Dominator was a release by the legendary game company System 3 in the late 1980s, which was even advertised in games magazines and appeared almost simultaneously on all home computer systems of the time. Unfortunately, not many gamers took notice of this shooter, since Dominator on Amiga and Atari ST was quite ordinary standard fare and the C64 could not turn the tide, either. There even exists a – in my opinion outstanding – version for the Amstrad CPC which is often totally unknown to the fans and followers of that system.
The system resources of the CPC and C64 are very restricted. However, the Amstrad has the advantage of a high-contrast colour palette, which probably induced the developers to port the CPC version graphically as closely as possible to the Amiga standards. Unlike the C64 version whose graphics were almost completely detached from the original.
After the decision to invest the resources into elaborate graphics and an impressive number of simultaneously displayed sprites, the frame rate became so low that the spaceship could only be steered unnaturally slowly.
As compensation, a remarkable trick was realised: namely, a greater density of enemies. To achieve this, additional smaller enemy objects were simply invented: drops from above, little stars emerging from goo bubbles and oval capsules that sporadically remain on the screen after an enemy has been destroyed. The player must be especially careful not to collide with them, as they are indestructible. As a result, you have to manoeuvre slowly, but along winding paths.
Even though the background is kept in gloomy black, the spaceship is not in outer space, but inside an oversized monster that wants to devour the earth. This is more familiar from Xenon 2, a direct competitor that also appeared in 1989 and which was later ported to various game consoles because of its immense success. The first level of both is vertically scrolling and the alien-organic game world is full of obscure alien creatures.
The 3 subsequent levels of Dominator, on the other hand, are laid out horizontally. Here and in the acquisition of power-ups, the game deviates from its famous competitor Xenon 2: you don't get better weapons by buying them in a cyber-shop from an alien seller, but classically, by collecting extra-boxes during the flight.
You can pimp your ship with a laser, rear-facing cannons, a rocket launcher and auto fire. After defeating the boss at the end of each level, you continue with the basic equipment. In this way, you only build up your spaceship while flying through the level, and then use the concentrated power of your upgraded ship to take down the boss.
In fact, it turns out to be a huge disadvantage to lose a life before reaching the end of the level. In this case, you lose not only a life but also all the power ups and have to continue at certain save points. This can quickly become unpleasant, as the broad enemy waves at these later starting points can often hardly be parried with the standard cannon before obtaining enough upgrades. This in turn leads to further losses of life points and the game is usually over very quickly after such a mistake.
But only one bearable mistake in the long way of a level, which becomes more and more difficult by the rising enemy-crowd, plus a persistently resisting boss turn Dominator into a real nightmare.
I would have liked to be entertained by a powerful background soundtrack, but even the Amiga version didn't have one. Only the sound effects break the silence.
The actual goal of Dominator is to get into the highscore list. For the bloodshot eyes of the madman who has finished Dominator can only see a simple 'Well-Done'-screen at the end: no big words for the saviour of the world. The score, by the way, is measured according to the distance covered and is therefore statement enough in itself: the journey is the reward.
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