THE CHALLENGE AWAITS YOU…
SCRAMBLE FOR THE RIGHTEOUS WAR
This time round on the pod the Ten Pence Arcade guys have put forth Pleiad(e)s. The marquee spells the game as Pleiades but the main screen spells the game as Pleiads. Go figure… Developed by Tehkan in 1981 and licensed to Centuri, it’s the spiritual successor / sequel to Phoenix. A 2-D vertical shooter, with lovely sprites, loud bleepy noises, and nasty bad guys. Oh and birds. Big birds. Big birds with kamikaze tendencies. In fact all the bad guys revel in smashing into you at high velocity until you raise your arms to the sky helplessly screaming “Pleiads. Nooooooooooooo!”
Over on Twin Galaxies the record on MAME is currently 135,790 and held by Richard Sion Lewis and according to my copy of Official Twin Galaxies Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records, the high score is 1,164,900 and achieved by Patrick Orr, 23rd August 1982 at Galaxy Video Games in Charlotte, NC. Which quite frankly, after spending a couple of weeks with this game, is bonkers so kudos to Patrick. Despite playing a lot of Phoenix in my youth I’d never actually come across Pleaids until I had chance to play on an actual cab (supplied by Retro Games Party no lees) at Play Expo in Manchester. Under the expert tutelage of Ten Pence Arcade’s Shaun “in your face” Holley I got to grips with it. Well. I managed a semi decent score after a few goes and that’s what it’s all about right?
4890 – The game consists of four screens of space battle shenanigans.
Phase I – Destroy All Attacking Aliens from Ground Base
On the first screen, controlling a ship not dissimilar to Phoenix’s ship from left to right and armed with a single shot, you have to fend off waves of oncoming martians. At first they appear to resemble an olympic gold medal. Perhaps the inspiration is 80s classic man fragrance Yardley Gold? Shoot them in this incarnation and you score 30 points. However, give these martians an inch and they’ll take a mile. When reaching the bottom of the screen they’ll transform to walking martians and lay down a wall of defence which you’ll have to shoot to clear but oddly they can shoot you through them. What martian magic is this? Destroy the walking martians and you’ll score 80 for each of them. But wait! The martians have one more intergalactic trick up their sleeve and they also transform to a flashing blob which one assumes to be a UFO but it actually looks like play doh. When in UFO form the movement is faster and less predictable then in other forms but take them down and you’ll be rewarded with 150 points per blobby thing. Clear all 16 enemies to progress to the second screen.
Phase II – Protect Spacecraft By Destroying Attacking Space Monsters With Rocket Fire. Space Monsters Must Be Hit In The Center To Be Destroyed.
We take flight into space! The second screen harks back to the bird enemies from Phoenix. Eight large bird shaped monstrous ships whip from side to side and frequently swoop in to destroy you. It’s almost as if they know the ship you’re piloting only has a 1 litre engine and can be outpaced by a shop mobility scooter. To destroy the birds you have to aim dead center in their birdy faces and earn 50 points per bird. However, you can also limit their movement by taking the wings out to ensure they can only move in a straight line towards the bottom of the screen. 20 points for each wing you hit. Kill the bird with one wing aflame and it’s 100 points or both wings 400 points. As you reduce the number of enemies the remaining members increase in speed and erraticness. This is the most frustrating level out of the four as no amount of dodging can move your ship out of the way quick enough. It’s simply not quick enough and often you’re relying on luck rather than skill. Clear them away though and phase 3 beckons.
Phase III – Destroy Space Battle Ship and Cosmic Enemies With Rapid Rocket Fire
Phase III is another nod to Phoenix, in particular the final mother ship stage. Unlike Phoenix this mothership this doesn’t slowly move down the screen. It’s remains at the top of the screen, opening up it’s fiery flaps, whilst martians descend upon you once more. To maximise the scoring on this level, when the ship opens it’s flaps you can also destroy the flames or what one assumes to be thrusters. Each thruster destroyed increases the end of level score. To progress to Phase IV you can either clear all 16 martians or destroy all five burners.
Phase IV – Return to Earth Through Landing Corridor. Maneuver Around Other Spaceships To Avoid Destruction. Clearing Bonus Flags Adds Points To Score
Phase IV really steps the drama and intensity. Morse code for SOS rings aloud and the message SOS, SOS, SOS, AT ONCE RETURN TO EARTH demands we take immediate action. Hang on a second…. Earth? Since when have we been able to view Saturn and the Milky Way from Earth? Perhaps we relocate Earth in the future a few rungs down the solar system. However, it’s back to the action. The distress signal obviously requires a rapid return to Earth but we don’t actually get that. What we get is a bonkers slow float with terrible controls return to terra firma. I can only think that the designers are wanting you to think that it’s out of control because it’s certainly handles that way. You’re aim is to skillfully negotiate the tricky path through stationary space ships (are they on the floor or are they hovering waiting to land and as you’re the hero you get preferential treatment?) towards a landing target cum crossfire thing. But beware, In space no one can hear you scream “RUBBISH COLLISION DETECTION!” as you collide with a ship time and time again. For extra bonus points you can collect flags but the combination of dodgy handling and the cruel random positioning of them just makes it not worth the bother. Succesfully land your ship and your ship and you’re back to the first screen all ready to go again.
11620 – My final go on the actual cab at Play Expo and I complete one loop round after realising you cannot shoot the ships on Phase 4 and that hitting the lights that resemble a fair ground burger van is not good for you health.
18460 – Back at home on my MAME setup and comparing to the cab, it seems a little off. The sounds are defiantly not kosher but my accuracy is way off mark and it seems far harder somehow. Either that or I’m simply rubbish at it.
19470 – Taking the time to clear the thrusters on Phase III is certainly the way to go to maximise the points. Ensure that you whittle down the martains to a final one and take the thrusters own whilst keeping it at arms (or tentacled sucker) length. Easier said than done with their kamikaze tendencies mind you.
23620 – And with the Sunday 5pm cut off looming I achieve my own personal goal of surpassing the 20k mark. A country mile off the world record and I honestly don’t seem me ever getting anywhere near it!
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Pleiad(e)s. Yes, I shouted at it while clawing at my face after being ram raided by the enemies again. And again. And again. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve stuck two fingers up at the screen and unleashed a string of expletives at the thing but you know what, this is early 80s arcade shooter in a nutshell. Hard, bonkers, frantic, and very unfair. We old bods wouldn’t change a thing though. Lovely stuff.