Big robots. Big robots with lasers. Back in the mid-1980s, with the likes of Transformers, GoBots, and Robotech, they were the big thing. So it's no surprise that Game Arts made Thexder in 1985, and eventually granted Sierra the rights to bring the game to the various computers of America in 1987. Among those computers, was the DOS PC. So was the wait worth it? Read on.
In this game, you'll pilot a large robot, and try to guide it through 16 levels. You have a homing laser to take down the enemies that come in ground and air-based varieties, and a temporary shield that uses up some of your energy, but allows you let the shield absorb the damage from enemies. And while your shield and laser do use up energy, there are some types of enemies that, when destroyed, refill your energy bar a little. Finally, you'll also have the ability to increase how much energy your robot can have. You have a meter called “ENMAX”, and as you progress through the levels, you'll gain ENMAX points that'll allow you to increase your energy reserve.
The graphics are made up of only a few colors, but they don't look too bad. There's some nice little details on your robot and the enemies, and the animation on these things is pretty good. The graphics for the level layouts aren't bad or good, they just serve their purpose of forming the level layout, while making the blocks look a bit three dimensional rather than flat, solid color. So really, you won't be floored, but your eyes won't be accosted either.
The controls are pretty crisp in the game. The laser fires the moment you press the spacebar, and your ship/robot maneuvers without any real lag. You have a few options on the keyboard as well. Hitting “S” turns off the sound effects, and thankfully, hitting “M” shuts off the music. Why would you want to shut the music off? Because it's one of the issues with this game.
While there are only a few sound effects in the game that do their basic job, the repetitive music is a seemingly endless series of single notes. Sure, you have Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on the title screen (also single-note only), but the in-game music gets rather grating after a short time as it drones on and on. Factor in that the music gets cut off each time you fire, and there's really no point in having it on. Another issue, which isn't as prevalent, are the level designs. Sure, they get more intricate and difficult as you progress, but they feel very basic... they get the job done, and do little else. Probably the biggest issue comes with the weapon. It's a seeking laser, so it dances around between enemies when there's more than one on the screen. Get attacked by a group of enemies (four or more), and the laser's effectiveness is drastically reduced. I'm sure this was planned, but when it's locking onto enemies that you can't actually hit, while you're trying to shoot enemies that are right in your face hurting you, it's a questionable choice of weapon behavior. Sure, it worked well in the Genesis game Alisia Dragoon (thanks to being able to power it up), but it doesn't work too well here.
So overall, how's the game? Not bad. The graphics are used to good effect, the controls are fine, and there is some depth to the gameplay. The level layouts aren't too inspired, the music could have certainly been left out, and the laser behavior could have been tweaked, but the game can still be fun. It's a simple run 'n gun doesn't strive to do more than it has to, and if that strikes your fancy, then you may just enjoy yourself.