Tyrian is a game originally released in 1995, developed by Eclipse Productions and published by Epic MegaGames. It's a vertical shoot-'em-up in the same style as 1943 for arcades/NES, but with WAY more features. It packs an epic amount of fun into a small amount of data. Let's check out this piece of mid-'90s software gold.
Tyrian's story is split across several episodes. There's 5 in the full version and 4 in the open-source freeware version (more on that at the end of the review).
The overall plot line focuses on a pilot named Trent Hawkins. His job is to find habitable locations on newly terraformed planets. His work has brought him to a planet named Tyrian. Near Tyrian sits the territory of a lizard-like species called the Hazudra. The story centers around the murder of one of the Hazudra (and Trent's best friend), Buce Quesillac. Buce tells Trent that it was all the work of Microsol, the corporation who contracted the terraformation of Tyrian, due to his knowledge of a mineral capable of controlling the force of gravity found exclusively on Tyrian.
Because of Trent's knowledge of the same material, he's next on Microsol's list of people to kill. As Buce dies, he tells Trent to go to Savara, a free world on the edge of the galaxy. Trent steals a small fighter and begins the journey to Savara. Source, as well as a summary of each episode's story: Tyrian's Plot from Wikipedia
The basic plot line, although straight-forward enough, takes a hundred different turns as the game goes along. As you play, you collect Data Cubes, transmissions from both your allies and your enemies, both of which progress the story as well as filling in plot holes and letting you know about special deals on new weapons or ships to purchase from the main menu.
This game also has its fair share of humor. Certain Data Cubes will have you rolling on the floor with laughter, and others are very tongue-in-cheek references to other old video games. The story won't ever leave you wanting.
This game looks beautiful for being a PC game in 1995. It was intended to be ran on DOS initially, and before Windows 95 came along, most graphics-heavy games looked just piss-poor. Compared to Doom 2, a game released in 1994 (and an all-time favorite of mine), Tyrian looks like a work of art.
|Compare Doom 2...|
|...to Tyrian. The difference is pretty extreme.|
The graphics even hold up to today's standards; it's not exactly HD-quality, but you'll never be confused about what anything is or what it is you're trying to kill. What really sets Tyrian apart from a lot of shooters from the same era (Raptor: Call of the Shadows being one that comes immediately to mind) is the cartoony graphics. These just serve to add to the overall humorous vibe.
This game, for a shoot-'em-up dork like me, is bliss. It's not overly hard on any of the difficulties (though people new to the genre might have troubles on Hard), and it's not too easy anywhere, either. It's an even balance of challenge vs. fun. It is a bit easier than the previous game I reviewed, though (U.N. Squadron). It's not bullet hell, by any means.
From the main menu, you can view your Data Cubes (which give you valuable hints about story, as well as some great humor), you can view your Ship Specs (mostly unimportant, although still comical), you can Upgrade Ship (more on this in a second), go to the Options menu (set controls, music and sound volume, etc.), or Exit Game.
Upgrading your ship is one of the best parts of the game. While playing through levels, every enemy you kill will give you a certain amount of money which can be used to purchase upgrades for your ship. Certain enemies will also drop money icons, giving you even more cash. Upgrades include shields (you can take several hits before dying), generators (determines rate of fire as well as how fast shields recharge), front and rear weapons (both of which are linked to the same fire button), left and right sidekicks (smaller weapons that fire along with your main weapons), and even entire new ships. Each new ship gives more armor as well as more shields. Some ships are hilarious, too, like the infamous carrot:
|Yes, that really is a carrot shooting bananas. This game is fucking AWESOME.|
Other than the massive amount of upgrades available and tons of story elements, the game plays like most other vertical scrolling shoot-'em-ups. You pick your level, you fly through it, destroying everything in your path. There's between 0 and 4 Data Cubes in every level, making themselves apparent upon killing certain enemies. At the end of every level, there's a boss to be killed, most of which aren't terribly difficult. After you kill the boss, you pick the next level...wash, rinse, repeat.
Well...the washing's not necessary...but whatever boats your float.
The only reason this game gets a 9 instead of a 10 is because of the damned alarm sounds when you're near death. On Hard mode, this happened to me often, and it's painful to listen to after a few minutes of it.
Most of the rest of the sound effects are pretty great, though. The music, especially, is amazingly awesome. There's not a single bad song on this soundtrack. They really hit the jackpot when they composed it. It's perfect music for a shooter, and it never gets old. Even the music that plays on main menu is amazing. I'll shut the fuck up and just post a song or three.
Ignore the graphical quality, the music is the main focus here. The game looks MUCH better than this video makes it seem.
Replay Value: 10/10
This game has replay value out the ass (not literally). There's lots of points where the story splits and you can pick your level, altering the remaining levels in the episode. The upgrades that become available also change depending on certain circumstances like how many Data Cubes you collect and what levels you play. There's also several mini-games which are an absolute riot to play through like Destruct, Zinglon's Ale, Zinglon's Squadrons, and Zinglon's Revenge.
You will come back to this game time and time again. There's actually someone sitting next to me playing Tyrian right now...I should get back to playing Final Fantasy XII again, but Tyrian looks so fun, I might just give it another playthrough tonight.
Like Death Rally, Tyrian was re-released as a completely free, open-source game. This means it's available for anyone to download in its entirety (almost--it's missing the last episode) for no cost. I HIGHLY advise you check this game out. It's well worth the time you'll put in.
OpenTyrian, a free Tyrian rerelease!
From the downloads menu, under Windows, grab both the first and second links and put all the files in one folder, then just run opentyrian.exe...good times will be had by all.
Go before me, my followers! Download this game! Play it until your fingertips bleed! And most importantly, ALL HAIL ZINGLON!!