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If, like me, you were wondering what happened to Andro Dunos, I can set your mind at ease. You see, the original Andro Dunos was first released way back in 1992, for the Neo Geo arcade and home machines; it seems to have failed to set the world on fire when it first appeared on the market. Obviously, not letting years of obscurity slow things down, it’s time for the sequel to hit – Andro Dunos 2. I guess the question has to be this: is this a series that should have stayed in the past?
As we drop in, expecting anything in terms of story or narrative would be a surprise; they do not seem to be strong features of the shoot ‘em up genre. And so it is here. Basically, you have a spaceship, it has guns, and there are some enemies coming towards you in a horizontal fashion. Bring your guns into contact with the enemies to win.
With the story all but absent (actually it is completely absent), let’s turn our attention to the way that Andro Dunos 2 looks and sounds. And here, you can almost believe that you are back in the 1990’s again – this is a direct sequel to the original in every way, including the way it looks.
You have the option of playing in the original 4:3 format, with either art panels filling the sides of the screen, or you can just have big black borders if you prefer. You can also play the game in 16:9 format, but it feels a bit weird doing so, like the whole game has had one too many plastic surgery procedures. I think 4:3 is the way to go.
The actual design of the enemies and the ship you fly are very much of their time too, and while everything looks suitably shiny, this is very much a retro, sprite based game. Even some of the effects reminded me of the old mode & graphical trickery from the Super Nintendo days, with enemies swooping in from the background to fight. The music is all lovely as well, as you’d expect from the pen of Allister Brimble, the composer of the soundtrack for Alien Breed, among many others. The rest of the shooting and exploding sound effects are all bang on as well. Frankly, the presentation is lovely.
So, gameplay then. What can we expect from Andro Dunos 2? Well, it is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, and throws enemies, bullets and bosses at you in order to try and make you fail. It is very old skool in its difficulty as well, and playing on any of the harder difficulties requires the reflexes of a house fly jacked up on Monster. There are only a fixed number of continues as well, with nine being the absolute maximum. Once those continues are gone, it is back to the start. Or you could just use the handy level select feature to pick up where you left off…
Actually shooting the enemies does need a bit of thought. You see, instead of just having a single gun that gets powered up gradually by picking up power ups from defeated enemies, the ship in Andro Dunos 2 has multiple weapon systems. A quick press of the RB button while you are flying will change the weapon type you have, from bog standard peashooter, via some kind of laser based death ray, to a two way blaster that can be powered up to cover a large proportion of the screen with every shot. Finding the weapon system that you like is pretty easy, and in further good news, each separate weapon system can be powered up, not only by using it and grabbing power ups in combat, but after each level as well.
As you fly through the levels and defeat waves of foes, there are blue orb type things to pick up, and each one that you grab grants you points at the end of each level. And what do points make? Power up levels for the individual weapons systems. So, while your favourite gun will soon be at maximum level, you can also improve the other systems, as you never know, it may be easier to take certain bosses down with different systems…
There are seven levels to be found in the base game of Andro Dunos 2, a Boss Rush mode to unlock, and other goodies to find hidden away. The Xbox achievements are awarded for progress through the game, and so will keep you coming back for more. And really, that’s all there is to say to about Andro Dunos 2. It has some drawbacks, in that all the classic unfair tactics of the baddies are present and correct, including enemies that fly in from behind and crash into you, bosses that try to ram you, and a screen that soon looks busier than the North Circular on a Friday evening, but all in all the challenge is fairly enjoyable.
Andro Dunos 2 certainly doesn’t take any prisoners, and as a reminder of simpler times, when games were tough and gamers were nervous, it does enough to merit a play. Quite why it is a single player only experience is strange though – it is crying out for a co-op mode to help split the aggro.
Andro Dunos 2 is on the Xbox Store