Every Wednesday, we highlight rarely-remembered but interesting games for our "Games Time Forgot" series.
Shooters, whether they scroll horizontally, vertically, or both, seem to be one of those types of games that have long been stuck in a rut. They rarely step outside of the outer space setting, only then to be constricted inside of the attack plane/chopper scenario. Parodius, a series that is loved for its classic shmup gameplay wrapped up in nonsensical environments, and Gradius, the standard shooter series that the former pays tribute to/mocks, are good examples of the two ends of the shooter spectrum.
Among the other shooters that lie further to the unconventional Parodius side of the scale are what I like to call "nature shooters", where the piloted character, enemies, and surroundings are based almost entirely on earthly organisms rather than machinery. Perhaps the most popular games of this type is Kolibri for the Sega 32X, the infamous hummingbird shooter.
Another of these nature shooters is this week's forgotten game. It is called Apidya, puts the player in control of a bee, and is one of the greatest scrolling shoot 'em ups that no one ever mentions.
Story: A woman named Yuri is attacked in the middle of the night by a swarm of deadly insects. The evil wizard Hexxae, whose only real power seems to be his control over bugs, was the man behind the attack. Upon finding his wife filled with poison, hero Ikuro swears to find the antidote and bring down Hexxae once and for all. He then transforms into a bee.
I can't help but feel that this story is only a half-assed attempt to make a bee shooter make more sense, but it doesn't really do a whole lot but drag the rest of the game's brilliance down a notch. The story, not to mention the horrible intro animation to go along with it, is easily the weakest part of the game. Luckily, you need not know it or care about it to enjoy the rest of the game.
Gameplay: This horizontal scrolling shooter has a weapons system that borrows heavily from the selection system that Gradius made popular. Enemies will leave behind power-ups that resemble red flowers, which can be picked up to gain access to speedups, options (smaller bees that help the main bee attack), bombs, missiles, double shots, and so on. These are accessed via the menu on the bottom of the screen. The bee that you pilot also has a standard charge shot that can wipe out many enemies at once, similar to the built-up beam in R-Type.
There are five different areas in the game, each with several minibosses and one big boss at the end. There are also several secret stages for the player to find within the game, which don't really affect the main game, but are fun to find nonetheless. Some of them are notoriously difficult to get into.
Why you're probably not playing it: I'm not really sure. Why aren't you?
Admittedly, I had never heard of Apidya, much less the Amiga itself, at the time of its release (1992). But ever since I stumbled upon the game thanks to the power of the Internet, I've since wondered why I've never heard anyone talk about it. The Amiga was home to many of what were considered the best shooters of the time, namely titles like Xenon 2 and Project-X. Apidya is often overlooked, but in many ways is just as good, if not better, than titles like these. Sure, the premise of a bee shooter does not hold up well to the seriousness of conventional shoot 'em ups, but the game is still more challenging, imaginative, and beautiful than many of them.
It is sad how many "weird" shooters are not nearly as well known or spoken about as their more formulaic brothers. Not to say that the furthest reaches of outer space aren't a great backdrop for these types of games (there is even a level in Apidya that pays tribute to conventional shooters), but there are other places that shoot 'em up games can be taken to. Apidya proves that the small world of Earthly insects is a more than suitable environment for one.
If you don't have the means to play this forgotten game, there is a fan project for Windows available for download here. Sadly, it looks as if the project has long been abandoned, but the first area is playable, so give it a shot if you're interested.