Review by Frogacuda

Reviewed: 07/28/03 | Updated: 07/28/03

A late reminder of what made the Lynx so great

For years now, Carl Forhan's Songbird Productions has been spearheading the movement to keep our bulky handheld alive in this age of Nintendo's handheld stranglehold. If there's one thing Songbird has shown us it's that it can consistently one-up itself. Songbird's efforts have progressed from homebrew-like demos, to entertaining yet simple arcade efforts, to professional quality. Songbird continues its uphill trend with Cyber Virus and delivers a game which is not only professional, but a real classic in its own right.

Cyber Virus has been a long time in coming. The game began life sometime in the mid 90s. Beyond Games hoped to exploit the capable engine from their multi player vehicular combat game Battle Wheels to create a mission based first person shooter. The game was dropped at about 3/4 into it's development and Beyond Games threw in the towel on the Lynx. In 1999, Carl Forhan snagged the rights from Beyond and began picking away at finishing the game. In February of 2002, Cyber Virus finally made it to the public.

So at long last Cyber Virus has arrived. What can those gamers patient enough to last the wait expect from their purchase? In short they will be rewarded with a quality, entertaining, and intelligent action game worthy of the mighty Lynx legacy. As soon as you start the game up Cyber Virus' Battlewheels roots are obvious. The game's physics and graphics engine are identical. Controls are very similar as well, but with the welcome addition of a strafe option and the ability to move while looking at the map. But at the end of the day, Cyber Virus outpaces it's ancestor by large strides. Perhaps even more to its benefit, CyberVirus manages to create something distinctly new out of something old, which is important when releasing a game so long after a system's commercial life.

As I mentioned before, Cyber Virus is a mission based first-person shooter. Set in the near future, you assume the role of a lone operative deployed to combat a cyborg menace unleashed by a malicious computer virus. While the plot may be uninspired, the gameplay is quite solid. The game is broken into 16 missions. Most of these missions are nothing mind blowing, consisting primarily of collecting various items or taking out targets, while managing your resources. However, Carl (who designed all of the games missions) had the foresight to make these missions nicely on the difficult side. While frustrating at first, this is very much a blessing in disguise, as it forces the player to think about how he attacks each mission. In the end the game relies more on brains than joypad acrobatics, and that's a good thing.

On the more superficial side of things, Cyber Virus is an attractive game. The 3D sprite scaling engine works as well here as in Battlewheels. The game moves at a brisk frame rate, and the art is competent, with a variety of backgrounds. Visually the game's biggest flaw is that it's limited to flat open spaces, which works well in the southwestern levels, but feels odd in the jungle missions. Levels are filled a bit more sparsely than Battlewheels as well which makes it a bit less interesting to look at. The visual package is rounded out nicely with some splash panels at the beginning and between certain missions. There is no music during the levels, but sound effects are good, and never grating. Title and level music is memorable, but nothing special.

Cyber Virus is by no means perfect. There's a definite lack of visual variety. Most enemies are pallette swapped Cybots of varying strengths and armaments, levels are filled with a narrow variety of buildings and trees, and the ever-present wide open spaces. Also, with 16 missions the game has enough meat, but a few more missions would've helped the game, as there's not alot of replay incentive. Along those same lines, difficulty levels and a system of performance ranking or score would definitely have gone a long way toward boosting the game's shelf life. These things aside the game does not feel incomplete in any way, but more trimmings would be welcome.

The life of the Lynx after the collapse of its parent company Atari has been an interesting one. The Lynx never really died entirely. There's always been some sparse releases to give devoted Lynx owners a reason to dust off their favorite handheld, but these releases never really did quite capture the magic of the games from the system's prime. I'm happy to say Cyber Virus overcomes this, and delivers the kind of game that made the system so great to begin with. By no means a home-brew, CyberVirus is a smart, challenging, and enjoyable game, and fits right in among the system's classics.At last, the Lynx has the chance to roar once again.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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