Unsung Classics. Number 8: Citadel (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

If you look up Citadel on websites, you might wonder how I'm putting it in Unsung Classics. After all, it got 91% in ZZAP! 64, which means it was obviously appreciated in its time. That may seem true, but I honestly don't know anyone else that's played it, and it hardly ever crops up in lists or discussions of best Commodore 64 games. Time to spread the word a little.

I remember following the making of Citadel in ZZAP! 64's Diary of a Game, and looking forward to it a lot. Martin Walker's updates were entertaining and insightful, and served to build a good picture of what we could expect from the game. As a result, I made sure I had a tenner available for when it was released, and bought it as soon as I could. I didn't regret it.

Your droid has a little information screen. The 'E' tells you you're about to pick up an energy capsule.

Citadel is a game set in deep space, where a routine explanation has picked up energy emissions from a seemingly-barren world. A probe was sent in to investigate, but after providing information on the planet's internal defence systems, contact was lost. As it is thought that the planet may hold technological secrets, you must use remotely controlled droids to explore the eight underground cities in an attempt to find anything of value.

The cities are laid out with checkerboard flooring, something akin to a chessboard. And indeed, the game's instructions say that this is like a cross between an arcade action game and a strategic board game. Seems like an odd mix, but there is some truth to this. You can't just pile in with guns blazing... the cities are very cleverly set up so that you're quickly overwhelmed if you try this. No, some thought is required here.

Success! You've found the door to the next city. Just in time... there are enemies on your tail...

In Citadel, each city's floors are littered with trapdoors. Once your monitor moves within a certain range of these doors, they'll open, revealing either a good surprise or a nasty surprise. It's easy to know which is which... if you get within two squares of a trap and it hasn't opened, then you know you'll reveal either a switch or, better yet, energy or firepower for your droid.

Switches are used to shut off electrified beams that deny access to many areas. There's quite a bit of backtracking needed to get all the areas open... although you don't always have to open every switch or visit every part of a city to be able to move onto the next. I appreciated this, as it can be frustrating to be stuck in similar-looking cities, wondering exactly how to get to the one bit you've missed.

This city's got horrible decor. You'd be wise to get out, sharpish.

There are some similarities to Paradroid here, too... obviously, there's the "remote droid beamed into droid-occupied territory" thing, but besides that, you have a Capture mode available. This one's a bit easier to use than in Paradroid, though... simply double-click to open it, move it over whatever you want, and let go. Voila, it's yours. This comes in very handy, because in this case, any droid you capture can be used as a shield... and it will need to be, otherwise you've got no chance in later levels, where enemy firepower is substantially more vicious.

Citadel is an excellent game, which requires you to use your brain as well as your trigger finger. It's very devious, and it's obvious that every single trap placement has been carefully considered, meaning you'll have to have your wits about you to get through the game. The action is a bit samey, it's fair to say, but it's still never less than interesting, and I've really enjoyed delving back into its depths.