Turrican

  • Rainbow Arts

  • FormatVideo games
  • TypeRun and gun
  • SystemMicrocomputer

‘Welcome to Turrican....’, a sinister digitised voice cackles upon load up. I remember seeing the game for the first time in my local games store, a group of fellow gamers huddled round a CRT as one of the store staff blasted and jumped through the scenery.  

I remember seeing the game for the first time in my local games store.
Graham 'Bones' Jones

Polished and action-packed, I was surprised when I was told it was an Amiga conversion of a C64 game. Magazines of the day sung Turrican’s praises (CU Amiga: 91%, Computer & Video Games: 94%). Giving up my hard-earned pocket money for it was a no-brainer; this was an Amiga owner’s ‘must-have’. How could I resist looking back and revisiting what made it so damn good?

German developer Manfred Trenz and co. gave the micro-computers the ‘blast-em-up’ fans had been waiting for. Published by Rainbow Arts (Rock’n Roll, X-Out, The Great Giana Sisters), and developed by Factor 5 (Katakis, R-Type port), Turrican was initially developed for the C64 in 1990, with ports to Amiga/ST soon after. Such was Turrican’s recognition and success that a string of follow-ups and ports to other platforms was inevitable.

Turrican went on to be converted on most platforms (ST, CDTV, Megadrive/Genesis, PC Engine, Game Boy, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC), and spawned several sequels; Turrican II: The Final Fight, Mega Turrican/Turrican 3: Payment Day, Super Turrican, Super Turrican 2, as well as countless fan projects and spin-offs, but it’s the Amiga version which is THE definitive version.

Review by Graham 'Bones' Jones

Amiga Longplay - Turrican:

Continue for Graham 'Bones' Jones Full Directors cut Review

The world of Turrican is visually reminiscent of the best heavy metal album covers (the title screen graphic rips-off Manowar’s ‘Kings of Metal’ cover). Wearing its influences on its sleeve, to me Turrican had it all. Battle-ready, exo-suit style armour?: check. Kick-ass, super blaster weapon?: check. Epic end-of-level bosses?: – check. Blazing power synth-rock soundtrack?: – check. Crisp arcade style graphics?: – check. Turrican pinch..ahem... ‘borrowed’ elements from other the best notable Japanese platformers of the day; Metroid, Contra and even Mario, and produced something.. well, kick-ass.

(cont’d...)

Gameplay is balanced between all-guns-blazing, alien-busting, to methodical exploration of labyrinthine levels, searching for the power-ups, gems and bonus lives required to survive the onslaught. Although more forgiving than its console-based counterparts, game-play could at times be tricky, requiring several play-throughs to know the maps and learn how best to handle the waves of attacking enemies, and all to a tight time-limit. Each level had its own setting and was distinct enough to keep you playing (My favourite being the vertically scrolling jet-pack level as you descend into the Giger-seque catacombs of world 4), and each accumulating in battle with a massive end-of-level boss which would be sure to steal some, if not all of your carefully preserved lives (the first boss ‘The Gauntlet’, a giant smashing ‘robo-fist’, could now be considered a cult gaming icon)

Then there’s the plethora of weaponry at your disposal which gave Turrican its ‘fun-factor’. The Turrican rifle was multi-functional, switching between a spread fire mode, to powerful precision laser by collecting the appropriate power-ups. Then there was the lightening whip; an energy beam that could be rotated 360 degrees allowing you to literally ‘swat’ away swarms of cyber-bugs and gun toting androids with ease. Your inventory of arsenal also facilitates a vertical power-line which would swipe across the entirety of the screen, and screen jolting grenades and landmines. As if that wasn’t enough you could also transform into a gyroscopic wheel (yet another nod to Metroid), which could be used to access hidden areas via ducts or simply lay waste to all in your path. (Knowing when and where to activate this ability was essential, otherwise you could quite easily fly off the edge of a platform into the void).

It was this multitude of weaponry, zapping and blasting your way through the enemy hoards which gave Turrican its rhythm of play. This was all accompanied by a great musical soundtrack (probably Turrican’s most memorable aspect) which was produced by games legend Chris Huelsbeck. Release of the Amiga version gave the leeway of improved graphics and sound capabilities over those of the C64, and Huelsbeck manages to squeeze the best out of the hardware with layers of sound to match the various backdrops and action of the battle. Huelsbeck went on to compose the soundtracks for the rest of the Turrican series, working on many other C64 and Amiga titles (including an R-Type conversion, and insectoid shoot-em-up Apidya) as well as providing the music and sound for the Amiga version of Lucas Arts’ ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’ (An Amiga Action reviews recognises its ‘...excellent Caribbean tunes..’). Fans still talk about Turrican soundtrack though, so much so that a Turrican Anthology Soundtrack is apparently in the works.

When you consider what programmer Manfred Trenz (the brains behind Turrican), had done beforehand, it’s obvious to see how the game came into being. Trenz had been responsible for blatant Mario Bros tribute The Great Giana Sisters (1987) and R-Type clone Katakis (1987) (both of which were taken off the shelves after stirring legal notices). On the strength of Katakis, Trenz would later work on the official R-Type port to the Amiga. Turrican is very much a hybrid of these two games. Another obvious influence can be found in little know Data East shooter Psycho-Nics Oscar (1988). Unless you were one of the lucky ones who had managed to get hold of an imported Super Famicom or Megadrive, the Amiga was where it was at for 16 bit games in the UK at the time. The Megadrive wasn’t released in PAL until late 1990, the Super Nintendo not until 92. The 8bit NES and Sega Mastersystem were offering some home arcade action, but were starting to look a little tired in comparison to what was out in the arcades.

Thankfully Turrican gave us the Japanese arcade style of game we usually could only look on and wish for. Judging by the wealth of Turrican resource and info available online, it would appear the legend lives on.

Amiga 500 -  Intro theme for Turrican

  • Rainbow Arts

  • FormatVideo games
  • TypeRun and gun
  • SystemMicrocomputer

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