Updated: Mar 27
Founded in the early Eighties by Andrew Hewson, Hewson Consultants (latterly just Hewson) gained a reputation as a publisher of considerable repute throughout the decade. Join us as we take a look at six of Hewson’s finest games, all available to play now on Antstream Arcade!
Universally regarded as one of the greatest Commodore 64, and even 8-bit games, Paradroid began a gameplay system that was reproduced throughout its sequels and other similarly-themed efforts. Essentially a shoot-‘em-up at heart, the player takes control of a cute mechanoid, tasked with eliminating the hostile robots that have hijacked your fleet of spaceships. The ingenious move was to transfer control from one robot to another via the linking mini-game, and this opens up a whole new world of tactics and gameplay mechanics. With its author Andrew Braybrook detailing the game’s development within the pages of popular C64 magazine Zzap!64, anticipation was high for Paradroid, and the end result, a fantastic 97% score in the same publication, remains one of its highest accolades given. Also available on Antstream Arcade is Paradroid 90, a 16-bit update of the game, again written by Andrew Braybrook.
Famously named after a mis-pronounced chemical element, Uridium is one of those fabled games that Commodore 64 veterans whisper as an iconic moment in gaming. Created by Andrew Braybrook (who had already impressed Hewson with the playful Gribbly’s Day Out), the player commands a Manta class space fighter, called to defend the solar system when an enemy fleet of super dreadnoughts invades. Upon each dreadnought sit a range of obstacles and defences which, together with the inevitable waves of enemy fighter craft, must be avoided or destroyed in order to progress to the next dreadnought. The Manta moves efficiently and rapidly across each level, dispensing deadly fire from its twin cannons and neatly flipping over when a quick reverse of direction is required. Noted for its superb parallax scrolling, beautiful graphics and compelling, fast-paced gameplay, Uridium is one of the finest games you can play on the Commodore 64, or indeed any platform.
Impressed with his Graftgold colleague’s work, Steve Turner took the basis of Paradroid and created Quazatron, another battle of droids, this time set on the titular planet and starring the winsome KLP-2. Now, the player could steal parts from opposing robots, adding and improving KLP-2’s speed, arsenal and power supply, provided of course he beat the mini-game, a complex and random mix of circuits and logic gates. Taking a cue from the elegant isometric graphics of Knight Lore, Turner combined these elements to form Quazatron, having already dismissed the idea of converting Paradroid directly, melding the two concepts into a perfect solution. As Turner himself told Antstream Arcade back in June, “It was very much an exercise about what makes a game entice you in, what keeps you coming back. That was the whole reason I used the Paradroid framework, and I kinda used those principles in some shape or form in nearly all of the games I did afterwards.”
Away from Graftgold, Hewson were keen to develop games from other sources, and one of those proved to be Raffaele Cecco, freshly poached from struggling fellow publisher Mikro-Gen. Cecco had already gained a reputation for colourful and fun games, and the ace programmer duly ensured his first game for Hewson would be a cracker, particularly on the ZX Spectrum. Playing space adventurer Vitorc, Exolon is an uncomplicated flick screen shooting game that nonetheless plays impressively smoothly over thirty years later. Its standout mechanic are the booths that appear on each level which allow Vitorc to don his hyper-alloy exoskeleton suit (transforming him into the Exolon of the title), less athletic but substantially more powerful with its double laser shot.
Many fans wondered how Raffaele Cecco would follow up Exolon, and Hewson’s star coder impressed once more with another shoot-‘em-up of considerable pedigree. This time the player commands a small spacecraft, plummeting into a series of dangerous caves in order to recover the valuable minerals and jewels plundered by a gang of rapacious pirates. Another flick screen game, Cybernoid is designed around this style, and requires as much manual dexterity as it does an itchy trigger finger. Additional weaponry can be purloined (including a very cool spiked ball that crushes any enemy foolish enough to get too close) and with each screen a virtual puzzle to be crossed and solved, there’s lots to think about if you fancy even getting close to recovering some of that valuable booty.
Our final Hewson super six game is Nebulus, the brainchild of programmer John Phillips. Several large towers have been dropped unceremoniously into the planet Nebulus, and with little or no planning permission to be seen, it’s up to Destructo Inc. to get rid of them. As a sea planet, Nebulus’ denizens are amphibian in appearance, and the hero must leap from platform to platform and across each rotating tower in order to reach the top and activate its destruction sequence. Of course it’s nowhere near as simple as that sounds with dissolving ledges, bouncing balls and strange creatures all standing in your way. A neat and technically impressive platform game, Nebulus is another brilliant Hewson game that’s available now on Antstream Arcade.
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