Release Date: 1984
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Genre: Shoot’em Up
Alternate Title: N/A
Model #: PB5080
This port does a pretty good job emulating the arcade title.
You are marooned just outside of Neptune and must fight your way through squadron after squadron of enemy fighters on your three billion mile trip back to Earth. Along the way you will stop off at Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars before arriving back home. Before that can happen though, a lot of aliens must be destroyed.
Unlike most space combat games that has you patrolling the bottom of the screen as enemies approach from the top, your ship employs the swirling attack pattern, which is a unique combat strategy to say the least. As you rotate around the edge of the screen your adversaries pop into your line of fire in small batches, fire off a couple of missiles then retreat into the darkness of space. Each wave has a handful of squadrons that take turns attempting to kill you, and when they are disposed of your ship hits the warp accelerator and is one step closer to home.
Rival space ships aren’t the only thing that can cut your journey short. Occasionally a trio of satellites will materialize close to your ship, and upon taking out the middle one your blaster gets upgraded to fire two shots simultaneously. Meteors will also appear in your path that must be dodged since they are impervious to your weaponry.
There are a couple problems with Gyruss, the biggest of which is the low difficulty level. With a little bit of anticipation and a quick trigger finger it’s possible to wipe out entire formations on their first flyby, making it very easy to survive each wave. The other downside, the music, is also one of the most impressive features of the game. There is a very impressive version of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor which plays on an endless loop, however it is the only sound in the game. No sound effects, no firing, no ship explosions, nothing. While it is arguably the best music on the 2600, it really takes you out of the game.
Despite being a port of a rather complex arcade game, the gameplay is solid and lives up to the coin-op original. Most of the levels are here, there are nice graphics when you reach the planets, and the bonus level is more or less intact. If you are a fan of the genre, this is a good option.