Cybermorph is the often debated Atari Jaguar pack-in game. While it has its diehard fans, the majority of gamers seem to dismiss. Is there safety in numbers with the haters? Should I join the small (but loud
) group of Atari fans who love this game? Will I fall somewhere in between? Hmmm …
Cybermorph is a flying game that takes place in space but, unlike many similar games, combat isn’t the priority. Not that there is none, but it takes a backseat to the main purpose which is exploring to collect scattered pods. There is a story to explain why you are doing this (and each planet has a paragraph of dialogue adding to it) but it isn’t too memorable. But the exploration and collecting actually proved to be quite fun. I appreciate the change in emphasis and, even though colleting is pretty straightforward enough, the developers mixed it up a bit. Rather than just having the pods flanked by enemies, it became almost like a scavenger hunt as the pods that lay out in the open gave way to those that were hidden, or those that needed puzzle like obstacles to be solved. Not for everyone, but I liked it.
Cybermorph’s graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. The game often employs a variety of random colors … which wouldn’t be bad if there was any
rhyme or reason as to what they used. Pinks, yellows, reds, etc…
don’t blend at all and, imho, look poor. (more successful are the planets that limit the color choices) A shame really, as this frequent clashing detracts from the gouraud shaded polygons which actually aren’t half bad. You need to remember that this was a 1993 release
Another detraction is the lack of anti aliasing, leading to rough edges on the polygons. Again though, we need to remember the time of release. Not that it makes it less notable mind you, but certainly easier to understand and, perhaps, overlook.
A couple things that are a bit more difficult to overlook in my opinion, are the lack of textures, and the lack of background objects. Regarding the missing textures, it gives the game a dated look. This isn’t always a bad thing … the look did grow on me, but I really do wish (along with several Jag games) that they had
used textures. As for background objects, well … with the exception of a random tree there really is nothing in the background to speak of save the rather ugly looking enemies. In hindsight, this actually proved to be a bit of an immersive experience. I really
felt isolated in the cold of space (heck, this is probably how it looks on lonely planets) Overall I can see why the graphics didn’t live up to gamers (perhaps overestimated) expectations of what 64 bit should look like, but at its core they really are solid.
On the audio end, there is really no music (save the pretty cool introductory number) and for a system that boasted a strong music chip I found the sound effects to be rather poor. There is some occasional speech courtesy of a bald green headed hologram called Skylar. While the phrases she speaks are limited and essentially useless (“avoid the ground” … thanks for the tip
) I actually admit to rather liking them. While I can see how they may drive others nuts eventually, this was never the case with me. Go figure.
Going back to the lack of music, I do feel it would have been a nice addition to the game. I wouldn’t have even necessarily gone with a full blown soundtrack, but how about occasional
tracks maybe at the start of each planet, or at key moments. Some short, haunting clips could have really added to the atmosphere. I feel it was a mistake to release the game without music, a move that reflected poorly on the Jaguar.
In time though, I did get over the lack of tunes.
Control in this game is quite tight, and I found it easy to navigate. No problems with sharp turns or anything, and everything was quick and responsive. No complaints.
The enemies in Cybermorph don’t seem particularly
smart to me, but with only three lives and no continues it doesn’t seem to alter the challenge that much. In some ways it probably balances it actually because Cybermorph is a long game (I was actually quite surprised to learn how big a game it was). Whether it needed to be so long is a fair question. I found that eventually it proved to be a bit
boring simply due to not enough variety, but I suppose as a pack in it needed to have a lot of content and be challenging enough to keep the early adopters busy while they waited for the next games. Early levels are gentle enough though, and password are provided (I wish you got a few more of them, but its no deal breaker)
If you are patient enough to get passed the spotty graphics, and the lack of music (and you aren’t expecting a shump type game) you’ll probably find Cybermorph growing on you like I did. In time, it proved to be a satisfying and addictive game. And as the most common Jag cart in existence, there is no excuse not to own it.