Ah, Cybermorph. The pack-in game for the Jaguar and the butt of a thousand jokes. The thing is...I think it's a pretty enjoyable shooter. The premise of the game is fairly simple - your ship (amusingly named the Transmogriffon) gets dropped off on various planets in the sector and you have to zip around collecting floating yellow pods that contain 'survivors, weapons and expertise.' When you've collected the required number of pods (it tells you how many there are on each planet on the mission select screen), a portal opens and you must fly through it to exit the stage. If you do particularly well, you'll be whisked to a bonus stage where you must collect floating power-ups and then exit through the portal before the time runs to exit in time and all the bonuses get flushed down the bog.

Throughout the missions, your onboard 'holographic intelligent agent' [sic] Skylar (the infamous bald, green chick) will chime in with helpful encouragement or berate you if you crash (yes - I'm sure you've seen the Angry Video Game Nerd's rant about the whole "where did you learn to fly?" thing), but it really isn't as annoying or constant as you'd think. Dotted around the landscapes, you'll encounter enemies that'll attack if you get too close or even fly straight at you, kamikaze style. Happily, you have upgradeable weapons that can be used to see them off. The 'morph' bit of the name comes from the way your ship changes shape depending on how fast you're moving, and it's quite a cool effect.

Cybermorph has got a bit of a bad rep - the graphics are one of the main things that get lambasted, and people are often quick to point out that Star Fox on the SNES looks better, but Star Fox is on rails and offers no real freedom; Cybermorph lets you fly around a 3D landscape to explore, fly through tunnels, under bridges and around towns. I'm not for one second saying Cybermorph is better than Star Fox, but they're different games and should be both taken on their individual merits. I really like Cybermorph, it's a good game to just zone out with due to the fairly tranquil and easy-going nature of the missions. I'm also quite intrigued by the sequel, Battlemorph, but it's a CD-only title. Battlemorph improves on Cybermorph in several ways - the graphics are better and the ship can dive into the lakes and rivers on the various planets to search for pods underwater.

Verdict: Cybermorph's a really enjoyable game that doesn't deserve the stick it gets. Sure, the visuals look a bit poor these days (the pop-up is quite bad), but as a pack-in game and example of an early 3D game, it's definitely worth a play.

Bonus trivia: There are actually two different versions of Cybermorph, one released in 1993 and the other in 1994. You can tell which you've got by the date (obviously) printed on the cartridge label. The 1994 version has fewer voice samples and a static title and ending screen. You learn something new every day.

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