I don’t typically include 2 titles as “Game of the Week” but I felt like the only two games available for the Jaguar during the console’s San Francisco/New York City soft launch in November 1993 deserved to be lumped together here. Launch games are crucial to the success of a fledgling console. Some consoles can gain success beyond lackluster launch titles as long as what is available shows promise and there is documented proof that better games are coming shortly. When Atari launched with Cybermorph (as the pack-in) and Trevor McFur, the expectations set were sky high. In Nov of 1993, the primary consoles of choice were the SNES and the Genesis, both 16-bit consoles. The 3DO, which was a 32-bit console, had been released earlier that fall, but the vast majority of gamers only had the Nintendo and Sega consoles to compare the Jaguar against. Atari claimed to have the world’s first 64-bit console so they didn’t do themselves any favors when one of the two games available at launch, Trevor McFur, a side scrolling space shooter, didn’t really look or play much better than its 16-bit counterparts. Cybermorph, on the other hand, did offer a unique perspective and gameplay that wasn’t common to gamers at the time. Cybermorph provides gamers an open world 3D polygonal environment to traverse in a third person shooter game. Star Fox on the SNES came close to this style but the game is on rails so you aren’t allowed to roam free range style.
Going back to Trevor McFur, my issues with the game are:
- The name/concept. It may appear as if Trevor McFur attempts to rip off the “animals that act like humans” concept popularized in Star Fox on the SNES, but in less capable hands, it comes off as silly.
- Backgrounds that look nice but are definitely just static, repeating, and generally boring.
- Lackluster gameplay. Each level is long and repetitive. The same handful of enemies over and over and over again, including many rocks/asteroids that break into smaller parts and spin around the screen randomly. These annoying rock fragments will inevitably mow you down and when you have a nice upgraded weapon, this can be soul crushing. This is not atypical for all shooters though.
- Takes forever to get to the end of level bosses. Did I mention how boring and repetitive the levels are?
- Lack of in game music. I don’t always consider lack of in game music to be a detriment, depending on the game and the atmosphere, but the lack of music in Trevor McFur just amplifies the blandness of the gameplay.
What I like about Trevor McFur?
- Graphics are pretty good with no detectable slow-down in spite of numerous enemies on the screen at once.
- Lots of sub-weapons to choose from once you acquire them during the course of the level. I tend to save my special weapons for the bosses.
- Ability to call on your side-kick/girlfriend (assumed based on Trevor and Cutter’s dramatic embrace on the cover), Cutter, to assist when things get out of hand.
- Adequate difficulty. I’ve read some reviews from the early 90’s declaring the game “easy” and I think they’re nuts. It’s not easy, but it’s not exactly hard either. I think the difficulty is just about right and the game offers numerous continues to help you achieve the goal of beating the game. Which I have not come close to doing.
Overall, Trevor McFur is a very average game in my opinion and as far as side scrolling shooters go, one of the least interesting and innovative. I can imagine gamers expecting to be wowed by a shooter on a 64-bit console coming away from playing this thinking they’ve been had by Atari marketing.
While Cybermorph is no masterpiece, I do think that it’s genuinely underrated today. Widely considered an awful, trash game by anyone that hasn’t actually played it thanks to the AVGN (which admittedly I enjoy) and jokes about your computer AI, Skylar, nagging you about your lack of flying skills. “Where did you learn to fly?” is an internet meme for a reason. Well, quit running into the sides of mountains and you don’t have to hear her repeat that phrase over and over! This is easier said than done as there is definitely a learning curve with the controls but once mastered, Cybermorph can be an interesting and relatively fun game. The gameplay does get bogged down in repetitiveness as your mission is to search out and collect pods in each level while blasting enemies. The game could use some variety in objectives but alas, it does not.
What are my issues with Cybermorph?
- Like Trevor McFur, the gameplay is a bit too repetitive. Gather up the pods while either avoiding or defeating enemies, exit the planet, move on to the next planet. Next verse, same as the first.
- Again, lack of in game music. Not as big of a deal for me in this game as the style of the gameplay is more exploration and atmosphere but some music now and then, maybe at boss battles or uplifting music once you’ve gathered up enough pods to escape the planet, would have been nice.
- Yeah, yeah, Skylar can be annoying at times. You have the option to mute her but honestly, she is only grating if she repeats the same phrases over and over in a short period of time. I do like that she gives positive reinforcement, throwing out the occasional compliments about my work, but in general, she doesn’t often provide much usefulness.
What do I like about Cybermorph?
- Graphics that may not have aged well but were impressive at the time. I don’t generally consider aged graphics as a negative as I’m looking at these games in the context of the era they were released and what else was available for the system. For a console launch title in 1993, the graphics are decent if unspectacular.
- Game play is smooth, indicating that the Jaguar had some muscle after all.
- Adequate difficulty level. I can get pretty far in this game if I decide to spend the time, which may be asking a lot.
Overall, Cybermorph is decent game and not a horrible choice for a launch title considering what was available for Atari at the time (Trevor McFur, Raiden, Dino Dudes). It is certainly not one of the best games for the system, however, and not enough of a must own title to be considered a system seller.
As my version of Cybermorph was the launch version (as indicated by the part number and 1993 copyright on the label), my game wouldn’t have had a box like later editions would have. However, it should have a manual and overlay, which I will be seeking out for my collection.
Currently in my collection:
- Cybermorph – game only C+
- Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy – game, manual, overlay C-