it was an important one. Back in the mid 1980’s home computer gaming was on the rise. Computers were more capable than game consoles, and did more than play games. Families were opting into them as parents could figure out their finances on them, as well as work on them. Their children could do homework, run educational software, and of course play games.

Many developers cropped up out of this environment, as they could affordably code their own software. In the USA home computers would spare Activision from the console market crash, as well as allow Electronic Arts to slowly build its empire. It gave way to independent publishers too like Cosmi who would put out a lot of great budget titles. Japanese companies like Konami, Capcom, SEGA, Technos, and Taito would see official ports of their games on computers. But in Europe computers would prove arguably even more popular. Time Warp, Rare, Firebird, Codemasters, and Hewson are but a handful of European developers who would make a lasting legacy on these machines.

Hewson Consultants was one of the smallest of these studios. But it managed to put out some of the most memorable titles for the European market. Their biggest strength was arcade shooters. Over the years they would put out things like Paradroid, Tower Toppler, and  Uridium. But today’s game was one of their most noteworthy titles published.

PROS: Style. High difficulty. The C64 version’s glorious soundtrack.

CONS: May be TOO difficult for some. Short. Some versions have control issues.

DTV: Cybernoid, and its sequel are bundled in the C64 DTV Games in a controller system!

Cybernoid came out around the time when arcade shmups had transitioned to scrolling stages. But instead of going along with the likes of Gradius, and R-Type, Cybernoid retains vintage flip screen gameplay. That isn’t really a bad thing. The result is something that feels different, even if it is technically inferior. Cybernoid is a game that uses the flip screen mechanics to implement characteristics of an adventure game.

The story is pretty cut, and dry. You’re a pilot for a federation army sent into an asteroid belt to stop pirates from stealing your resources. Cybernoid is a tough game through, and through. When you fire it up, you’ll immediately have the sense things are going to be difficult. As the game doesn’t scroll between screens, each screen is its own puzzle, adventure shooter. Some areas will be a fire fight. Other areas will have a bunch of death traps you’ll need to carefully navigate. Sometimes you’ll find a combination of the two.


The game becomes extra challenging when you realize that you’re also being timed. If you fail to complete a stage in time you die. In fact, many things will kill you. If your ship grazes a bad guy, you die. In true bullet hell fashion, the screen will be filled with projectiles. If a single one touches you, you die. If you crash into certain parts of the scenery, you die. But there is something really satisfying about Cybernoid in spite of the steep learning curve. When you finally solve a room, you will feel ecstatic. Then crushed when you lose your last life in the next room. But restart you will.

The game does give you a pretty high number of power ups to help you. How do you find these power ups? By killing everything you possibly can. Destroying enemies will allow you to salvage the wreckage for items. You can find missiles, force fields, option shields, and more. You’ll also want to conserve a lot of the power ups because in some rooms you’ll need them to destroy some of the obstacles. If you run out of supplies when you get to these rooms, you’ll be stuck watching the timer count down to your demise.


Cybernoid isn’t very long either just clocking in at three stages. But those three stages will likely take you days of committed gaming to beat. Cybernoid was also released on several platforms, and depending on where you are in the world, some versions may be easier to find than others.

The 8-bit versions of the game are largely similar. Most of the ships, characters, and background textures are the same. The color palettes, and screen modes differ mildly between the versions. The ZX Spectrum, and Amstrad CPC versions look closest to each other while the Commodore 64 version probably has the best look of any of the 8-bit computers. Interestingly the Commodore 64 version also has an entirely different soundtrack than the other computer versions. The legendary Jeroen Tel wrote his own score for the C64 while the other computers had the original soundtrack by Dave Rogers.


Here in the states though, most people are probably most familiar with the Nintendo Entertainment System version published by Acclaim. This version was done by a small developer called Studio 12. The NES version looks like it was based off of the C64 version, even the color palette used is similar. The NES version also has its own original soundtrack that is decent, but nowhere near the earworm level of the C64 version. The two versions also play pretty close to each other, though the C64 version feels a lot more responsive. On the C64 things feel a lot more fluid, and you’ll have an easier time trying to avoid huge swaths of projectiles. Though again, by no means will the game be easy.

This doesn’t make the NES version bad, but it isn’t the preferred version. This is because of a number of small things that hold it back. Things feel a little clunky when compared to the C64 version. Getting around a couple of the obstacles is harder as a result. A couple of enemy types were shrunk in size to compensate for this but it doesn’t help all that much. There are also a couple of minor bugs that rarely come up. But when they do, they can really annoy you. However, the NES version does have one advantage, and that is you can select between three difficulty levels. They don’t change the level of challenge dramatically, but if you’re getting creamed you can make things mildly easier. The NES version also has a cinema screen that plays upon your death, as well as an ending. Other versions simply restart the game with your current score intact.


Cybernoid did find its way onto the Amiga, and Atari ST as well. These versions have better graphics than the 8-bit versions. But I can’t really tell you much about them as I haven’t spent any time with them. In my research I’ve found that many people who have played them aren’t particularly all that fond of them. They have a much lower reputation in terms of play control, and balance than their 8-bit counterparts.

No matter which version you go with though, you’ll be presented with a high level of challenge. Cybernoid isn’t particularly long, and may not have the constant action of classic shmups. But the blend of bullet hell, and flip screen adventuring make for a unique, classic. One that belongs in your classic gaming library.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Reposted Review: Mademan


(Originally posted on the defunct Blistered Thumbs community blog)

Mademan: Confessions of crime family boredom

PROS: Bachman Turner Overdrive!

CONS: Nearly everything else!

WTF?: Retort Kills? Why couldn’t we just have giblets?

Grand Theft Auto. Mafia. Saints Row.

Games based on the idea of playing the role of an unsavory criminal have been a subset of gaming now for over a decade.

So much so that there were games based upon the Godfather, and Scarface films that inspired them.

So it was with little surprise the now defunct Acclaim would want in on the action.

Mademan digs it’s own grave.

But before they could have their studios finish work on their contribution to the crime drama video game train, they folded. Acclaim disappeared from Glen Clove NY forever, and most of their IP’s went along with them.

Which brings us to today’s lesser known gem Mademan. Actually it’s not a diamond in the rough, but a cubic zirconia. A plastic knock off of several titles all at once. When Acclaim had imploded on itself, several members of the game’s development team reunited under a new name, and with the help of Aspyr Media (The guys who published THE SHIELD, and port most of your favorite games released on Windows, and consoles to the Macintosh) managed to get the game serviceable, and published.

Mademan features a storyline written by David Fischer one of the writers for the original run of Doctor Who. But you would never know it unless you read the game box. It’s cobbled together through slapdash set pieces, and a lot of bad dialogue. It feels more like a Uwe Boll attempt at a crime drama then something a renowned Television writer would come up with. Something feels lost in translation once you experience this game with the knowledge of the writer’s past credits.

Mademan is a single player third person shooter. In it, you play the role of Joey Verola. Joey is apparently a mobster who has a lot going for him until some other mobsters begin shooting him up at a truck stop. The story is told the way a lot of games over the last ten years have, through flashback levels. In one stage you replay Joey’s Vietnam War tour where he meets another solider named Eggs. As you might expect, Eggs follows Joey into the mob life after the war, and in predictable fashion, betrays Joey.

Everything in Mademan feels unfinished. When it doesn’t, it feels like somebody threw out something crude for the sake of being crude. It adds nothing fun or interesting to the experience. One prime example of this is a feature called the Retort Kill. Sometimes, enemies won’t quite die after being gunned down, and will cuss at Joey. Pressing F on your keyboard, will change the camera perspective to a first person view of the enemy’s where you hear Joey swear back at them before finishing them off. When this happens Joey gets some of his health back.

Get used to seeing this guy. You’ll be seeing him, and Paul Sorvino a lot.

While the game does look crisp on a PC running higher resolutions, it’s short of remarkable.

Levels are nothing new or special. Narrow hallways, corridors, and courtyards of window dressing await Joey, and you’ll slog through the set pieces in boredom. Hundreds of the same stereotypical Paul Sorvino inspired suits come out into these courtyards usually staying in one spot firing away until Joey guns them down. While it is true other games walk this path of simplicity, these titles manage to provide hours of fun through humor, and twitch gameplay. Mademan simply does not. When the AI doesn’t stand in one place acting as a bullet sponge, it unexpectedly becomes an expert marksman. It isn’t uncommon to have a play session go from ridiculously easy to stupendously difficult, and back in the span of ten minutes.

Arsenal is what you’d expect, and there is a Gears Of War cover mechanic but neither do anything remarkable. In fact the base level pistol you begin the game with is all you’ll need. In many cases it’s actually the best weapon as it has one of the highest damage levels in the game. If you do manage to get enough enjoyment out of laughing at how bad it is, (and there are some hilariously bad moments to be had here) you will still have to contend with some bugs. Random crashes, sound lock ups, and even complete system hangs mar an already bland experience. If you are morbidly curious you may need to track down the Playstation 2 port, as Mademan will not run on 64 bit Windows.

In closing Mademan is nowhere near as interesting as the story behind it’s ill-fated creation. There are times when you can see glimmers of potential only to run into bugs, and banality. It makes you wonder what could have been had it been cultivated in a much sounder environment. If you’re a semi famous webshow host who can find something funny to say about it Mademan is for you.

For everyone else stay away.

Final Score: 3/10

Perish the thought!