Can You Be a Grand Master?
by: Docktor

The fifth in a series... Every week, I'll be writing an article explaining some of the details of how to become a Grand Master at one of the games here in Neopia. Please note that these are not "how to play" articles that list the keystrokes and all that. Rather, they are specifically designed to discuss how to best become a Grand Master at the game.

This week: Pterattack

I'm really better at the games that don't require lightning reflexes (getting older, you know...) and at first glance you would think this would be a reflex-intensive game. But in this week's discussion, we'll review some strategies that may make the game seem like a different kind of challenge.

In Pterattack, like any other shooter game, the goal should be to avoid getting hit. Here at least, your enemies are not shooting at you, but if they even slightly touch you, you lose a life. It is very important to discover what your character's space is. It's worth it to just play several games to practice getting as close as you can without getting hit, so that it's second nature to you. Get used to where the edges of the playing field are too--they're deadly.

Okay, on to the Grand Master part of this. The rankings for Pterattack are:

0-99 Beginner
100-199 Amateur
200-399 Novice
400-799 Expert
800-1499 Master
1500 + Grand Master

As you go through the game, you reach a "level" every 100 points. The enemies get bigger, faster, tougher and sneakier, and the Grarrl that comes up from the bottom moves faster as well. You have to play Pterattack with sound on to do it right, if only to hear the Grarrl's "huh ho ho" before he appears. The strategies I'm outlining here are going to be strictly assuming you can hear him coming.

An interesting aspect of Pterattack is the frequency of enemies. The more of a given enemy that you shoot, the more of them will appear, and the air can be thick with them in no time. It is often a better idea to just avoid a few enemies and let them thin out a bit, giving you a rest (Grarrls notwithstanding).

Because you get more points for higher difficulty for the same enemies, the level will be over sooner. Your weapons are only upgraded if you collect the coloured rings matching that weapon, and the rings only show up when you destroy an enemy. It was not always this way, but it was too easy to just gather rings and never shoot until you got your weapon really high powered, so they changed it.

Therefore, you are actually better off playing at a lower difficulty and working your weapons up to a higher power, instead of just going for initial points. It can take a lot of enemies to get enough rings. At high skill level, that only allows you 33 kills before your enemies advance a level, and you may or may not have a better weapon yet.

You do need to pick a weapon and stick with it. If you accidentally pick up a ring of a colour other than that of your current weapon, you switch to that weapon at its lowest setting. It may even be worth a life to run off the screen or run into an enemy to avoid that, especially if you're full up with 4 extra lives.

The ring colours and weapon names are:

Phaser - blue ring
1 RainbowGun
2 Lil'Blaster
3 SparkShooter5000
4 TheBoro-Vanisher
5 Double-FistedPhaser

Laser - red ring
1 Pteri-shooter * You start with this
2 Pteri-blaster
3 HealingSpringSpecial
4 BlastAwayRay
5 AllTheWayRay
6 MutilationRay
7 TheBrainScrambler
8 BottomlessClip
9 ScorchCannon
10 Boogie Sweeper

Spread - green ring
1 Spreader
2 Jr. Sweeper
3 Auto-Spreader
4 ReloaderDeluxx
5 Mecha-Blaster

Bounce - flashing red/white ring
1 Tadow
2 thatsAwrap
3 Mr.Bones

I prefer the Bounce weapon, but it takes a bit of getting used to. You can end up shooting around the enemy that's bearing down on you, but the projectile gets larger and swings around to the point that with Mr. Bones, shooting from the bottom of the screen, you've almost completely covered the space at the top with your projectiles.

The Spread is good, and so is the phaser, but I find that they're not as powerful as the Bounce in the late game. Then again I just shot a 1944 using the Phaser series while testing something for this article, so I guess it's not all bad!

The Laser can be upgraded to a 10th power level if you can find enough red rings, and it's a formidable weapon at the Boogie Sweeper level. It basically takes out a whole column of enemies both ahead and behind of your little hero. I just find, now that the rings are hidden "inside" the enemies, I can't rely on getting ten red rings for a high enough level of the Laser.

So, here's my strategy. As you progress, the enemies get bigger and faster, so you need more time for your weapons to fire multiple shots, or in the case of the Bounce weapon, for the projectiles to grow larger. I hang down at the very bottom, about 1/4 of the way over from the right wall. I keep an ear peeled for the Grarrl, and only if I hear him coming do I move away from that spot.

There are several advantages to this location. There are nearly invisible dark blue enemies that slide left and right, and they will all be above you. It's almost impossible to avoid them if you're up in the main field, paying attention to the more brightly coloured enemies coming down at you. It's even worth a Grarrl bite.

There's a point at which a long series of green enemies drop from the right edge, and you can just keep firing and take out that whole column from there. You do miss some big light blue ones on the left edge, but frankly I can make that up in volume just clearing the right 2/3 of the screen. Remember again, if your weapon isn't up to the top power yet, it's to your advantage to score slowly.

The Grarrl can be a real problem if he's coming behind you and the field is full, so like the early strategy, it can be a help to just take your time and avoid some of the enemies if they're coming hot and heavy. You may need some flying space to avoid the Grarrl, and occasionally he's so huge that you absolutely have to fly toward the top of the screen to escape him.

If you hear the Grarrl and you're in that bottom position I recommend, move up about 1/4 of the screen and see where he's coming from. Use your feel of how big your hero's space is to decide if you have to move or not. If not, just drop right back down to the bottom. Never quit firing--filling the air with flak is what it's all about.

A Grand Master score of 1500 means you made it to level 15, and you will have gained an extra life several times by then ("1 Up!" is the message you see). You can only have four extra lives at a time, but you don't have to preserve them at all costs. Use them wisely to get out of impossible situations.

Well, that's about it. Shoot. Live as long as you can. Make Grand Master.
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