Developer: Eclipse Productions
Publisher: Epic Games (versions 1 & 2), XSIV Games (version 3.0)
Release: 1995 (version 1.0), 1999 (version 3.0), 2004 (Freeware)
Platform: DOS
Genre: Arcade Vertical Scrolling Shooter
OFLC Rating: G

Tyrian is a computer game that came onto the scene during the shareware revolution of the 1990s – These were the times you had developers like Id Software, 3D Realms (then Apogee Software), Epic Games (then Epic Megagames) leading the charge to make PC gaming a dominant force that it is today with audio visual innovations in PC game development. Shareware was a marketing idea that allow consumers to try a part of the program and order a complete version if they liked it. For computer games it was also a time when PC games would go from basic visual designs to giving console games a run for their money and ultimately overtaking them. Tyrian, though not the first vertical scrolling arcade game captures both what Raptor: Call of the Shadows did as well as pay homage to the arcade classics of the genre. During its development it was compared to the 1986 game Zanac, although I honestly find Tyrian to bear more resemblance to Truxton of 1988.
Vertical scrolling shooters are games that makes play from a bird’s eye view and often feature aerial and space warfare as you fly an air or space craft. The levels are usually consistently paced as the entire level scrolls downward giving the effect that you are on the move, you have the ability to fly around the screen as you engage your enemies. Most games of this type will feature “Pick-Ups” that will add a bonus to your score, grant an additional chance or life as well as ones that give the player new weapons or improve existing ones. When playing any given level players will become a customed to memorising enemy movements, ground target layouts and pick-up drops. Tyrian follows the example of games that feature “Boss” confrontations in every level – These are enemies that can be moving air or ground targets as well as stationary targets. Either way these enemies take a considerable amount of hits to be beaten and will have a set of patterns in the manner they fire their weapons. Many notable Japanese games of the genre will feature boss battles where players suffer a punishing challenge referred to as “Bullet Hell” – The enemy will use a firing pattern so vicious, players literally have to use all their skills to actually dodge incoming volleys whilst landing their shots upon the target. Thankfully, Tyrian does not do that.
Tyrian like Raptor: Call of the Shadows offers players an arsenal of weapons to unleash destruction with, only there is more than what I could go into details with.
Weapons are categorised as either Front, Rear, Sidekick or Super Weapons.
Front guns are your primary weapons and are relatively straight forward. Rear guns compliment the front gun as either a defensive weapon, extra firepower or able to switch between two modes. Both front and rear weapons can be powered up ten additional levels. Sidekicks are support weapons that will either fire along side your front and rear weapons or independently. Super weapons require you to tap your fire key/button if you are looking to use it in rapid succession, otherwise simply stop firing for split second and the weapon will fire when ready. When I said Tyrian doesn’t do bullet hell, this game has other ideas of sadistic ideas when it comes to torturing the hardcore players of this genre – for example it will go crazy and throw more enemies tougher and aggressive that what it would on Normal. At any difficultly setting, the game would bring the challenge to you by pushing you to either out maneuver foes, bring a better weapons composition to the fight or all of the above and then some.
On the subject of difficulty, there are six – Easy will offer enough a challenge to the point that won’t push you too hard too soon. Normal adds more enemies into the mix and will keep experienced players on their toes in the later levels. Hard ups the ante by adding more enemies to levels and can change the layout of various levels. But for even more challenge appeal, there are three hidden difficulty levels that can be accessed with pressing certain keys together at the Difficulty selection screen – These will increase aggressiveness of enemy firing patterns and toughness. Pressing “Shift” and “G” will unlock “Impossible” difficulty, this caters toward the Hardcore players of the genre. Pressing “Shift” and “}” will unlock “Suicide”, catering toward the more masochistic players. Pressing the keys that spell lord together will unlock “Lord of the Game” mode, this is made with the elitists of the genre in mind.
Difficulty settings aside, Tyrian offers a total of seven game modes – The Full Game, Arcade, Timed Battle and 2 Player Arcade are available whereas the three other modes can be accessed by typing in a code (please not the quotations indicating said codes) at the main menu screen.
To play Tyrian’s Scorched Earth inspired game, type in “DESTRUCT”. To play Super Tyrian, type “ENGAGE”. To play Super Arcade mode, type in any of the following – “TECHNO”, “UNKNOWN”, “STORMWIND”, “STEALTH”, “WEIRD”, “LIZARD”, “ENEMY”, “PRETZEL”, “NORTSHIPZ”. Without spoiling anything here, Super Arcade mode features a different ship with it’s own set of weapon pick-ups.
Like any good arcade game, Tyrian has a High Scores leaderboard for the “Score Chasers” out there – Bad news, it doesn’t have online capabilities. There is a one and two player leaderboard for each of the five episodes as well as one for each of the Timed Battle challenges.
For those looking to appreciate the best Tyrian has to offer, the Full Game is where it’s all at.
Tyrian doesn’t just deliver a crazy addictive arcade gameplay, but manages to serve up good science fiction story as well! Tyrian’s central narrative tells of corporate conspiracy, betrayal and epic confrontation whilst weaving in some of the most comedic writing seen in a serious science fiction. All this is told through “Data” cubes (a sort of email system within the game) which can be picked up from shooting certain targets during a given level.
Not only will you experience the story in the Full Game, but you also have ability to buy weapons and upgrades rather than be restricted to picking them up as you would in Arcade mode. All front, rear and sidekick weapons are made purchasable in this mode, with only free upgrades and super weapons as in game pick-ups. For the score chasers out there, you will be forced to choose between clocking a high score and purchasing that necessary upgrade as your in game score is also your currency. It is this balancing act that the game uses to challenge all who play – I have often had to sink points into necessary upgrades and forgo getting a place on the Top Three. With that said, there are low scoring levels that manage to exacerbate this challenge. The higher the difficulty, the more strategic Tyrian becomes in the full game as weapons composition plays a vital part in beating any given level. Like Raptor, your fighter won’t go down in a single hit – you have hull armour which takes more than few hits and rechargeable shield that is available from the get go. The full game features the addition of a generator to this system. This will power both your weapons and shield recharge ability adding another layer of strategy to the game. The full game will not only allow you to kit out your weapons but your shield and generator as well as trade in your ships too – This allows you to potentially increase your power, shield and armour capacities. Not only that, but various ships have secret weapons that can be activated by performing combo like maneuvers.
As you progress through the full game, you will occasionally have the choice to choose between one of two levels where you wouldn’t ordinarily in the arcade modes.
One of the things that manages to stand out aside from the game’s vibrant graphics is the awesome soundtrack composed by both Alexander Brandon and Andreas Molnar. In fact, for an arcade shooter Tyrian has some rather memorable levels – a classic example would have to be fighting the boss that is a nose with a pair of eyeballs. I know! Crazy, right? You only have to look at the carrot ship and hotdog gun available to begin experiencing how crazy Tyrian can get. – Play this game in the month of December and it turns into Christmas themed game.
Overall, Tyrian is one of the best arcade games on the PC platform and is free! I highly recommend downloading Tyrian 2000 (version 3.0), as it is the most definitive version of the game.

Final Thoughts

If you love arcade games, then Tyrian is one worth adding to your collection.
If you’re a fan of shooters like Galaga, Raiden, Truxton and Raptor: Call of the Shadows then Tyrian is sure to be right up your alley.
If you’re looking for an arcade game that provides the perfect balance between challenging and fun, Tyrian will do exactly that!

If you still need convincing…  Click the power button on the game screen to play it right here, right now.  If you are interested in a copy head on over to GOG.COM and download it for free.

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: A
Content: B
Skill: A
Technical: B
Value: A
Audience: Youth