04
Nov
14

Tubular Worlds for DOS

Tubular Worlds

Tubular Worlds

Today’s game, Tubular Worlds, is a horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up seemingly inspired by the likes of R-type. It was created by Creative Game Design and published by Dongleware Verlags GmbH in 1994. I’ve never heard of any software from either company in the past, so when encountering this game on a shareware magazine cover disk I had no idea what to expect. The magazine simply called it a “surprise” and offered absolutely no clues about the game.

Preparing for Battle

Preparing for Battle

I remember the introduction sequence seemed quite atmospheric and intriguing the first time I saw it. It involves some kind of “Cyber legion cadet” gearing up for battle, which looked kinda like what I’d expect a borg drone to do before battle. This was all the story we got as the cover disk had no room on it for any kind of documentation. As it turns out the story isn’t all that important, as was common for most shoot ’em up games of the time.

Weird Creatures

Weird Creatures

Graphically the game is quite impressive, with some very nice and colourful VGA sprites and backgrounds. The sprites animate very nicely, it’s obvious lots of work was put into making them as arcade like in quality as possible. I think that in general the art style is influenced by Japanese games and animation, all the objects are quite detailed. One of the only downsides of the graphics is that it can be hard to see some of the incoming projectiles sometimes.

More Preparation?

More Preparation?

Back when I first played the game we didn’t have a sound card of any type, and Tubular Worlds doesn’t support PC speaker so we were left with playing in silence then. Having played it now with a sound blaster I can say that we were missing out. The background music is catchy and has a quick tempo, but isn’t overly distracting. It’s not the best I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty good. The sound effects are appropriately arcadey, and fit quite well with the music.

Early in the first level

Early in the first level

The control options are the keyboard, mouse or joystick. The keyboard controls are precise, but I feel with the speed of the ship you lack manoeuvrability that helps in both getting power-ups and dodging bullets. I feel the mouse controls work much better, you can more easily dodge and collect power-ups. I didn’t get to try the joystick option as I didn’t have a suitable joystick at the time, however I suspect that it would work much like keyboard does, especially if you have a game pad.

Second level

Second level

I was never really into shoot ’em ups when playing on our DOS machine, having only really played much of Starfire, Overkill and Stellar Defence. So Tubular worlds seemed like something quite different to me at the time. One thing the others lacked was simultaneous multi-player, which is implemented fairly nicely here, only it makes the game a fair bit easier, so turn up the difficulty if you plan on playing with a friend.

The main complaint I have is the game is extremely short. The game is divided into 4 worlds each with about 3 levels and a boss stage. It felt like each level only took a couple of minutes to complete and didn’t really fully explore the possibilities with arrangements of enemies. I did only play the shareware worlds, so the other worlds may be longer, but most shareware games of the day just offered more of the same once registered.

Pointy Things

Pointy Things

It’s quite hard for me to look at the wider picture as I’ve not really played many shooters, but it is clear that Tubular Worlds doesn’t really stand out as unique. I didn’t think it was bad, but there isn’t much that would keep me coming back to play more. I quite enjoyed playing the levels in the shareware episode, but wasn’t really impressed by the boss, it seemed uninspired and didn’t reflect anything about the levels that came before it. In summary, I quite like this game, and you might enjoy it more than I did if you’re into shooters. However it’s not really anything special by any means, so don’t be surprised if you only play through it once.

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