Raptor: Call of the Shadows
for PC (DOS)

raptor-box.jpg
Wandrell:Mr Creosote:Overall:
3.5/6
Popular Vote:
4.7/6
Company: Apogee
Year: 1994
Genre: Action
Theme: Flight / Science Fiction
Language: English
Licence: Shareware
Views: 28846
Review by Mr Creosote (2021-10-06)
Avatar

It took a long time for classic arcade style genres to gain some basic foothold on the IBM PC platform. For years and years, shoot 'em ups remained largely tied to Japanese consoles and even home computers, with their hardware supported sprites and scrolling. Though then, some companies had shown what could be done with superior raw processing power, so it had to be just a question of time. The first ever actually noteworthy genre entry on this system: Raptor.

rapt05.png

This not being an arcade conversion, but an original development shows in a number of ways. Controls are geared towards keyboard use, with weapons selectable through number keys. There is no password system, but free saving between levels. Ah, the comfort of a hard drive! Finally, maybe most importantly, the game appears targetted not at a teenage audience with lightning reflexes and way too much time to train them, but towards computer owners returning home after a long day of work and prefering a comparatively carefree, but nevertheless challenging shooter.

Wait, what does this mean? The shoot 'em up genre has traditionally always been one for specialists. There is hardly another one where average game difficulty is this high. Terms like “bullet hell” have been coined for a reason. The core audience often considered the hardest game to be the best.

Going down a different path in this respect, Raptor does away with with many of the genre tropes while staying absolutely true to the core game mechanics formula. It never expects its players to learn levels by heart. Little hints, like the radar or the shadows drawn by approaching enemies, make situations generally foreseeable. Speed is not cranked up to insane levels. The player's ship does not explode at first hit, but is subject to a fairly generous energy bar. Which, on the other hand, is not so generous to be ever wasted with careless flying. Talking about flying, the ship even has some fairly “realistic” inertia (as far as “realism” is a factor in a game which is all about blasting hundreds of enemies), giving quite a distinct feel to handling it.

rapt16.png

Coupled with that, the game incorporates a number of proven genre standards. Many enemies have their own distinct behaviour patterns. Both air and ground targets appear and weapon effectiveness differs quite a bit between those classes so that quick switching in the heat of action is quite necessary. Speaking of weapons, new ones can be collected within the levels, but may also bought in the shop between them (along with other extras, such as additional shields). This is another strength of the game, insofar that none of the weapons is clearly the ultimate one. Apart from the obvious ground/air distinction, another example would be the choice between target-seeking weapons and dumber ones which just fire forward, but with much more destructive power.

A catchy soundtrack, good sound effects, nicely drawn explosions, huge bosses and little gags complete the overall package. Raptor did not re-invent the genre, but then, it never tried to. It did, however, bring the genre to a platform where it hadn't happened before and adapted it on the way to fit the predominant player audience there. In our age of much less committed gaming, it remains well worth playing.

Archived Review(s) ↓

Review by Wandrell (2008-10-16)
Avatar

You know the saying, “seen one, seen all”. Well, in this case if you have played any airplane shooter, like those that used to be on the arcade halls, you have already played this one. And more than probably in an improved shape.

It’s quite plain, does the basics but nothing more. You get enemies that always the same path, a marked trail that they rarely change. Ok, this is pretty usual, and it works many times, yet here it looks a bit simple and insipid.

Adding to it are the levels, quite monotonous levels. They are the typical ones where you find ground and air enemies. You know how it works: the gun can hit both while special weapons only attack airborne enemies. And that is all there is, as the terrain that passes under you is not ugly, but also isn’t noticeable.

I must say there are a few nice details on the game, like the sensor in the lower border which warns you of approaching enemies, or the shop, which sadly is the only thing one recalls of the game.

In this shop you expend the points you get from killing on refilling the life bar, I mean, the shield energy (yes, it doesn’t refill from mission, to mission, even thought if you don’t shoot it refills very slowly), on some of those bombs that kill everything in sight and in weapons with a nice range of shoots.

The shop can be visited each time you finish a wave, which is a section of each of the three zones containing a lot of enemies and a final boss. You die or retire from the level and there is no money to expend or recover what you wasted.

You see, right now I’m feeling thrilled with the originality, as I’ve told everything about the game. Let me repeat it all concisely and easily: here you have a side scroller where you kill anything that moves and earn money to expend on weapons, nothing more.

Comments (5) [Post comment]

TheDOSKid:

I remember this game (Mostly the Enhanced Windows 9x Version though I did eventually discovered the DOS Original on my Duke Nukem 3D CD)
This was one of the best top down shooters I've played when I was very little. It was fun to play, the controls where great and the graphics where awesome:)

Moebius:
Oh yes, this was actually one of my very first PC games and i enjoyed it hell of a lot :) Also, as a kid i thought it would never end, but give me more and more new stages...
Mr Creosote:
Well, Raptor is obviously aimed at 'casual' gamers. You know, the adult gamer who comes home from work and just wants to relax in front of the monitor a bit. That's the kind of person who'd own an IBM PC at that time. Not the young 'expert' gamers with sharply trained reflexes who'd of course prefer the likes of R-Type.
Wandrell:

Side scroller sound better than vertical scroller. After all the upper border it is still a side.

It may be just because I got used to R-Type games, where you die a lot and end with such a bullet dodging skills you amaze yourself (in some games the screen gets filled with bullets leaving a few clear zones to travel through). So it looks a bit lacking to me this one.

Mr Creosote:

This is usually the line other people say to me, but I think you're a little harsh on the game.

Of course, you're perfectly right about it not being too original, and yes, it's nowhere near as good as the reputation it has these days suggests. This certainly isn't up to the playability of Uridium and it also doesn't have the flashy graphics and ever-changing level design of Banshee. It doesn't even have the original two-player mode of Silkworm.

Yet, it does have its merits. First and foremost, it's really well playable. Not as ultra-fast (=unplayable) as many games of the genre. I like the way the game helps the player with little things, like the shadows the enemies cast before entering the screen.

You did talk about the weapons. It's good to see there isn't the 'perfect' weapon. Sure, the auto-targetting ones are very convenient, but they're also not nearly as destructive as some others. In way too many games, weapon upgrades just mean higher firing frequency or something along those (boring) lines.

And, well, I thought the apes attacking you by throwing bananas are a nice touch as well. This actually made me reset my system date all the time :)

By the way, I really like that you call it a side scroller, even though the action is clearly viewed from above and scrolling vertically ;)

[Reply]

Quiz