Saturday, August 7, 2021

Matter of Import 51: El Fin Del Tiempo [Niemer 1981]


El Fin Del Tiempo is a 1981 Spanish arcade game from Niemer that presents a dog's dinner of clashing shooter gameplay styles in an attempt to provide a little bit of everything but instead offering up a whole lot of nothing.

The graphics are primitive, the sound basic, and the gameplay is clunky. In the end, it promises much but delivers very little.

After an opening sequence showing a UFO bombing a city, we're treated to a generic arcade fanfare before being tossed into the first level. Gameplay here is faintly reminiscent of Konami's Scramble – we can orient our ship in up to eight directions while we're dragged relentlessly forward as the stage scrolls. It doesn't feel so much like you're flying as you are choosing a direction to point your ship, and once you've adapted to that the game becomes a little easier. Complicating matters is the fuel mechanic that drops quick – you need to constantly shoot little tankers to stay alive, while dodging missiles.

At the end of the stage we find a space station we can enter to refuel, though why is a mystery – the game largely abandons the mechanic after this stage, and we find ourselves instead on a fixed screen with an orb we can't shoot and an endless supply of crashing meteors to avoid until the 45 second clock runs out. We can shoot the flaming rocks, but honestly our ship feels so large and ponderous avoiding them is more a matter of luck than skill; if a meteor crashes on screen it'll rise up as a rocket to be avoided shortly after.

We do, in this stage, have a secondary gun – a twin laser canon. Like the fuel mechanic it only exists here, and doesn't add much to the experience.

The next stage sees us transformed into a little robot thing floating next to our space station while weird tentacles rise from the ground and a smaller satellite orbits, shooting us, and another countdown clock appears. This time, if the time runs out, we lose a life, and it took me a few tries to figure out that what we need to do is grab these little wedges and bring them up to our station to pass the level.

From here we go to another fixed screen shooter stage, this one reminiscent of Nintendo's Radar Scope – though here the 3D effect is far less sophisticated, and we simply have to eliminate all of the aliens to move on.

Stage Five gives us the cityscape from the opening animation, the mothership, and several saucers to shoot. Once they're destroyed, the mothership drops its city-destroying payload – and we have to shoot it to beat the cycle. From here it's back to round 1, with a few more enemies to make the game more complicated.

What it feels like is a shooter whose developers tried to jam in every mechanic they liked from the last few years of arcade development without any real regard for how or why those mechanics worked, needlessly including elements like the fuel meter, grabbing arm, or secondary cannon that would be used for one stage and then abandoned. It feels like a jumbled mess of an anthology rather than an actual enjoyable game, made difficult chiefly by how poorly your ship handles and how unnatural it feels.

I've reviewed titles that felt less like a game and more like a tech demo, but seldom have I encountered something so poorly designed, ugly, and unpleasant to play. El Fin Del Tiempo – released in 1981, the same year we got Donkey Kong, Galaga, Frogger, Centipede, and Ms Pac Man – gets Matter of Import's first 'F' ranking, and may God have mercy on its soul.

No comments:

Post a Comment