Review: Apeiron X 1.0.1
Developer: Ambrosia Software
Price: $15; $5 (upgrade)
Requirements: G3, Mac OS 8 or Mac OS X 10.2
Trial: Feature-limited (first 15 levels)
Many long-term Mac users have fond memories of Ambrosia Software’s gaming adaptations of 1980s arcade classics. Apeiron was an interpretation of Atari’s successful Centipede and Millipede, but with fancier graphics, sound effects, and slightly more varied game features. With the release of Apeiron X, Ambrosia brings this gaming classic to OS X.
Apeiron X, much like its namesake, takes the Centipede/Millipede concept to new levels. Unlike the arcade versions, which demanded repeated quarters, Apeiron X doesn’t kill the player after only a few minutes of gameplay. Extra lives and other bonuses are much easier to obtain, and Apeiron X’s gameplay is generally less-frantic and slightly slower than its arcade ancestors. Clearing the first few-dozen waves is relatively simple, but it rapidly become more challenging as the game progresses.
For the few who may not be familiar with the classic non-scrolling 2-D shooters, Apeiron X is a deceptively simple game. You start with three lives. Bad guys usually appear at the top of the screen and must be shot before they reach the bottom, while your weapon is limited to the bottom 20% of the screen. If an enemy touches you, you’re dead. Kill all of the required enemies and you advance to the next, more difficult level. To make things more challenging, there are mushrooms randomly interspersed throughout the gaming screen that block movement and prevent clear shots at the baddies.
The main enemies on each level are the Pentipedes, a regenerating segmented bug. Every time a segment of the Pentipede is shot, it leaves behind another mushroom to interfere with your mission of carnage. If the Pentipede is shot in the middle, the insect splits in half and multiple bugs moving separately continue their path down the screen. When a Pentipede segment reaches the bottom of the screen, new individual segments rapidly appear from the sides of the screen until all are killed. All Pentipedes must be killed to advance.
The enemies and obstacles in Apeiron X are cuter than their arcade counterparts.
Other enemies include: Groucho, a flea-tick creature that poisons mushrooms; Larry, a scorpion-lobster that eats mushrooms and tries to run into your shooter; Gordon, a gecko that creates red mushrooms that hasten the Pentipedes’ paths to the bottom of the screen; and a one-eyed alien in a spaceship that flies through blowing up mushrooms.
Bonuses are gathered to add points, extra lives, or new features to help kill bugs. These are obtained by shooting a bonus multiplier, shooting a flashing psychedelic mushroom, and gathering coins. Each is only available for a limited time and will disappear with a resounding raspberry sound effect if not collected.
While Apeiron X offers the same overall graphics as the 90s version, they have been improved to offer more depth and generally appear smoother than the original. The enemies and bonus items are recognizable to both users of the original Apeiron and those only familiar with the arcade classics.
The mouse is a perfect game controller for this 2-D shooter format, seamlessly replacing its cousin the trackball. The game responds perfectly to mouse movements and offers “auto-repeated” shots when the mouse button is held down.
A new feature in Apeiron X is optional high score interaction with the Ambrosia Web site. When a new high score is created, users have the option of reporting their high score for comparison with other players’.
Apeiron X doesn’t have the sophisticated 3D graphics and online competition many modern gamers demand, but it offers simple and satisfying gameplay that can rapidly become addictive. Many arcade adaptations simply “dress up” the arcade original with fancier graphics and sound effects, but Apeiron actually goes one step further to improve over the originals. Some of the simple gameplay additions in Apeiron are so obvious (such as coin-collecting bonus frenzies that often distract the player and get them killed, reflected bullets, and mushrooms that dislodge and fall when shot) that it is surprising they were not included in the arcade originals.
An axiom of game design is that great games are easy to learn but hard to master, and prove challenging without being frustrating. Apeiron X meets these classic requirements.