Review – Gridrunner++

While rummaging around on my harddisk I discovered this old review of Gridrunner++ from Llamasoft. Seemed a shame not to have it online any more so here it is again. Maybe Chaz can dig up the pictures and put them in.

I have long been a fan of Jeff Minter’s Llamasoft games from the early 80s. Sadly the last game I played by Jeff was Andes Attack on the Atari ST, a great Defender game with plenty of fur. Since then he’s been off doing strange things on consoles, and I’ve never been interested in owning a console.

GridRunner++ appeared quietly on the scene in 2002. It’s the third in a small series of games designed for the PocketPC but playable on an ordinary PC too (Hovver Bovver and Deflex being the other two). However, GR++ never got ported to the PocketPC, and remains a PC only game.

GR++ is a pure reflex shoot-em-up game, controlled entirely with the mouse, and played in a small but resizable window. It’s loosely based on the original GridRunner but updated with smoother gameplay and nicer graphics, and some great sound effects.

The aim of the game is to shoot everything, collect sheep, and survive. Highscores are where it’s at, but a lot of people will almost as surely be delighted to see the next level to find out what zany aliens await on it, which has always been a Llamasoft hallmark.

To aid you in your zapping, you can collect sheep which float down the screen now and again. Each sheep gives you a bit of extra firepower fore and aft, and increases a score multiplier. Scoring more points means gaining more lives so that’s all well and good.

If you collect 10 sheep you get the “Pill”, which is a bizarre googly-eyed sheepoid which whizzes around the screen knocking off aliens as it goes. You can excite the Pill by shooting it a few times, and then it goes bezerk, wiping out aliens with wild abandon.

If things get really tight, you can fire the SheepieZapper with the right mouse button. This is a zap-ray thing which blasts out from your ship and hits the nearest aliens in all directions for a few seconds. It gets recharged every level.

GR++ starts off fairly simply but gets difficult pretty quick. I confess that my best is only level 34 and it’s taken some time to get there. Some of the levels are considerably harder than others, and they’re not necessarily in order of difficulty, although the general difficulty gets harder and harder as the game progresses.

To avoid major stumbling blocks the game remembers the point when you were doing best (had the most number of lives at the start of a level). You have the option of resuming from this point instead of starting all over again.

The game plays absolutely smoothly, and the pulsing psychedelic colours that are Minter’s trademark soon lure you into that strange place called The Zone. This is where your peripheral vision darkens, and the only thing you can see is the game. Your hands feel distant yet directly connected to the spaceship under your control; you are immersed in fast-twitch reactions. It can be a very absorbing experience that somehow manages to relax you at the same time as making you concentrate intensely.

On the other hand, you might find it tediously boring and uninteresting. If you’re not into this kind of game, you’re unlikely to change your mind if you play GR++. It’s a tried and trusted theme, and although it’s highly original, it’s still an old-school shoot-em-up.

A particularly nice feature of the game is that it is unintrusive to start, play, and stop. It’s absolutely tiny – it loads in a second, doesn’t fiddle with your monitor settings, and closes immediately when you whack the close button. This makes it an ideal bit of lunchtime stress relief.

So – it’s fun to play, easy to pick up and put down, and pleasantly mesmerizing. This, coupled with its ridiculously low price, makes it one of the best-value games available for the PC.


  • Tiny download, tiny installation
  • Very good value for money
  • Addictive, mesmerizing, intense, relaxing
  • Great sound, lovely particle effects


  • Gets difficult quickly
  • Can get stuck on difficult levels for a long, long, time
  • Mouse cursor remains visible over the game window – a little distracting
  • Pure shoot-em-ups are not to everyone’s taste