Space shooter Equinox from Jason Tribbeck has an interesting and long history behind it. It initially began life in 1992, being developed for the Acorn Archimedes. It used filled-in vector graphics for near enough everything and ran in a 320×256 screen mode. A deeply-nested bug that couldn’t be tracked down meant that it didn’t see a release.
Jason decided to re-write it in June 2002, and after an on-off development phase, it saw a limited beta release some years later, development then halted and nothing more came of it.
Fast forward to now and Equinox has now been updated to work on the Raspberry Pi, which should mean it’s compatible with most other moderns RISC OS-friendly boards such has the Beagleboard and Titanium. Although not officially complete, Equinox can be downloaded for free from here.
The game itself
As you’d expect from a space game, your main objective with Equinox is to shoot and kill things. There are 225 levels arranged in a 15×15 grid (although as the game is not yet complete, some may not be playable). You start off in the centre of that grid and it is up to you what order you complete the levels. You can only proceed to levels that are directly adjacent to the level you’ve completed on the grid.
Upgrades can be made to your ship along the way through the in-game shop. You can boost its speed, make it turn quicker, improve maneuvering, change your weapons around, add energy generators and energy bombs too.
One thing to keep in mind with your ship is that you need to ensure it has enough energy to complete the level – if your energy supply drops to zero then it’s game over – for that level at least. Energy is used whenever you hit an object, or fire your weapons. Your energy will rebuild – the rate at which it rebuilds depends on how many energy recharge units you have – the more you have, the quicker it will recharge.
Weapons have two main requirements that you need to keep in mind. They need enough energy to use, and they need to be cold enough to fire. If they get too hot then they’ll need to cool down before they can be used again.
When you turn your ship, the maximum speed depends on the angular cooling system level. The more cooling you have, the higher your maximum turn rate can be. The acceleration of your turn depends on the angular acceleration level, the more you have, the sooner you will reach the maximum. The higher your turn rate is, the better the maneuverability is – however, you don’t want to make it too fast, nor uncontrollable, so it’s a balancing act between each of these items.
Performance & Compatibility
After a good a few sessions playing Equinox on my Raspberry Pi 2, stability and performance is where you’d expect it to be. The gameplay is smooth and I didn’t experience any crashes or anything else unexpected. Pretty cool considering it doesn’t appear like a lot of modification was required to get the game running on newer hardware.
Longevity-wise, the game’s novelty doesn’t run out as quickly as you might expect for a game that has a simple objective of just killing things in space. The game’s music provides very appropriate atmosphere to a title that is coupled with tidy graphics and simple yet solid gameplay.
The game should play fine on a vast majority of RISC OS machines, be it legacy 26-bit computers or 32-bit machines. I’ve played the game for a number of hours both on a Raspberry Pi 2 running RISC OS 5.24 as well as Virtual RPC-SA running RISC OS 4.02. Equinox has also been reported to play fine on the Titanium so I’d imagine it should run fine on pretty much any modern RISC OS machine.
Equinox is an impressive game with a long and varied history, and is another good boost to a RISC OS games market that seems to have been invigorated as of late with a good number of new releases, both commercial and free, making it out to the masses.