perjantai 4. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - RoboCop (1988)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1988
Available on: Amiga, ARC, Atari ST, C64, GB, MAC, MSX, NES, PC, ZX
Developer(s): Ocean Software, Data East
Publisher(s): Ocean Software, Data East
Players: 1

Believe me, Paul Verhoeven's (only) masterpiece RoboCop is often forgotten by me and all of the people I know whenever a conversation arises about the best science fiction films of all time, especially those made in the 80's. I don't what it is about RoboCop - as great as the movie is, it's always the odd one out. Something totally unrelated reminds you of it, and you go all like "How could I forget that movie? It ruled!" Well, the truth is that RoboCop's sequels sucked. RoboCop 2 was OK, as more or less of a comedy film, whereas the first one was really, really bleak and quite close to The Terminator in its dystopian style - no wonder Robo and the 'Nator went on to do a crossover together. The last sequel, not to mention the animated series, or the ill-fated live action series, are not worth one dollar that was wasted on them - wouldn't buy them for a dollar (lol)! Without the help of some really strong sequels, merchandising and general budgeting, RoboCop remained but a cult classic whereas The Terminator became a mainstream icon. Also, The Terminator came out first. The one thing RoboCop did do before the character of the Terminator, was star in his very own video game based on the first RoboCop movie. So, since Sony Imagesoft didn't exist at the time, who was it: a) LJN, b) Ocean Software or c) both? Enough teasing, it was Ocean. In cahoots with publisher Data East. Well, can't be worse than The Terminator, right? ...Actually, this time I AM right.

Directive 1: "If you're going to suck, do it well."

Police officer Alex Murphy is killed on duty by a gang of criminals. Dick Jones, a high-ranking executive at OCP, a mega-corporation dealing in the future of Detroit's law enforcement, invents ED-209, a robot with a very dangerous error in his program, and is shunned by his superiors. His colleague Bob Morton comes up with a rivaling concept and creates RoboCop, using Alex Murphy's remains to build the perfect cybernetic police officer. RoboCop proves so efficient that Jones has Morton killed. RoboCop goes after the mob that is responsible for his current state, and finds out it actually works for Jones. There's just one problem: RoboCop's programming prevents him from taking legal or lethal action against an employee of the OCP.

The greatest strength that RoboCop holds as a movie license is that it follows the movie's plot to a quite formidable degree, except that the last boss is not Ronny Cox a.k.a. OCP Vice President Dick Jones, but instead the notably more boss-worthy ED-209, who you'll be facing a few times during the course of the game, as well as the leader of the gang, Clarence Boddicker, who was portrayed in the movie by the great Kurtwood Smith, who of course went on to play the greatest TV dad of all time - after Homer Simpson, of course - Red Forman in That 70's Show. A total of three actors went on to appear in Twin Peaks, which I consider the greatest TV show of all time - Ray Wise, Dan O'Herlihy, and of course, Miguel Ferrer. As much as I'd like to reminisce on cinema and TV history, my job is to review the game. The thing is, the movie and its legacy rule and I could talk about it all for hours. The game pretty much sucks, but that's not a huge surprise - what is surprising that it's on the absolutely correct level of "suck", you might actually enjoy it. At least I do!

"Data East is wanted for multiple accounts of
cheating an innocent child out of his quarters
with the aid of great pinball tables."
The graphics are pretty good, this is still a movie license and a quite early one - before LJN began making licensed games for the NES, when, 1987 (?), there didn't exist a lot of games based on movies, except of course some larger-than-life franchises screaming for a branch in the video game business like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Each setting looks different from the last, and I think that's quite sufficient from a game of this type. RoboCop fans will be glad to know that a very altered, but recognizable version of the RoboCop theme song is most definitely present - on a less positive note, it plays throughout the game. The sound effects are horrible - there's a loud cue each and every time RoboCop automatically changes his primary function, as well as each time the time limit decreases by one tick. Very annoying.

The game is very short, so it's easy to fit in a nutshell. First, you do a little test run. In the movie, after Bob Morton (played brilliantly by the severely underrated Mr. Ferrer) first introduced RoboCop, there was this montage showing RoboCop in different situations, the way he operated. Well, that's the first stage - an undefined crime scene. Next up, is the hostage situation at city hall and a pointless but semi-fun shooting range minigame, after which we finally get to the main plot, which is bringing both Clarence Boddicker and Dick Jones to some sort of justice, and destroy the ED-209 menace before it can hurt any more innocent civilians due to its lackluster programming. The game is so relatively close to the movie's plot that it actually reminded me that I haven't watched the movie in years, and now I'm going to, pretty soon after I'm done with this review. However, it's not as fun to play as it is to follow from a RoboCop fan's perspective.

"It is illegal to have a barbecue party in such
an open area."
The controls are horrible. I can pretty much comprehend RoboCop's inability to jump - have you ever seen him jump? He even walks the same stiff way he did in the movie, I can excuse that. As a sidenote, I must make a remark of some people calling this game a platformer... it's not a platformer if you can't jump, you fucking idiots. To get back to the subject, your slow walking speed does not relate well to your battery, which functions as your occasionally very unforgiving time limit. Some of the stages are like mazes, and it's very common to step into the wrong room once, then slowly RoboStomp your way back to the right track, only to realize you're running out of time already and there's no extra battery in sight. The many routes in this game take a little tolerance for trial and error. Unfortunately, the game also forces you to have a little tolerance for the fact that there's a limited amount of continues, and that amount is never quite specified.

Another thing that bothers me about Murphy's general behaviour in-game, is that RoboCop begins like any side-scrolling beat 'em up game - you can't use your gun before the game allows you to, for one reason or another. You just move forward, beat the shit out of everyone with extremely short-range punches, until you are magically given permission to use your weapon. Besides the ultra-cool, customized revolver RoboCop carries inside his thigh, you have access to a machine gun, as well as a quite efficient rifle. However, your basic weapon's the only one with decent range, and the extra weapons won't do you a lot of good in many boss fights, either.

Gotta hand it to 'em, they even got a detail like
RoboCop's shooting stance right.
The boss fights are quite interesting, since they're all unique in some way. The first boss is this colossal dude that is the only boss in the game not related to the movie in any fashion - I guess. He's one of the easiest bosses ever. You just need to punch him whenever he comes close, and he can't do shit to you if your timing's right; his different-coloured brother shows up as a regular enemy very soon. The second boss is the guy at city hall, and you actually need to find a weak wall and bust through it to get to the guy, just like in the movie. The differences are that you need to be absolutely precise with your punches to break the wall in time, before a wall of spikes comes and crushes you, and you need to fight the guy in one of the most annoying boss fights ever - in which you'll realize that shooting while ducking in this game is a nightmare, and that bullets have a tendency to go right through enemies. There are only two more bosses, Boddicker and ED - nothing too hard to figure out and conquer after you've gotten that far.

RoboCop is a surprisingly easy game, it just takes a lot of trial and error due to the level design, the time limit and all this in relation to your character's speed. I also don't remember another game in which a simple task like walking up a stretch of stairs would've been this hard, not even in the most clumsy Castlevania game imaginable. RoboCop is a quick and entertaining way to pass some time, at least when you compare it to all the shit that has been released in the name of many fantastic movies.

It is not a masterpiece, and it's not that recommendable for casual 8-bit freaks either, but unlike Mindscape's The Terminator, which came out years later and looks a hundred times uglier than this game, RoboCop is recommendable to a franchise fan and at least worth a try to everyone else. We've seen much, much worse games than RoboCop, without a shadow of a doubt. The overall rating alone will tell you that.

Graphics : 7.3
Sound : 5.8
Playability : 6.1
Challenge : 6.0
Overall : 6.2

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