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Tetrapod

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Released: 1984

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: BBC Micro

Publisher: Acornsoft

Submitted by: Mat Corne

Acornsoft was legendary for a collection of near-perfect unofficial arcade conversions, but the company also released some interesting original arcade-style games, of which Tetrapod was one of the best. Upon starting the game you are presented with a single-screen playfield populated with a couple of enemy ships and – quite literally – a load of balls! Your ship is controlled Asteroids-style with left/right rotation, thrust and fire, and each level is completed by eliminating all the enemies. The balls can be bounced around the screen by both your ship and the enemies, and if shot by one of your bullets they hatch into fast moving lizard-like creatures (presumably the titular tetrapods) that chase the nearest ship to them. Shooting them turns them back into the balls.

So to clear a level you can either shoot the enemies, or try and unleash a tetrapod near to them to kill them. The complexity is added to because any bullets you fire continue to bounce around the screen until they hit something, including you! So not only must you avoid enemy fire and rampaging tetrapods, but also you must be careful not to shoot yourself. Needless to say, on later levels where certain enemies can only be dispatched in certain ways, the action reaches a manic level that rivals the mighty Robotron! Tetrapod is far from being the most well known game on the Beeb, but there’s no doubt it is one of the most challenging and original shooters on the system.