Version tested: Retro
Poor Rainbow Arts, poor Manfred Trenz.
In the space of three tormented months, two of the very best C64 games ever released had to be pulled from the shelves. Following on from Rainbow Arts' run-in with Nintendo over The Great Giana Sisters, it then faced another copyright infringement conundrum after Activision considered that Katakis was way too similar to R-Type - a game it owned the rights to and planned to release a port of. In both cases, Trenz was closely involved in their creation, so he can't have been too impressed either.
But such annoying trivia didn't stop most C64 owners enjoying the game, and both of these legally dubious titles more than justify their place among our line-up of Commie favourites.
Did Activision have a point? Was it just a rip-off of R-Type? Hell yeah, and in actual fact was miles better than the eventual C64 port that came out later (that Trenz and Escher ironically also had to code - albeit within a ridiculous six week deadline). But rip-off is a bit much - Katakis was merely guilty of being too much of a tribute to R-Type for its own good, but as a result was easily one of the most stunning horizontal scrolling shooters ever to grace an 8-bit machine.
In basic gameplay terms it was the same game, with the same sort of enemies, the same power-ups, same style of backdrops, and those trademark huge bosses. Booting it up for the first time, it was hard to fathom how so much detail could have been lavish on each level - but then the next level would load in from scratch (hopefully on disk - you'd have to be a patient panda to stomach waiting for it to load from tape) and the penny dropped. Taking their cue from American developers who'd been using multiload techniques for years, it opened up the 64's capabilities to the max, with lavish levels packed with detail which would have previously not been possible with any normal game that loads in one go.
Needless to say, this sub genre has been honed and refined to a ridiculous degree now, but if you blur your eyes a bit, Katakis plays as well as it ever did. Just be aware that Denaris is effectively the same game, but with some graphical tweaks and level changes to appease the angry Activision.
9 / 10