Announcing Thrust Lifter: A New Game by Matt Barton

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Matt Barton's picture

Just in time for Christmas!

Armchair Arcade is proud to present a spanking new game from Matt Barton: Thrust Lifter!

Thrust LifterThrust LifterSpace. For most people, it's just an abstract concept, like Hollywood or an honest politician. For you, it's a day job. Sure, you won't find "rescuing trapped space miners" on your resume, but that's because you don't have a resume. You're known in this galaxy simply as "The Captain." Most folks think you're a hero. Others think you're just plain nuts. But one thing's for sure--they all call YOU when it's a matter of life or death.

You see, mining has never been the safest occupation, but multiply it by ten--make it a a hundred--when you're talking space mining. The rewards are great, but so is the danger. When all you've got is a half centimeter of neoprene-coated nylon between you and vacuum, though, it's nice to know that someone like you is up there watching your butt.

It's never been easy, but I don't have to tell you that, Captain. But now we're getting reports of unidentified flying objects in sector 42--aliens, if you can believe it. All the other pilots are too spooked to even enter the sector. I need you go there, Captain, and rescue those Chilenoids. Get'em out of the tunnels and mountains and bring them back to their home base.

I suspect this is a one-way mission, Captain. So I'll just say goodbye, and it's been an honor serving with you.


Admiral Blount

Thrust Lifter is a game of timing and precision. Guide your lander into narrow tunnels, avoiding collisions with walls, fires, lava, electricity, and all manner of aliens. Get to the Chilenoids before they run out of oxygen and bring them back to the home pad before taking off to your next destination.


  • 15 beautiful, massive levels for you to navigate
  • Five original songs composed by Matt Barton with keyboards and real electric guitar
  • Amazing fire, lightning, and particle effects
  • Sprites built from 3D graphics made with Blender
  • Two boss fights
  • Compete to finish levels in the shortest time
  • High score list


Joined: 03/23/2008
Interesting name... it a takeoff on Choplifter?

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
It's inspired by Choplifter

It's inspired by Choplifter and Thrust-style games.

Joined: 03/23/2008

It takes determination to actually finish a project like this. I'm sure it wasn't easy.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
You got that right. :) I plan

You got that right. :)

I plan to do a podcast on it in a few days (or maybe longer given the holidays). As usual, the hardest part was stuff that should have been easy, no-brainers, like displaying text and such.

Joined: 12/23/2011
Thrust Lifter Review

Great game Matt, I really enjoyed it. I plan on purchasing a pre-paid credit card to take advantage of the awesome sales at GOG. I'll be sure to get a registered version of this game :) I've used game maker before but never to any success, so I can appreciate the hard work that goes in to a project like this. Anyway, here's what I thought.

Music: 10/10 The music really makes this game. The opening menu music got me right in the mood, with great use of synthesizers and guitar. The base line is what sold me though :). The more ambient track during the actual levels are also quite enjoyable and created a thick atmosphere. The final Boss music however is my favourite. Quite catchy and laid back at the same time. Great use of technology.

Control: 9.5/10 By the end of the 2nd or 3rd level I was really comfortable with the controls. Though it took a few crash tests to figure out. Why I rate them so high is because of how responsive they are. Not once could I blame my crashing and burning on the controls but rather my own slack-of-hand. Responsive controls are vital in a game all about precision, and game maker can be a finicky program.

Game-play: 8.5/10 Reminiscent of old arcade games, the game-play can cater towards both casual and hardcore gamers. The level design is really well thought out, and the difficulty progression has a distinct curve. I found myself switching from flight to landing mode frequently, and that added a strategical factor. The game-play is all about balancing precision speed and timing, all while making sure you don't run out of fuel or hull durability, and racing the clock, lest your Chilenoid friends run out of oxygen. Not to mention the alien menace that will stop at nothing to thwart your plans of rescue. Sure you can beat the game in one sitting. But try getting through the whole thing without dying and racking up the high-score charts, and now you've got a serious challenge.

Graphics: 8/10 All the levels are very diverse in color and texture. The 3d sprites really add to the atmosphere. The rotating satellite dish on the space stations is, I find, quite nostalgic. Some of the levels also have a very psychedelic feel. The fire effects surprised me the first time I saw them. For home-made 2d graphics you did an excellent job.

Sound Effects: 7.5/10 The thruster sounds are spot on, as are all the ship sounds. The fire alarm is the only sound effect that I'm not fond of.

The only glitch that I happened to find, was nothing crucial. I think it must have been something I pushed between going in and out of full-screen mode, buck the background disappeared and wouldn't re-render after a new game. A simple exit and restart put me back on my feet however and I had no problems afterword. (Glitch)

The last boss was very enjoyable, and definitely took me more than a few tries. When i did get him, my friend who had been sitting beside me applauded, "My Turn!" aha. (Sweet Victory) ^__^

The only thing I can really complain about is its length. :) But for a short game it's overflowing with soul and innovation.
I'd give this game an even 9/10, overall, on an indie scale. Recommended and well worth playing. Keep making games Matt, I look forward to you're next project.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006

Thanks, Heathbrook! That's fantastic.

That little glitch happened to me once, but I thought it was just a fluke. I was finally able to replicate it and hopefully solve it with this release. If you just want to download the patched executable, grab it here.

If anybody finds anything else, please let me know.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
I got a chance to play the

I got a chance to play the first two levels. Fantastic game, Matt. Congrats!

Charles (not verified)
173 MEGS! OK tomorrow then :)

173 MEGS!

OK tomorrow then :)

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
Made it to level 9.... after bypassing a possible bug.

My first attempted game session resulted in encountering a rather odd bug, making the game unplayable. The "Status" bar that was supposed to be on the right side of the game screen was stretched across the entire screen! I wasn't sure what to think at first, but I couldn't see my ship (or anything else but the status bar). Not knowing what was going on, I tried to find some instructions, then realized it had to be a bug. After fiddling a bit, I gave up and killed the task in the Task Manager.

I started thinking a bit, then.... Eureka!

It turns out I was running my monitor at a lower desktop resolution than the game apparently is expecting, resulting in the glitch. I run a lower desktop resolution so I don't have to squint as much, due to my poor eyesight. Usually this doesn't cause problems, but "Thrust Lifter" apparently bases it's display off of the desktop, and pressing "F4" did nothing to alleviate the problem.

I increased my desktop resolution, and viola, it worked! I'd check into this if I were you, Matt, and see if there isn't some sort of work-around. Or maybe I'm just a unique case.

The Game

First off, the title screen is nice and attractive, but the music.... WOW! I sat there and listened to the entire theme several times before I even started the game. AWESOME guitar work! If nothing else, you've secured your place as a legitimate indie game music composer in my eyes, er... ears! Considering that I'm currently on a computer music composing kick, I was especially interested in this aspect of the game, and had high expectations, but you exceeded them with the theme music. Again, great stuff!

I began the game, and the graphics are crisp, colorful, and attractive, and everything moved surprisingly smoothly for a Gamemaker game. Many GM games have choppy animation and scrolling, so this was a very nice plus. The 3D pre-rendered graphics looked nice, especially for a "noob" at 3D modelling. Astounding, really, considering how recently you started in Blender. The pulsating lava and the Lander (Lifter??) were especially nice. I liked the "shattering" effect of the ice (?) blocks. The flames looked especially nice.

The gameplay, it turns out, is basically a cross between "Fort Apocalypse" and "Lunar Lander." Maybe a hint of "Space Taxi" is in there too. The controls were crisp and responsive once I got used to it. I'm not sure what else to say about the gameplay, except it does exactly what it sets out to do, and is definitely fun! It's definitely challenging and exciting, and it was fun seeing what new surprises would appear in each level. Heck, I set aside the entire "Humble Bundle #4" set (which included #3!), feeling more into this game than any in that set. (Although Hammerfight especially Cave Story are great games that I recommend everyone play, but I've already played them before...).

The sound effects were, I would say, "functional." Nothing particularly stood out, except for the cool "etherial" background music which really enhanced the mood.

Overall, amazing job, especially considering the very short development time (what was it, a month?!?!) Heck, dare I say it, "Thrust Lifter" is among the best Gamemaker games I've played! There are some really great GM games ("The Cleaner" and "Return to Sector 9" come to mind), but this one is straight-up playable and smooth, and I got into the groove immediately. A great number of GM games haven't really impressed me, hence my lukewarm enthusiasm for developing in GM, but "Thrust Lifter" is fun and addictive in its own right, and a fine example of what can be done with Gamemaker in the right hands.

Knowing the behind the scenes stuff (that you've posted), you've not only programmed a game in a surprisingly short time, but you've also learned Blender 3D AND you composed original music! HOW THE HECK DID YOU DO ALL THAT!?!?! Do you have a time-bending device of some sort?!?! Quite honestly, I'm absolutely astounded by whatever level of alien intelligence and productivity you possess! I now realize what a loser I am.... thank you for that.

Ok, I've droned on enough, even though I could probably think of more things to say. How many levels are there in this thing? I made it to level 9 as of this writing, and am going back for more after I post this.

P.S. I'm all in when it comes to a podcast on this. I would REALLY like it if you made a Matt Chat episode about this, though.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Thanks, Bill and Rob! It

Thanks, Bill and Rob! It means a lot to me that you guys downloaded it. It's extremely difficult getting any attention on indie games it seems. As if 173 megs is anything compared to 99% games on the market! I mean, come on, are you guys on dial up? It's time to put away that AOL tin and upgrade to broadband, baby!

But anyway...

Rob, I know there's an option in GM to set the resolution of the screen. I didn't like that because it funked with my graphics card a bit. Still, it should be possible to do a check first to see if the user has a resolution under a certain amount, then set the rez as a last resort. I know a lot of GM devs make their games at 800 x 600 to cope with that issue, but I just thought the 1200 x 800 looked sooo much better. :) Sorry to hear about your eyes. I'm already up to a powerful prescription myself, and already losing distance vision again. Guess I'm fated to squint behind coke bottles.

I'm pretty proud of the SF actually. Sound doesn't seem particularly well thought out in GM, so you have to do a lot of tweaking, especially if you want sounds fading as they get further away. I intentionally made the fire alarm sound loud and obnoxious because you can only stand in the flames for a few seconds before dying. I figured people needed as much warning a possible to move the heck out of there. But, yeah, I originally wanted a sort of fire destruction sound; maybe a sizzle. But couldn't find it...Maybe in the next update.

I would not even dream about saying I had learned Blender 3D. I am strictly a raw bumbler. It's like a 6-year old who has spent a lot of time with a 6-key toy piano to suddenly find himself conducting an orchestra. It's like one of the Wright bros. sitting down in a 747 cockpit. Or maybe a UFO. The interface is just downright bizarre...They were trying to go for something unique, and apparently you come to love it, but IMO it just makes an already difficult learning curve perpendicular. I still haven't figured out how to control it, so just have to restart the program when I get the windows too far out of whack. The actual modeling process is fun, actually, once you learn to respect the programs' faults. The biggest is "double vertexes," which you can get when you do certain transformations. Instead of, say, extending a cylinder, you create a cylinder within a cylinder and pull part of it out. That leaves you with some extra material inside the first one that "doubles" over, and looks like crap when you render. The hardest part for me is the "armatures," or bones that allow you to animate the model. These are so incredibly difficult that I'm amazed that so many little kids have mastered it (all the youtube videos I watched were obviously made by adolescents!). The incredible task of making a human being walk around and such--whoa. I have nothing, NOTHING but awe and reverence for the geniuses who were able to figure all that out. You basically need anatomy as a prerequisite...If I ever get to that point, I'm going to have to hire a professional or at least find a healthy stash of pre-made and rigged models to work with.

Garageband also proved far more frustrating than I ever would have imagined given its Mac-heritage. I was expecting to sit down and be able to record and have the program sort out the mess. Wrong. There are two things that INFURIATE me about GB. The first one, I HOPE, is due to my ignorance of the program rather than its limitations, but I was never able to input notes directly into the editor. Instead, I had to "record" and try to input them in live. Maybe it's my background in tracker software, but that seems horribly inefficient to me. I just want to input the notes and then slide them around to make them fit. Nope, couldn't do that. So I had to record everything "live." The second is the timings. There are "quantize" functions that supposedly clean up your timing, but they almost always seemed off to me. In short, if I hadn't had to deal with all these timing and quantizing issues, I wouldn't been able to make twice the music in half the time. Instead I spent an absurd number of hours re-recording and moving pieces around, desperately trying to make them fit the timing of the rest of the piece. BLEH.

What really blows my mind about GB is that the loops never seem to work together. You might find a great little drum loop, but do you really want to loop that same thing 100 times? Good luck finding any other ones that fit it, though, for making bridges or choruses or whatever. As far as I can tell, it's setup mostly with the podcaster in mind, somebody who just wants 10-30 seconds worth of music between segments or as an introduction. There's also a lot of support for recording whole bands, which makes sense given the name. But it honestly doesn't seem like a good fit for guys like us, solo artists who want to record some parts live and input others on keyboards. (You do need a keyboard; the musical typing is strictly a toy).

I'm looking for alternatives to GB, but not finding them. Sony ACID on the PC has a huge limitation in that you can't monitor your guitar as you play it. So, you basically have to strum clean and then apply effects afterward. That's a deal breaker IMO. The only other program I hear about is "ProTools," but from what I've read, it's the equivalent of Blender or Photoshop for music and the "Pro" is dead serious. I've heard the same about "Logic," which seems to be the professional equivalent of Garageband. The stuff I read online warned against it, though, at least for anyone who doesn't want to spend weeks learning the interface.

It seems in every case there is a problem for the hobbyist. Whether you're talking video, graphics, audio, or whatever, there are two levels--the absolute NOOB, Fisher-Price type tools that are so limited you might as well forget about creating anything worthwhile, or the "PRO" level that requires weeks if not months of intense training and study to use with anything like competence. Movie Maker or Final Cut Pro? PAINT or Photoshop? Garageband or Protools? It's too much of a discrepancy. I need options IN BETWEEN those.


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