Directed by George Lucas
PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
DEVELOPER: Sega (SG-1000 port); Jaleco (arcade)
RELEASE DATE: 1983
If shoot-em-ups were thirst-quenching beverages, Exerion would be watered-down Gatorade: there’s a hint of flavor in the mix, but after a few sips, you’ll be yearning for something more substantial.
When you start Exerion, the first element you’ll notice is the parallax scrolling. The game simulates controlling a space craft across an alien landscape at high speeds, while waves of squiggly lines, atomic models, and other seemingly inanimate threats to mankind, race towards your ship.
1983, the future was thirty-one years ago, etc, and indeed, the background scrolling remains a neat trick today. Unfortunately, the scrolling juxtaposed against the enemies’ movement patterns is jarring and borderline nauseating. The hills in the background roll along like sine waves, while enemies fly horizontally, vertically, and diagonally across the screen. Every bit of movement – including the ship you control and the enemy fire – commands your attention. Thus, it’s best to focus on your ship and the enemies, while tuning out the background completely for minimum dizziness.
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Each level is comprised of four waves of the same style of enemies. Your ship has two attacks: an unlimited double-shooter that shoots two bullets at a slower pace, and a fast, but limited single shot. One might think the double shot would be the more effective weapon because it has a wider range, but it’s too slow to be useful beyond the first couple stages. You do need to employ the double shot to refill your single shot arsenal, but aside from that, the single shot is a quicker, cleaner kill.
Once you’ve destroyed or avoided the waves of enemies (if you want, you can let the enemies pass you by and move on to the next wave – you won’t get any points, but it’s a peaceful way to progress), the background shifts, and you’re onto the next level. Six levels and Exerion repeats. 1983 might be the future, but the thought of constructing more than a few levels made developers’ brains pucker.
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If you can get past the super neat-o futuristic background movements not gelling with the rest of the game, Exerion is completely playable. Considering, though, that the SG-1000’s library already contains shmups like Sega Galaga and Star Jacker, why settle for a watery sports drink when you could have Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve Root Beer? Unless you’re just a communist and you don’t like root beer, in which case, you should probably stop reading these reviews.