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 Post subject: The Last Eichhof (PC, 1993)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 4:01 pm 


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Joined: 26 Jan 2005
Posts: 293
Location: South-East India, now South-West Switzerland
THE LAST EICHHOF
(1993, Alpha-Helix (PC))

WARNING
If you have strong reservations against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, you may not want to read this review.


The Last Eichhof is a DOS-based freeware shoot'em up released in 1993 by (now extinct) Swiss group Alpha-Helix (based out of ETH Zurich at the time if you care), and happens to be one of the most original parodic/joke shoot'em ups made so far. It certainly is the most original one outside Japan. You can also see it as a unique commercial for the Eichhof brewery (at this point, other reviews of/features on this game would have included jokes about what what Switzerland is famous for,and how this game works against this stereotype)-which is still going strong, as I saw their products in the supermarket last week.

The premise of the game is simple: Save the brewery of Eichhof (which really exists), with its 'great beers' from being overrun by the 'great beer imperium' who chiefly produce lagers. (However, there's nary a Heineken or Carlsberg or (insert the first lager that pops into your (American) mind) in this imperium, which seems to consist of more European beers (but even then, where's the Heineken?)). However, the authors want to establish the superiority of Eichhof over not only other beers but ALL alcoholic beverages (and here I say: boo), something which I will get to shortly.

GAMEPLAY

The authors allow you to keep Eichhof alive by flying a bottle of Eichhof beer, shooting what appears to be bottlecaps, and destroying other breweries' bottles, kegs, insignia and related paraphenalia. As would be expected, the power-ups and scoring are all beer-themed. Your score is in litres (boo Imperial/American units!) of consumed beer/alcohol, with the increase in consumed alcohol closely matching the volume of the bottle/container you destroyed. In-between stages, you go to a bar where you can buy power-ups in the form of other Eichhof beers. There's a powered-up shot, a side-shot, a seeker and one that splits into four, a straight side-shot, a rear-shot, the eponymous 'Xenon 2 Cannon', speed-ups and even extra lives. How much 'money' you get is related to your score. In-between stages, you can also sell your old weapons (to the opening riff from Pink Floyd's "Money"). I prefer the 'Pony' (said sideshot), though others prefer the seeker shot.

Control of your ship-er-bottle is pretty decent for a 1993 DOS shmup, but a bit floaty on diagonals. Autofire is the default shot for most of your weapons. The enemy beer thingies come out in varied-albeit sedate-patterns. Fairly common patterns are Galaga-like waves of 330mL bottles, sets of 500mL bottles flanking you, or beer glasses surrounding you, with some enemies that exploding into shrapnel (heat-seeking or not) as well. Normally, the waves alternate between more popcorn enemies, and multiple-shot/sub-boss types (though in the last stages, no enemy is one-shot). Bosses are of uneven difficulty but generally throw at least two attacks at you. While the attacks are certainly varied enough and will keep you busy, there are quite lengthy (5+ seconds) pauses between enemy waves at times. There is no real complexity to scoring-just blow stuff up and accumulate beer litres drunk- but there seem to be set points where your score goes up. If you lose a life before crossing such a point, you don't get the score between the previous et-point and the place you died on until you pass it successfully. Undrinking beer (except if you vomit it) makes no sense to me...

The game consists of five stages, each with their own title (better than those in the Ray-games). The intro itself is worth talking about, but let's leave that aside. The first one, 'Easy Start', is just some Galaga-type beer bottle shooting with an Alpha-Helix logo prominently displayed (but which can kill you if you crash into it) accompanied by a German drinking song. By the way, the sound effects in this game kick ass-I will return to this shortly. Stage 2 has you blowing up stuff related to the Feldschlössen brewery (in case you don't know, this beer is the Budweiser or Pabst Blue Ribbon of Switzerland (so I've been told)). Stage 3, titled 'Oh Weissbier' targets brewers (especially Bavarian ones- the authors mentioned this on their now-archived webpage) of Weissbier like Löwenbräu and any number of such beers with a monk on their logos. Stage 4, or 'No More Cocktails', targets harder stuff and its associated gear. Stage 5, the aptly named 'The Morning After', deals with the gritty, dark side of too much alcohol - hangovers and getting to work the next day (seriously). After all the beer consumed while playing, it makes sense.

GRAPHICS

While the game is tentatively set in 'outer space'-with multicoloured 'starts' sans parallax-everything else is alcohol/beer-themed (except for the last stage). Besides blowing up bottles, kegs, crates of bottles, glasses, you also blow up trucks and trains transporting beer. All this is done very well with the VGA palette, and the authors have very faithfully several brewery logos recreated. There are some rather bizzare graphical touches-occasionally a Pac-Man scoots across the bottom of the screen (accompanied by a fanfare) or eats an (old) Apple logo. The last stage throws a whole bunch of hangover- and work-related enemies at you. Some of the cherished parts of dealing with hangovers are recreated in loving detail (when you get there, you'll see what I mean) to boot. In fact, there are very few specifically Swiss-themed things in the game (apart from the beers themselves).

SOUND AND MUSIC

There really isn't any music in the sense of a score, so I've lumped the two together. The sound effects go a long way towards making this game a peer to other joke/parody shmups. They are full of clips or recreations of fairly familiar ones, such as the 'YA-HOO-HOO-HOOEY' cry from Goofy cartoons', 'Hasta la vista, baby' and ones more familiar to Germanophones. Blowing up certain enemies certain responses, which range from (what would be) the programmers cheering you on to polite clapping. Several (sub-) bosses taunt you on their appearance and when they destroy you. There are several very apt sound effects-especially the breaking glass when you destroy bottle/glass enemies and the 'hangover'-themed sounds -you'll know them once you hear them. As would be expected of bottle enemies, you don't get explosions but broken glass- sounds when you shoot them. I'm missing out on more as well, but as personal favourites, I would mention the yodel that metamorphoses into a Goofy scream when you blow up a Feldschlössen delivery truck, the truly mental battle cry the third-stage boss gives out, and the AC/DC rock n'roll song for the high-score screen (Best Beer-Drinkers-fail to enter a name and you are labeled 'Too Drunk!' ).

I really have nothing more to add as a summing-up. If an alcohol-themed shmup (or just beer, for that matter) interests you, play the damn game. There's a link down here to get it. Shame it hasn't been added to the shoot the Core database :?: It runs fine on DOSBox, but there might be some issues in full-screen.

FINAL SCORE = 8/10
FINAL SCORE (with beer-goggles) = 11/10



SCREENSHOTS


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Some people wanted this game out earlier, methinks.


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Aha...

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Fanfare

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The so-called 'Easy Start'.

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It's a weapons shop with a dame.

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Wot no wafer-thin mint?

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I rather like Feldschlossen.

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Acht-und-zwanzig Bierflaesche an der Wand aufhaengen..

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Cue maniacal laughter.

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What brewery is that, mother?

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Cocktails? We don't need no steenking cocktails!

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This will hurt me more than it hurts you.

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Why, hello.

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Never heard of it.

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And so-the Morning After.

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As I said, it is the Morning After.

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All the coffee in the world can't save me from myself (and work).


Links of interest:

A Swiss page with the download.
Ironically the brewery was taken over by Heineken, but here is the Eichhof Breweries site. The squirrel logo seen in the game is now used for a real estate group.
Nice little piece on Wikipedia in German
Archived Alpha-Helix page (SPOILERS!)
Complete playthrough.
_________________
Huge Darius Battleships - une vraie histoire de gros poissons.


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