on-rails shooter

Ion Runner [Cancelled – GameCube, PS2, Xbox, PC]

Ion Runner is a cancelled racing / on-rail shooter game that was in development around 20022003 by Attention to Detail, the team mostly known for such titles as Rollcage, Lego Racers 2 and Drome Racers. The project was planned to be released for GameCube, Playstation 2, Xbox and PC, but unfortunately the team did not find a publisher interested in supporting it.

Some details about this lost game was shared online by former developers, who started working on Ion Runner after the cancellation of Lego Racer 4:

“A more ambitious project, Lego Racers 4, was canned after substantial development effort. This was technically interesting as the design called for streaming of the entire game world from DVD, allowing much larger and more intricate play area than earlier Lego games, or most console titles at the time. The team involved went on to work on Ion Runner […]

Two complete levels of Ion Runner were programmed and demonstrated to many publishers, but there was no time to sign a deal before venture capitalists 3I pulled the plug on the company in August 2003.

Since then the demos have been seen by many in the industry who were surprised that the project was never finished – but the price, calculated to refloat the group as well as to cover the development costs, meant any deal on this new IP was hard to arrange.”

It seems the game initially started as a classic 3D racing – on rail shooter, in which players would drive their overbike through different levels while shooting down enemies. After a while the team toyed with a more open adventure-alike gameplay, possibly with HUB world to explore, NPCs to talk to and other action-adventure mechanics. As far as we know, not much was done on this version before the cancellation.

In the end with no more funds to keep the studio alive, Attention to Detail had to close down for liquidation:

“UK developer ATD (Attention to Detail) went into liquidation last Thursday, it has been revealed. While most of the country’s attention was directed at the ECTS trade show approximately 50 staff was laid off after a failure to sign the developer’s Ion Runner title.”

If you know someone who worked on the game and may have saved footage or more screenshots, please let us know!

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Rewind (Two Tribes) [DS – Cancelled]

Rewind is a cancelled on-rails shoot ‘em up in the vein of StarFox that was in development in 2008 by Two Tribes for Nintendo DS. After their work on Worms: Open Warfare 2 DS for THQ in 2007, Two Tribes started to plan their next game and wanted to create an original Sci-Fi shumup for the same console. IGN reported the announcement of Rewind DS in July 2008, but even they did not have much info on the project:

“[…] ReWind, described as an on-rails shooter with a twist. What this twist is hasn’t been revealed yet, but Two Tribes says it is taking full advantage of the DS’ abilities. ReWind is set in a “carefully scripted game world” where players have one objective: blast everything.[…] It will use the DS microphone and feature a CD-quality soundtrack.”

By looking at the title, we can speculate that Rewind’s “twist” could have been a way to rewind time during the game or to go backwards during its on-rails levels. Unfortunately not much more was ever revealed about Rewind and it soon vanished among many other lost DS games: it’s possible that Two Tribes never found a publisher interested to support them for this project.

After releasing such a clever hidden gem as Toki Tori 2 in January 2014 Two Tribes had to close down for bankruptcy because of low sales of the game. Their parent company Two Tribes Publishing B.V. formed another small team to develop their last game, under the working title “RE:Wind”, later published in September 2016 as Rive for PC, Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Rive is a side-scrolling shooter and not an on-rails shooter as Rewind DS was planned to be, but we can still speculate that the released game is an evolution of their original, unreleased concept for the portable console.

Update: thanks to Maik we found an interview on N4G featuring Martijn Reuvers (co-founder of Two Tribes) that confirm some of these details:

Martijn: When we started with RIVE, it was about 2005, so a long time ago. Its original name was “Rewind” and it was meant to be a small game reusing the level designs and artwork that we had. You would shoot a couple of enemies, rewind back in time, and then go to a point slightly before where you started. This way we can just reuse assets and every time you rewind, you’re replaying the same content, but it’s become a little more difficult. So, that was the original inspiration for RIVE. We actually started with the concept, but when we were play-testing it, we found out that it really sucked, so we dropped it. The energy orbs that drop in RIVE were meant to allow you to travel back in time with Rewind, but we don’t know what to do with them anymore, because the whole rewinding system is out of there. We still have a warp system in there, but it has nothing to do with time travel. It’s a very iterative process. We start with something, decide it doesn’t work, and move on from there.

In addition to RIVE being built from the remnants of Rewind, we played a lot of Gradius and Metal Slug back in the 90s, especially in arcades. Collin and I played a lot of those, and we always wanted to make a game like Gradius. So, when the company went bankrupt two years ago (2013), we had been making a lot of puzzle games and we wanted to make something with shooting and explosions. We said to ourselves, “Why not go back to that original design from 2005 and do something with that?” The real inspiration for this game is our passion for those types of games.

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Shot (by Housemarque) [PC – Cancelled]

Shot is a cancelled first-person rail shooter developed by Housemarque (a team mostly known for Super Stardust, Outland, Dead Nation and Resogun) that was slated for release in 1999 for PC. While it run on other 3d accelerators too, the real-time polygonal engine (which used “photosurreal technology”, a term coined by the programmers themselves), was clearly optimized for Voodoo 2, the most powerful 3dfx card at the time.

The plot was quite original for a shooter: the player controlled the gunner of a UFO ship, which object was to help fellow aliens escape from Earth (or, in alternative, kill them before they got captured by humans), after a failed invasion.

Even if the basic gameplay was similar to other first-person rail shooters (the CPU pilot handled most of the flying, while the player used the mouse to control the sight), in Shot we also had the possibility of killing a distant enemy with the sniping mode, and, though it would quickly drain our life energy, to control time by slowing everything down except for the speed of our viewfinder. 

Morever, according to Jani Penttinen, project manager and senior programmer of Shot, sometimes we had to protect the pilot of the airship:

In critical missions, the pilot actually leaves the ship to pick up something from the ground, and the player is responsible for protecting him. If the pilot dies, life gets a whole lot harder, if the player manages to survive on his own for a while, a new pilot will be beamed down from the alien mother ship and he will be able to continue the mission.

Just like other examples of the genre, each stage had multiple paths to explore. But Shot was interesting in having a map from which it was possible to select all the levels from the beginning. However, the longer we waited to play a stage, the stronger and more smarter the enemies inside it became (the AI was specifically programmed to learn over time from players tactics).

Thankfully, other fellow aliens sometimes would have helped us, and the viewfinder cleverly pointed out the most dangerous enemies currently on screen. Apparently, most of the game’s stages were hit-and-run rescue missions. After successfully beating a level, our ship was given better weaponry.

Unfortunately, Shot ended up being cancelled because Housemarque wasn’t able to find a publisher for the game.

Sources:
Next Gen Magazine issue 40
Edge issue 56
Conversation with Jani Penttinen on twitter

Thanks to Maik Thiele  for the contribution!

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3D Laser Blaster [3DO – Cancelled]

3D Laser Blaster is a cancelled game that was in development for the Panasonic 3DO. When 3DO system was  first announced, goggles for stereoscopic 3D were shown as a prototype. 3D Laser Blaster (a shooter?) was the game planned to be the pack-in for this peripheral. However neither glasses or game were ever commercialised.

Below you can see images about the 3D glasses prototype for 3DO and game taken from EGM VideoGame Preview 1993.

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Star Blade: Operation Blue Planet [Arcade – Cancelled]

Star Blade: Operation Blue Planet is a cancelled arcade on-rails shooter that was being developed by Namco. It was supposed to be a sequel of the first Star Blade, originally released in 1991.  A proto of the coin-op was playable at Amusement Machine Show in 2001, but the game got quietly canceled, probably because the cabinet was too expensive.

Star blade cabinet

Star blade image

The cabinet was known as “Over Reality Booster System” (ORBS). Its main feature was a special lens that projected a 180 degree image in order to create a very immersive experience for the player.