What is a classic? What makes a classic videogame? The word has been thrown around so much, some people now use classic as a synonym for old. I have to respectfully disagree. To me, a classic is something that has timeless quality, so much that it never entirely goes out of style. In the fast-changing, high-tech world of computer games, real classics are hard to come by. OIDS 2.0 purports to be such a game. Let's take a moment to look at where it came from!
OIDS was first published in 1988 by FTL Games, and it was made for both the Atari ST computers and Macintosh. In fact, the Atari version was better known at the time, while the Macintosh version mostly slipped under the radar. Macintosh simply was not the gaming platform that it is today. Even so, OIDS drew high marks in reviews from both the Atari and Apple press. If the game could be considered a failure at all, it would have been from being overshadowed by FTL's other game that was released around the same time: a genre-defining, smash success called Dungeon Master. For FTL Games, OIDS may have looked like small potatos by the side of Dungeon Master.
In terms of gameplay, OIDS is straight, old-fashioned, arcade action. The player is put in control of a triangular spaceship just like the ones used in such great old games as Space War, Asteroids, Gravitar and even Escape Velocity. Turn, thrust and shoot! The scenario is similar to Gravitar: pilot your ship down to the surface of a planetoid and shoot it out with the various defenses there. The biggest twist is, you now are expected to land and rescue a bunch of tiny robotic men, the "oids" of the game's title, and carry them off the planetoids to safety. This is reminiscent of another ancient and well-loved computer game called Choplifter, and has sometimes led to OIDS being described as a cross between Gravitar and Choplifter. For those readers who are fuzzy on their history of computer games, don't worry about it: suffice to say that OIDS borrowed its ideas from some of the the best.
Another way that OIDS is set apart from Gravitar is in the wide range of enemy gun emplacements and other defenses you must face. The planets of Gravitar were defended by simple guns. OIDS has guns, guided missiles, attack ships, repulsors, attractors, fortified bases, hidden booby traps and more. Against this arsenal you bring a very powerful little ship. It has a rapid-fire gun, a small supply of "nova bombs", and an energy shield that can protect against nearly anything and can be recharged in quieter moments from your fuel supply.
OIDS departed from most arcade-style games by coming with its own level editor, so you could make your own games, called galaxies, and upload them (to BBS systems using your 1200 bps modem!) for other players to enjoy. Creating games was as much fun for some people as playing the game, since the editor provided such a wide range of items to work with and put together in various combinations.
As years have gone by, a handful of people remembered OIDS fondly and compared it with the greatest of the old outer-space shooting games like Defender and Tempest 2000. At one point I even tried playing OIDS on my Power Mac using an Atari ST emulator. That partly worked but wasn't really satisfactory. At any rate, OIDS has gained all the hallmarks of a cult classic: a game that was never well-known by the masses, but the people who knew about it didn't want to let it go.
Now it's 2002, 14 years after OIDS was released, and we are looking at OIDS 2.0 from Xavagus Prime Software. What has changed? Not much. This is the same game I remember from my Atari 520ST: same graphics, same sound, same gameplay, same galaxies -- plus one folder with five new galaxies. That's it. This is not a sequel, this is simply the old OIDS program modified to work on modern Macintosh hardware. There are both good and bad aspects to this.
The good aspect is that the gameplay is perfectly preserved. This was what made the game great in 1988, and it's still great. You get everything from delicate maneuvering through cramped passageways to strafing runs over hills studded with enemy gun emplacements. OIDS has a tendency to drop you into situations with a high "pucker factor" from time to time. These situations are survivable thanks to the great power of your little spaceship, giving the game an addictive quality. Even when you die, you can always think of what you should have done to get through it, and then you'll want to go back and try again. In addition to the action, there's a small bit of strategy as you manage your fuel supply and plan when is the safest time to pick up your oids and bring them to the mothership -- it's frustating to get killed on the way back to the ship with a full load of oids. Then the little men in your status display catch on fire for a moment, throwing up their hands up pathetically as they fall. (Some sadistic players have even been observed shooting helpless oids on the ground, but this is not the way to get high scores.)