C64 games I've heard of but never played before - Ciphoid 9

by Paul Morrison


I remember seeing this in a mate’s copy of ZZAP! 64… this was several months before I got my Commodore 64 and a couple of months before I started buying ZZAP! 64. I never entertained the idea of buying it because the review destroyed it (18% overall, in fact!), but the title always stuck in my head. And yet, to this day I’d never played it. I can’t say that any more…

Nice title screen.   Lovely stills are a theme with this game.

Nice title screen. Lovely stills are a theme with this game.

Ciphoid 9 is not a game I will be able to write endless paragraphs about. It’s extremely simplistic, with all the action taking place on a single screen at a time. I make that distinction because the game scrolls from sector to sector… but I use the word “scrolls” loosely…

The basic premise is one you’ve heard before: Earth is under attack from aliens, and it’s up to you to defend the planet. You do this using a powerful gun turret on the moon which, for some reason, the aliens flock to like moths to a flame. You’d think they’d just avoid it altogether and attack the planet directly but no, they have to go showboating and take out what little defence we have first.

That’s not a flying saucer in your crosshair: that’s the remnants of a destroyed alien ship!

That’s not a flying saucer in your crosshair: that’s the remnants of a destroyed alien ship!

What follows is kind of a play on Missile Command, whereby you use a crosshair on the static screen to take out enemy ships and projectiles, and any missiles that reach the bottom of the screen cause you damage. Every wave contains a specific number of enemies and you must destroy them all to move on to the next screen.

That transition reveals the ugliest aspect of what is a gorgeous looking game: the scrolling is atrocious. Rather than smoothly sliding across to the next sector, the screen judders in large chunks. In all honesty, it doesn’t affect the gameplay in the slightest but it paints a very unsightly blot on an otherwise beautiful landscape.

Our dodgy scrolling can do more damage than any missile attack!

Our dodgy scrolling can do more damage than any missile attack!

Should you successfully limp across to another area, you may well find an alien mothership waiting. This behemoth is more hostile than its babies, and takes a lot more damage before it’s destroyed. If you fail to blow it to bits, you’ll see a couple of missiles launched at a poor defenceless Earth, which is promptly wiped from existence. Succeed, and it’s on for more of the same. You won’t win, but just think of the high score you might get!

Time to show this alien scum who’s the boss!

Time to show this alien scum who’s the boss!

I feel that ZZAP!’s 18% was a touch on the harsh side… although it’s a very simple game, it’s not completely without enjoyment. It did get my adrenaline pumping a little, at least… although I doubt if I’d have been very happy if I’d paid £9.95 for it in 1985. I suspect that review was unduly influenced by that horrible scroll, but even if it had been silky smooth, I wouldn’t have expected the game to receive a whole lot more.