Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Tinna and the Seven Crystals - Project Team Interrupt (1991)

There are many homebrew games that show much promise, but are never quite finished or polished off for some reason. Tinna and the Seven Crystals is one such title. It has a top down viewpoint and combines shooting, puzzle and action to an interesting mix. The aim of the game is to coerce the aforementioned 'crystals' (marbles would be a better description) with the keyboard or joystick to a target: any one of the holes on the field of play, while under a certain time limit. However, you must prevent the white crystal from dropping through or it is game over. There are also various walls and enemies on the play field to make your task more difficult.

To help you in your cause you have two attacks. Firstly a straightforward rapid fire shot that will both destroy enemies and move crystals. This shot passes through walls and so can be used quite strategically, however it consumes your vitality. Your secondary attack pulls all crystals from just outside your field of vision towards you. It also shields you too and stops you dead in your tracks while held. Again this consumes energy, but as it affects all crystals is generally more useful in directing them towards the holes. I find that the shot is generally a bit useless therefore unless you are surrounded by enemies with your back against the wall.

Bouncing around the stages are demented demon sorts who incessantly home in on your position, rebounding off walls and sending crystals flying in an effort to reach you. When they do, they'll zap your health, the amount depending on the colour of the demon, but always at an alarming rate. Their bouncing around can be both helpful and detrimental to your cause – sometimes their colliding with a crystal will send it careening off towards a hole, though annoyingly a fair few times the crystal in question will be the white one. Despite their wings they can't fly over the holes like your anime derivative witch who floats along on her broomstick. Because your two attacks consume your vitality this is perhaps the best method of defeating them - its also incredibly satisfying to watch after all their irritating moronic bouncing at you. These suckers constantly respawn after a few seconds, so with a countdown timer and vitality that is constantly falling they can put you under a lot of pressure when backed into a corner.

The game does have several problems though. Chiefly the control scheme – everything in the game has inertia, which is a plus to the gameplay, it forces you to be careful when moving the crystals and wary of the enemies crashing into them, but it can take some getting used to when controlling your character. It also means its difficult to make your character turn on the spot, so you have to get used to avoiding enemies and pushing crystals into unwanted places. The sound is also a weak point: there is only one tune and while its nice enough (though I'm sure I've heard it elsewhere before) hearing it get repeated on every level means it does get boring. The sound effects are pretty standard too. Its also very short, with only 19 levels and while they do have a time limit of 10 minutes in practice it rarely takes more than a couple for each one. There could have been a few more different enemy sprites too, though they get more dangerous throughout the game the only difference is their colour. Some variation in their contribution towards gameplay would add a lot to longevity, perhaps having them actively shielding holes or similar.
Unfortunately searching for information regarding this game tends to bring up a lot of information on crystal meth, and there is no trace of information on the developers, Project Team Interrupt, bar that they did another game called Kaisen Game Daa! in 1990. I assume this title is a homebrew effort as it feels unfinished in some areas and it seems the developer only put out two games.

I think this is a brilliant idea for a game that is only not brilliant now due to being a bit 'unfinished'. This game is crying out for a remake - if you added some more music, story, stages, variation in enemies it would be a great candidate for PSP homebrew or similar.

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