Genre: Shmup Developer: UPL Limited Publisher: UPL Limited Players: 1-2 Released: 1991
First off, Bio-Ship Paladin oozes cool. I can imagine being 18 in 1991 when it was released. This would be the game that all of my friends would step over their own mothers to get their hands on. it’s a fast, exciting, and interesting shmup that, yes I’ll say it, rivals Zero Wing (*gasp*). No game is without its faults, however.
Bio-Ship Paladin takes place throughout ten levels of alien-blasting madness in jungles, deserts, and one intense flight through a cave in your organic Bio-Ship. This is the most interesting aspect of the game. You are riding in an organic ship, and not only can it be upgraded but it can “evolve” in a manner of speaking. Collect a little “L” sphere and your Bio-Ship will grow. As you take damage, however, your Bio-Ship will degrade and eventually revert to its insignificant former self before exploding. In addition to evolving your Bio-Ship, you can collect little sentient satellites that respond to your attacks by firing bursts of electricity, evaporating anything that happens to venture into their static-charged paths. There are also a couple of different power-ups for additional shots or that send forth what I have dubbed a “twirling pyramid of pain,” which unleashes unbridled wrath on the alien masses. You can also charge your standard laser, making it just enough to push through a tight spot or just enough to tear a hole in the hull of a boss. Your secondary weapon is a bullet/laser device that can target anything on the screen (you must do this manually though, leaving you exposed to attack) and can help you in situations where the screen is flooded left and right with various devious enemies of doom.
Considering when it was released, Bio-Ship is a pleasure to look at. The colors are crisp and forms detailed with some nice pseudo 3D effects. Scrolling backgrounds are utilized liberally but don’t dominate the on screen action and become the focal point of gameplay, which I tend to focus on sometimes in shmups. In contrast to Zero Wing or early R-Type games, the in-game graphics are excellent (Zero Wing’s ship design is awesome though), especially the exploding ships and other paraphernalia, as bits and pieces go flying everywhere in a dazzling pyrotechnic display.
Although single-player mode is great, Bio-Ship Paladin truly shines in its two-player mode. You can recruit a friend to either man your second gun turret or fly wingman with you competing for points. I found the experience most enjoyable when myself and a friend were both piloting the same ship; there’s a frantic rush to clear the screen and a sense of satisfaction when you both clear the levels with an obligatory male high five. Yes, Bio-Ship Paladin truly brings friends closer together.
However, don’t expect Bio-Ship to be perfect despite all of my praise lauding. There are times during the game when play can become slightly unbalanced. You may start, kill a few aliens, and then all of a sudden a flood of enemies can surge forth quickly draining your ship’s life meter. Bear in mind, normally enemy numbers are manageable, but once or twice I said to myself “How is that fair exactly?” The music is passable, but I was expecting more, It’s not necessarily bad, but in contrast to Zero Wing the music isn’t great. The secondary targetable weapon also seems like a bit of a tacked on gimmick and leaves you too exposed to attack to use too often.
Bio-Ship Paladin is a really well balanced, fast paced, action packed, original, and good looking shmup that is easily as good as Zero Wing. Only occasionally did I find enemy numbers a little too unmanageable. At times the music is below par, and the secondary fire seems too much like a gimmick, but these few faults are overshadowed by Bio-Ship’s originality, exciting gameplay, style, and its playability simply oozes when playing with a friend. If you are a shmup fan and you haven’t played Bio-Ship yet, you are really missing out on one hell of a good game. If you have never played a shmup before, you should probably start with something else and then go on towards Bio-Ship. However, I would recommend this to anyone. Any self-respecting shmup fan would be doing themselves a disservice to miss it.
SCORE: 7 out of 10