Before the original Metal Gear and Castlevania Konami released a popular vertical-scrolling shooter titled TwinBee. Only much later would this title officially be released in the Western regions but many South Africans will remember the game from the knock off consoles throughout the eighties and nineties.
The levels in TwinBee are comprised of bright, colourful environments which was rare for a shooter back in the eighties. Adding to the fun environment are a range of unconventional enemies that include everything from dancing knives to soaring carrots. The sound effects are cute little pings rather than brutal blasts. As far as the look and feel goes TwinBee stood out from popular shooters such as the usual Space Invaders or Galaxian.
In TwinBee, you take command of a cartoon-like vessel which can both drop bombs on the ground below or shoot skybound enemies with traditional projectiles. The levels are filled with a host of enemy ships and clouds. These clouds act as the source of your ships power-ups. When shooting a cloud a bell will appear and start dropping towards the bottom of the screen. Your ship is able to juggle the bell until you reach the point where the bell changes colour. If you collect the bell at this point you’ll receive your power up unique to the colour of the bell. Upgrade your weapon, increased speed, a shadow version of your ship and shields are what you’ll be rewarded with for collecting the different bells. Shooting the bells too often will cause them to turn into an enemy so this does become a challenging task in later levels.
In the latter levels the difficulty level increases tenfold. The amount of on-screen enemies at any given time versus the maneuvering and speed of your ship quickly becomes very unbalanced. There aren’t many levels, six in total, but getting through these levels takes a lot of dedication. Boss battles tend to be repetitive and once again very unbalanced for the most part.
TwinBee also has a cooperative mode whereby you and another player share the screen, although this will probably end up in the two ships fighting for power ups. A unique feature at the time allows you and the other player to align ships which produces a new firing attack. If pulled off properly this can be a very valuable assault.
Yes, TwinBee might not have aged all that well over the years but it does have some great, unique elements for the time of release. If you’re a retro enthusiast and want to test your reaction time and patience levels it would do you no harm in picking up this Famicom classic.