Game Review: P.O.D. Proof of Destruction (Commodore 64, Mastertronic)

P.O.D. Proof of Destruction, Commodore 64, Mastertronic - 2C0133
  • 9/10
    Score - 9/10


P.O.D. is a hugely enjoyable shoot-em-up, showcasing a frenetic pace, a grid that disappears when you shoot it, and lots of well-balanced gameplay so that you get further each time – all like its original Commodore 16 and Plus/4 counterpart.  Add to that the addictive in-game bassline soundtrack, the superlative two player mode and the colour cycling schemes that would not look out of place on a Jeff Minter game, and it is an essential budget purchase for all Commodore 64 owners.  It is one of my favourite shooters for the system, for a reason.

User Review
8.25/10 (2 votes)

P.O.D. (known as Proof of Destruction) does not pretend to have any fancy storyline or anything like that, and the back inlay blurb and instructions refer to it having no mega-reality to justify its existence.  And with comparisons between this and the original Commodore 16 and Plus/4 version being inevitable, if you have read that review, you will know how the game works.  But to summarise, you are the P.O.D. which moves along an interconnecting grid of wire.  That means you against the aliens (known as the Bad Guys) who come down mostly from the top of the screen and will try to run into P.O.D. or shoot it. Shooting the Bad Guys causes an explosion which damages the grid, and this needs time to be repaired.  P.O.D. or the Bad Guys cannot move over the damaged grid, but some of them will hit that grid and descend rapidly down the screen.

There are twenty-five levels in this version (increased from sixteen) and as part of that there are bonus screens to increase your score every four levels.  It is worth noting that they are just a chance to increase your score – you can still lose a life on these levels as well, so you do need to keep your wits about you for those. As per the original version, you get an extra life at the end of each level up to a maximum of five. You also have a lovely loading and title screen along with a nice title theme to set the tone, and note something straight away – you can press 1 or 2 for  number of players, and CTRL to start.  The two-player mode is something special as you will see.

Bass!  How Low Can You Go?

The moment you start the game – two things will hit you.  There is a mass of colour as the grid background with nice use of the raster effects on the Commodore 64 to make some lovely patterns.  This can though obscure the bullets from the Bad Guys, so you may not like this.  (I do have a POKE you can use to make the background like the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 version.)  And then there is that iconic bassline.  It is addictive, and will drive you on and on through the game, and it merges well with the end of level theme and the bonus level theme to make it sound a more interactive soundtrack as you play the game.  It just adds another element to the whole package and it cannot be underestimated with the care taken to add it in to meaty sound effects of blasting.

You may of course realise quite quickly that the shoot everything in sight tactic may not work best on some levels, especially as the Bad Guys on some levels can home in on you at pace.  Level three is the first of those, where less shooting and more tactical moves are recommended to avoid the Bad Guys coming too close.   There are some later levels too where the Bad Guys come down at a furious pace, and knowing where to position P.O.D to dodge these is a pretty sensible move all round. The same also can be said for the bonus levels, where you can just sit and shoot and not worry about losing a life (and gaining an extra at the end of those too.)

Addictive Action

Like with the original Commodore 16 and Plus/4 version, the arcade action here is frenetic, fast paced and addictive, although playing the two side by side shows that the original version can be faster on some levels.  It is still a fast pace all around and the later levels on this version really do ramp up the speed and difficulty somewhat, so the further you get the more you want to see.  Most of the colour cycling is sensibly done although some with the light greys do obscure the bullets more, and some are half way down the grid only, but it works nicely enough.  There’s also the pure adrenalin rush when you are just about to complete the level and dodge that last bullet from the Bad Guys… or at least you hoped you did.

Two Player Mode

Lastly, I have to say that the two-player mode in P.O.D. is a superb addition to the game, and really does give the spirit of co-operation a new meaning.  The five lives are for both players, so if one of you loses a life, you both do.  This does mean you need to look out for each other and ensure your P.O.D. does not get trapped in a corner or on the grid, whilst helping to blast the Bad Guys as you need.  There is also the fact you can cross over each other as you need to, but a word of warning: you can also shoot each other by accident if one is above the other on the grid.  It is so well implemented and adds a different dimension to the game that really does mean playing together is an excellent experience.  My brother and I used to play this a lot in this mode and work together to get to at least level 20 or so.

Final Thoughts

Some of you may prefer the original Commodore 16 and Plus/4 version of this game due to it not having the colour cycling effects on the grid, and that on occasion it can feel faster paced.  On the flip side here, you do have some great music, especially the in-game bassline that drives you on, and the superb two player co-operative mode really does give you a good incentive to blast with a friend rather than against them, and the lure of the high score challenge there is also very strong as a result – you really feel like you’ll achieve something as a team together and that’s full credit for the way it was implemented.  The playability is also excellent, really giving it that polished feel and an excellent shooter. If you have both systems, get both versions as they are excellent on each format.  But for me, the Commodore 64 version edges it – only just, but for the reasons above.  Now excuse me, I am off to get to level 25 again.

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