Very strangely its not one of the really fondly remembered arcade games of our time, Time Pilot 84 is the forgotten sequel to Time Pilot. Where the original had you changing from a plane to a rocket as you went through time, Time Pilot 84 had you in the same ship and flying across some very detailed planet landscapes in 8 directions.
My first experience of the game was one of my first ever experiences of a game full stop. Where I was brought up as a kid, we had an indoor market which used to smell of chips and cooking sausage rolls from its cafe in the corner. The place would be full of stalls, but near two pillars there sat two arcade machines. One was Jail Break and the other was Time Pilot 84, in a generic cab unfortunately (Without the original artwork). It was 10p a go, and I used to spend a lot of time nagging my parents for a spare 10p or two to have a game (With the hope I could also get a quick sneaky game of Jail Break – which I was crap at).
Time Pilot 84 excels with its simple and fun gameplay – expanding on the success of the original game with some major improvements. For a start, the game has standard bullets, but certain enemies can be locked onto – where pressing the second button will launch a few homing missiles. The amount of different enemies is also very vast, and ranges from ground based space tanks to various neat flying ships trying to take you out. Destroying certain groups of enemies or the larger ships can provide some welcome bonus points, but at certain points on the map there can appear a bonus ground target to give you maximum bonus points if you manage to get a homing missile on it.
Once you have cleared enough targets on a level, you will hear a warning sound – which means that the level’s mothership is about to appear. This is a rather large ship which will circle around the screen and fire a series of homing missiles at you. You must turn quickly and try and lock onto the ship to simply fire a few missiles to destroy it and then zoom off from the level and onto the next (The zoom sequence is particularly impressive). Of course, the further you progress – the tougher the opponent becomes – and it becomes a huge challenge to get that high score. The high score element is something that has also drawn me to the game – back in the Indoor market I would really try and beat the others who had also played the game (Of course, I didn’t know at the time that they turned off the machines at night).
The indoor market sadly closed in the early 90’s (Though it still lays untouched, just boarded up – where I used to dream that maybe those two arcade machines were still there locked away). As with after playing Dragon Ninja, Altered Beast etc back in the day, I desperately looked for a conversion on my C64 – but no official conversion was ever done sadly. I had talked about doing graphics for a conversion, but it was never to be.
However, Anirog/Kingsoft did do a “Pilot” series of games based on the arcade, and released a game called “Space Pilot 2”, which was based on Time Pilot 84. However, it only bears a very faint resemblance to the original game.
But luckily there were a number of other games on the C64 that were clearly inspired by the game, most notably Chris Butler’s “Z”, which very clearly was inspired by the classic game. It’s not quite the same game, but the type of scrolling and features are not too far off. Also, Chris’ Hypercircuit seems to have elements of inspiration in its background graphics.
Overall, if you are not lucky enough to know of an original arcade machine – then the game can be found running very well in MAME. It’s one well worth checking out, and a game which should have a lot more spotlight. Also, if you want further reading – I highly recommend checking out the unofficial fan site for the game: http://www.dragonshadow.com/timepilot84/