And you thought a Hell's Angels' convention on a dark night in Swindon was a dangerous place to be. Well forget it, because anyone who can tell their trousers from their nylon pyjama bottoms knows that the most hair-raising location this side of the chippy on a Saturday night is Manhattan. Not the most hospitable place at the best of times, let alone after a nuclear war! Cripes!
Yep, they finally did it. The superpowers pressed those cute little red buttons and the world's been blown up. The poor blighters still alive have either lost their marbles or turned in total desperation to the pleasures of the flesh (cannibalism that is, perv peeps). The only chance our hero, Jonathan Jungle Rogers (concrete jungle, geddit?), has to escape is to run like the blazes to a launching platform and scarper on a ship headed for space.
The upshot of this whole shebang is that you (our Jonathan) have got to fight your way through two loads full of crazed and frenzied radioactive blokes and robots (rotters). First off, you're hurled into the midst of one of those left/right flick-screen beat-'em-up affairs pretty much in the mould of Vigilante, Renegade, Dragon Ninja - you know the stuff. Basically, it's a case of kicking and punching diced carrots out of a bunch of radioactives who glow in the dark and throw dynamite at you. Then it's face to face with the extra tough end-of-level baddie. Ooh, what a surprise!
Second load, and the launch pad you're after just happens to be defended by a psychotic maniac with an army of defensive robots and gun emplacements to his name. The pesky blighters just won't let you get on with your job! The follow you, throw atomic mines at you and send out their mega kangaroo destroyers (big tanks with mega guns). Your honest-to-goodness bloke, just trying to escape the planet and make a better life for himself, has no choice but to pump them full of lead with his machine gun. What a shame.
Well, that sounds like a pretty run of the mill beat-'em-up cum shoot-'em-up to me, I hear you cry. Well. yes. There's nothing mind-bogglingly new about this little number, I grant you. But having said that, it does have some of the biggest, mean-muther-looking sprites I've recently seen on the Speccy, clear if unspectacular backdrops and brillo 128K sound. The fighting moves on the beat-'em-up bits are a bit on the boring side (just punching, crouching and kicking) and poorly animated, but on the shoot-'em-up levels it really comes alive.
Wandering along claustrophobic corridors with giant gun on hip, taking pot shots at the trillions of robots and security droids that gang up on you from above... well, it's got much of the feel and atmosphere of that space film Aliens. (What a pity the Speccy conversion of that was so hopeless!) Yup, real gung ho macho excitement (if you like that sort of thing). For mindless blasting satisfaction it takes some beating.
There's one major fly in the ointment though - the difficulty level (it is a Dinamic game alter all). It's just pitched way to hard. Not quite as bad as Navy Moves perhaps, but you still get zapped straight back to the beginning again far too often. How blooming frustrating! Maybe I'm just going soft, but the fact I wasn't getting anywhere fast really put me off. Don't start raiding your piggy bank.
I'm glad I didn't have to fight in the Spanish civil war. If the average Spaniard is hard enough to get through After the War, I wouldn't want to tangle with any of them.
It seems to be a factor of Spanish games, and especially the stuff from Dinamic that the playability has been tweaked to the very peak of difficulty. I'm not talking about a few extra obstacles you've got to overcome. Oh no. Playing After the War is more like a set of carefully timed keypresses at precise screen positions than actually playing a game.
The first level is like Target Renegade on steroids. Huge sprites populate a detailed (and therefore confusing) post apocalyptic backdrop. Clad in regulation issue leather jacket and motorcycle boots, you're heading east (well, toward the right hand side of the scrolling screen) and you ain't gonna let nuthin' get in your way.
At least, that's the plan. The reality for me, a weedy Anglo Saxon was a right good hammering every time. The first wave of the bad guys are easy enough after a little practise. Ducking down and punching them in the crotch seems to be the best policy.
If only it was that simple. About half way through the level, the thugs have increased punchability, and take at least two good punches or kicks before they keel over. On top of this, the sneaky swine are lobbing sticks of dynamite at you from windows. If you're within a certain radius when it goes off, you can kiss goodbye to your legs. The hilarity of the "Oh, I've been killed again. I really should have been one pixel further to the right" incidents began to wear thin pretty quickly.
And just when you've got the hang of dodging the dynamite and socking the other boys, you have to fight Mr Big. Well, Mr Bloody Enormous actually. He nearly touches the top of the screen and is even harder than Hard Tim McNoonan after twenty cans of Superlager and a 5-0 defeat for Palace. You can kick and punch and duck and bob for all you're worth, and he simply grabs you by the hair and pummels your face in. It's hardly cricket.
The second level (which I would never have seen were it not for a cheat poke) is a much more enjoyable affair.
You're tooled up with a mega machine-gun and an apparently infinite supply of ammo. Deeper into the enemy sector, life becomes tougher than before, but now you've got the equipment to give you a fighting chance.
Hovvering gun turrets swoop out of the sky and shoot at you. Stationary laser ports zap you when you pass, and mysterious tracking-grenades explode when you need it least.
You can run left and right and raise your gun through steps of 90 degrees, blasting away with ultra-rapid fire the whole time.
Unfortunately, you don't get a moment's peace to plug the machinery, as you're assaulted by hordes of bad guys with rocket launchers and bullet proof suits. You need to hit them with a clean twenty shots before they die.
After a few screens progress, you'll find yourself confronted with a huge mechanoid. One looks like ED 209 from Robocop. These are even more tuff than the rest of the enemy forces, and they bombard you with rockets and machine gun fire. After the War is, in places, both graphically fab and wonky. The playability is definitely there, but it's simply too hard. That's the end of it.
If only the programmers would ease up on their rabid determination to make their games impossible, they could be onto a winner.
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
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