Llamatron 2112 and Revenge of the Mutant Camels are finally getting proper re-releases. It just happens to be on a system that came out nearly a quarter century ago.
Jeff Minter has been designing games for over three decades. Odds are you’ve played, or at least laid eyes on, some of his work, including Tempest 2000, a remake of the Dave Theurer original, or Gridrunner, a Centipede-inspired shooter that came out in the early 80s but was later remade for iOS. There was also Space Giraffe, one of Minter’s early contributions to XBLA long before Braid and Super Meat Boy. More recently, his studio, Llamasoft, released Polybius for PS4 and PSVR, a 3D racing-shooter hybrid which Nine Inch Nails even made a music video for.
And if you aren’t familiar with Minter’s work, all you really need to know is that it’s twitchy, colorful, and prone to demonstrating his love of certain types of animals. Hence Attack of the Mutant Camels, a side-scrolling shooter very similar to 1982's The Empire Strikes Back that replaces the walking AT-ATs with sci-fi camels. It’s that game that Revenge of the Mutant Camels was a sequel to, which iterated by putting the player in the hooves of the humped ruminant and tasked them with defeating up to 42 waves of different futuristic shapes and creatures. Llamatron 2112 is similar in its overall style, but places you in a one-screen arena rather than a side-scrolling bullet-hell arrangement.
Now, for the first time since both games were confined to the messy and incomplete depths of 80s shareware, they’re getting physical re-releases on the Atari Jaguar via the efforts of Atari Age, an online store and community devoted to the various Atari platforms and their gaming libraries. As a result, they’ve managed to get Minter’s blessing to publish cartridges that contain both games along with some beautiful and trippy looking packaging.
And the games themselves really are wild. Here’s from Atari Age’s description of Llamatron,
“You play the part of a totally hard laser-spitting llama. Your mission is to collect all the tiny sheep, llamas, camels and goats you see on each wave. Standing in your way are great herds of unintelligent but numerous Grunt enemies, plus a veritable menagerie of nasty creeps which fire at you, dodge your fire, emit fire hydrants, try to ram you, murder your llamas and shoot your ass off with lasers. Kill them deadly. Not everything can be killed, and some enemies take more than one shot to destroy. Your ultimate objective - destroy the Ozric Tentacle of level 99 and get to Herd Heaven on level 100.”
Fortunately, even if you don’t have a Jaguar you can still experience Minter’s veteran genius in more modern takes on the genre. Tempest 4000 was announced at this year’s Gamescom, a new version of the anxiety-inducing puzzle shooter that will be available in 4K with a new retro soundtrack sometime (hopefully) before the end of the year on PC.