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The main goal of Return to Genesis is to rescue various scientists from a space colony overrun by vicious alien invaders. There are twelve scientists total, though they have all been cloned fifty times each to increase the colony's overall productivity, so the player will encounter many instances of the same scientist. These scientists will be able to upgrade your craft between missions, the actual upgrades being dependent on who was rescued.
 
The game plays a lot like Defender, in that the player is put into a panoramic stage where they can choose to go either left or right and quickly switch directions if necessary. They must rescue the various scientists strewn about the level (not always on the ground) and avoiding or destroying the pursuing aliens before moving onto the next stage. 

The game was designed to push the boundaries of what Amiga and Atari ST could do, regarding the type of high-speed parallax scrolling-based shoot 'em ups popular in the arcades at the time. As such, it perhaps moves a little too fast for some players.

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