Hindsight : Tyrian
I must confess, the reason I decided to write a piece about this brilliant game is borne from the sheer guilt of having overlooked it recently. In my ‘Best Soundtracks Ever’ piece, I cruelly forgot to mention the incredible FM synth music that fills Tyrian.
Let’s start at the beginning though. Tyrian was a shareware shoot-em-up released in 1995, programmed by a small team and released by Epic Megagames.
It’s a vertical scroller that allows you to upgrade the many different parts of your ship. In the full game (as opposed to the arcade mode) you play mission-by-mission, saving up points to upgrade in a manner that far outstrips any comparable game and provides a real feeling of empowerment. You have a main weapon, a side weapon, a shield, a power generator and two sidearm, which adds a real layer of strategy: power up your guns but not your generator and your shield won’t have enough energy to recharge.
The levels are bright and colourful with well-drawn sprites and graphical effects that were impressive even on a low-level Pentium in 1995. There are a wide variety of enemies and objects with a range of styles and formations that keep the gameplay interesting and fresh.
The better of the two games that allow you fling hotdogs at ships. The other being Hotdog Storm.
Most importantly of all: Tyrian is fun. The gameplay is well-designed and responsive and it’s hard to believe that for much of the development team, this was their first ever project; such is the quality of the game.
Like all shoot-em-ups, it occasionally gets frustrating on the harder levels but it avoids the unforgiving flaws of many similar games that have been designed as purely arcade coin-munchers or uber-hardcore tests of patience (Project X2, anyone?). The ability to shift weapons around adds an element of tactics when replaying incomplete levels.In addition, Tyrian is full of Easter-eggs and quirky weapons including a carrot ship, banana and hot dog weapons and a mini turn-based battle game that’s tucked away.
Eighteen years later and Tyrian has yet to be bettered in many respects. No shoot-em-up since has mastered the variety and range of weaponry as superbly and the visuals and sound have a brilliant quality that makes them feel much less dated than other games of the time.
And so to the music:
Tyrian uses the FM music chips of mid-nineties PC hardware (a better version of the Mega Drive sound chip) and turns it into something big, powerful and energetic. Even the developers knew how good it was: they added a jukebox mode in the setup tool and believe me – you’ll probably end up using it.
The Jukebox: Great music plus swirly colourful sprites, who can argue?
‘Gyges, can you help me please?’ in the video here is perhaps one of the greatest pieces of game music ever made. Or perhaps try the Doctor Who inspired bass line of ‘Asteroid Dance Part 2’?
Now for the best part: if you have never played this magnificent game, or have it lodged simply as a distant memory, it’s legally available for free. That’s right – the authors legally made Tyrian2000 freeware (complete with an extra chapter) way back in 2004, details below. It’s also available on iOS for a small cost.
So in summary: it’s brilliant, it’s fun, it has smart graphics, it has great music, and it’s free.
How to Play Tyrian:
The easiest way to play Tyrian is to download DOSBOX and use that to run the game, as it won’t work natively in Windows Vista/7.
Save the Tyrian files to a simple directory, so presuming you are using C drive: C:/Games/Tyrian
Open DOSBOX, and type the following: Mount C: C:/ (enter) [this tells Dosbox to use the right hard drive]
Then type: C: (enter), cd games (enter), cd tyrian (enter).
If on your first play of the game type: Setup (enter) – Change the Music Option to FM Music, change Sound effects to Soundblaster, then exit.
Type: tyrian2k (enter)
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Rob is an advertising strategist and author of 'The Ad Pit' blog. Rob has been playing games for 25 years - which makes him feel very old. He used to have a victory ratio of 40:1 in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, but that was a long time ago! #dogyears