Insert Disk collects the Turrican series. Part 1 of 3.
Today’s retro game review is part 1 of a 3 part mini-series looking at the Turrican series. This classic retro game series will look at Turrican, Turrican 2 and Turrican 3 (Mega Turrican / Payment Day). These three games represent the main canon trilogy of the Turrican series. In Turrican Manfred Trenz created one of the most iconic run and gun series of all time. Join me this week as I reminisce over three of the major outings in the Turrican series.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. This week I’m going back to the 90’s to take a look back at one of the most influential run and gun series of all time in a 3 part special. Welcome to Turrican. Although history has produced many Turrican games I’ll be focussing on the three main entries of the series. Turrican 1, 2 and 3.
Turrican all kicked off in 1989 when Manfred Trenz was intent on delivering a superior run and gun platformer for the Commodore 64. He did just that by publishing Turrican via Rainbow Arts. Manfred Trenz then led a dedicated group of German programmers known as Factor 5 to release Turrican on other home platforms such as the Commodore Amiga. What we received was a jaw dropping masterpiece of technologically perfect game play and design. Considering that the C64 was showing its age by 1990 Turrican was a game changer. The Commodore Amiga version was even better. For all that came later Turrican was a game that firmly drew a line in the sand and set the bar higher than ever before.
The back story to Turrican is very much one of sci-fi meets action hero. On a set of nearby planets humans created the colony of Alterra. This world has been developed by an ecosystem generation network known as a Multiple Organism Unit Link (MORGUL). After a large earthquake event MORGUL was damaged, went rogue and rebelled against the human settlers. In a response by later generations, the humans to returned to Alterra. They created Turrican, a bio-engineered mutant warrior. Meanwhile, MORGUL had created dangerous life forms on the planet. It would be our hero Turrican’s mission to get in there and reclaim the planet. As a back story it’s all a bit full on. As with most games of this nature, you’ll not really notice the story line as you’ll be too busy mowing down waves of enemy.
So, what’s so special about Turrican? Well, it’s a multitude of small elements that just make it breakout from the crowd. Firstly is the open world. Up until this point run and gun games had largely been on fixed paths to complete the level. Turrican threw that model away though and decided to go with sprawling levels to explore. Games such as Castlevania and the original Metroid may have adopted this format earlier but it was Turrican that really took the exploration aspects to the next level. The second great aspect of Turrican is its ability to surprise after all these years. Even if you think you’ve seen it all there’s always one more undiscovered hidden power up block to mine. So, it’s open world, its surprising but it’s also very fluid. The control system lets you bound around the levels with ease and fire off sprays of ammunition. Rather than just one shot type you’ll frequently be picking up variants, upgrades, become a spinning wheel and utilise special weapons. The bottom line is that Turrican is just a joy to play. It all feels so effortless and free as an experience.
With the gameplay nailed Turrican deserved a soundtrack to match it. To this day retro gaming musicians still create remixes of the original soundtrack, it’s just that good. Chris Hülsbeck’s original soundtrack runs over an hour long in length. Quite frankly, it’s phenomenal. You would be forgiven for thinking that the music alone was the main event of Turrican. Music clips.
With such a strong soundtrack, gameplay and presentation there was really only one other department to get right. The physical release. Instantly when you see an original Turrican C64 box you should be filled with nostalgia. It’s one of the most iconic covers of its age. The mech-suit says all you need to know, the game has real firepower. Upfront the box proudly wears its accolades from the magazines of the day. 97% from Zapp! Magazine. If you were in any doubt about the game’s credentials the box answers them. Of course you also get the cassette tape and also a rather compact manual. The manual is also a high point, it’s clean, clear and efficient. You have to hand it to the Germans, these guys know presentation. Just to top it off marvel over the hand drawn cartoons, who ever said that Germans don’t have a sense of humour?
As you may have noticed I’m a collector that looks after the physical boxed copies of my games. Turrican may not have the most elaborate packaging but it’s certainly a solid entry on my shelf. Turrican is a game that is distinctly 90’s in feel. It feels handcrafted and really well designed. You may be asking yourself, is there anything that I don’t enjoy about Turrican? Well, yes there are certain elements that are arguably not so pleasing. It’s only a small detail but has a large impact on the way you play Turrican. There is no knockback after hitting an enemy. Not so much a problem in itself but it is when you combine it with also not having a notion of invulnerability. It’s rare in a game that you have neither of these game mechanics. The end result is that you if you don’t escape quickly from an enemy you can deplete your entire life bar in seconds. I’m certain that this mechanic was by design. However, it does add to the difficulty level immensely. As you may have noticed I’ve turned on a cheat just so I can easily record footage for this episode. I have to say though this is more of a user issue rather than a design issue. Gamers were tougher back in the 90’s so the mechanism is perfect for that authentic old school gaming experience. If you can put aside the difficulty curve Turrican really is a masterpiece of a game. The variety of weapons, challenging level design and secrets to discover not only make Turrican a classic, they make it an iconic breakthrough game.
End to end Turrican will take you some time to complete, even then it’s unlikely that you will have seen all the game has to offer. This is good old fashioned retro run and gun gaming at its best. Turrican of course became a critical success with gamers, Manfred Trenz had unleashed the future of gaming. It was inevitable that Turrican 2 needed to happen. The prayers of the fans were answered in lightning quick time as 1991 saw the release of Turrican 2: The Final Fight. Could lightning strike twice for Manfred Trenz though? How can you follow an all-time great game by making it stand out from the first but at the same time still keep all that gamers loved in the original hit.
Join me in the next episode as we unbox Turrican 2: The Final Fight.