After being horribly disfigured in a planted bomb explosion that wrecked his lab, scientist Peyton Westlake becomes Mark Caswell, a shadowy phantom of the opera-like figure bent on revenge. Here's Darkman to tell you all about it (Hold it! Something's wrong there).
Closely following the plot of the movie, Darkman has you in the lead role as he fights his way through the game's six levels of scrolly action. Essentially it's an arcade combat game that throws up quite a challenge (and it's really good to look at, too).
The game begins in Chinatown where Darkman hears that arch baddie Robert G Durant is making a pick up of illicit drugs money - money Darkman needs to fund his synthetic skin project. So, with fedora hat firmly placed on head and overcoat flapping in the wind, it's off to battle.
Plenty of henchmen stand between you and the dosh, most prolific are the heavy muscle squad who hit or shoot you. As they do this your energy level plummets and death swiftly follows, along with the dreaded Game Over message (it's pretty tough y'see).
But Darkman isn't helpless: he can hit or kick his attackers and a couple of swift smacks round the mush is usually enough to deter them.
NOT SO MUCH A CUTE POOCH
The dogs and ninjas that rush in and attack are a tougher proposition altogether. The dogs have to be leapt over and the ninjas are tough swines with very sharp swords. Once the money's recovered Darkman can start work on a synthetic skin disguise.
To generate the skin mask Darkman needs a collection of photographcs of one person to feed into his mask-generating computer. He's shown the character he must snap and given one minute and 12 exposures to capture at least a full front and side view of the subject's face. The sub-game is played like a shooting gallery with different faces appearing and disappearing at windows - you aim crosshairs at the right face and snap away!
In level two, while wearing the mask, Darkman has been trapped in his warehouse lab by Durant's goons. The only way out is to reach the roof.
Bottom right of the status panel is a picture of the mask in use, whilst next to it is the msk timer. As those of you who have seen the film will know, the synthetic skin only lasts a short time: the picture starts as Darkman's disguise but quickly changes to his usual bandage swathed image.
DIS GUY'S DISGUISED
When disguised, the goons think Darkman is one of them and isn't attacked. Alas, when the disguise has fully dissolved he's soon on the receiving end of a lot of trouble.
In level three, Darkman escapes to the roof but Durant is waiting in a helicopter with a very nasty grenade launcher in hand. You have to leap across the rooftops, platform style, while Durant takes pot shots at your disfigured body.
Once the maniac Durant has been shaken off another photographic session is played. This time the disguise is needed so Darkman can return to his lab on level four and blow it up, depriving Durant use of his technology.
A BIRD GOES BOOM
Here, while giving and receiving knuckle sandwiches, Darkman's objective is to open the gas cylinders scattered around and set the novelty nodding bird in motion. An odd thing to do but it eventually causes the lab to go kaboom! (in a dramatic and very noisy fashion). By then Darkman is (hopefully) back on the roof...
Level five sees Darkman grabbing onto a handy rope and dangling below the chopper. Durant isn't too chuffed that he has an unwelcome guest and sends the chopper onto the vertically-scrolling freeway. If Darkman wants to avoid being embedded in the front of a passing juggernaut he has to swing left and right to avoid collision.
If Darkman can hang on long enough Durant's chopper crashes into a bridge while our hero leaps to safety. A third and final photo shoot takes Darkman to Durant's evil boss, Strack, who's kidnapped his girlfriend, Julie (don't panic, Nick, it isn't your your little love-bundle!).
STRACK 'EM HIGH
Darkman had better have a strong stomach because Strack has taken refuge on a skyscraper still under construction for the sixth and final level. Fight your way through Strack's hoods to face the man who caused your deformity (and munch him into the ground).
Technically, Darkman is up to Ocean's high standards. The graphics are on the small side but well detailed and the title tune is a toe-tapping affair by the excellent Jonathan Dunn.
Playability suffers slightly because it's really tough. It'll take ages just to reach the end of the first level. Evan after several hours of intensive play, I'd only almost (but not quite) reached the briefcase full of money. The main culprits are the henchmen; they take their jobs much too seriously and are forever bumping Darkman off.
Darkman is very, very good and is highly recommended for games players who want a serious challenge.
He is the night! He's a shadowy streak in the dangerous world of a man who does not exist? Nah, that's not right. He's crime's new enemy and justice's new face - yes! - that's who he is! Darkman has arrived. The first level's flip-screen beat-'em-up gameplay is nothing new but still very playable, even though it can be frustratingly hard. The main sprite is very well drawn and animated, right down to his little faceless face (?), as are other sprites. Background graphics are very colourful and appealing, although they do get a little garish sometimes and hide the sprites. Darkman is a big game - huge even - but its extreme difficulty is very off-putting, otherwise it would be a classic.
So justice has a brand new face, eh? Well it's a bit of a shame that it's behind a load of bandages where we cant get a glimpse of it. Still, I'm sure it's very pretty. Darkman the movie was a fair success (but not a total stormer) so let's suss out what Ocean have made of that rather dark crimefighter with the shrink-wrapped head.
I must confess that I was one of the millions who didn't actually see the film, so I'm not completely sure what happened. But the Darkman manual gives a few clues. It seems that a while ago there was a large explosion (done by some criminal nasties). An innocent blokie was strolling past just at the wrong moment and boom! Off comes his face. (He was in his lab actually. Ed) Whatever, it's still a mess. Understandably peeved by this, the innocent dude decides to get revenge. He does a spot of weight training and learns how to punch people really hard, then goes after the baddies, whose names are Durant and Strack. They're well evil, and also quite difficult to find, so Mr Darkman (for 'tis he) has to do a lot of head-punching before he gets close to them. And here's where you come in (hurrah!),
The game's primarily a beat-'em-up (plus a bit of 'overhead helicopter' stuff), but it isn't like one of your run-of-the-mill fighting ninja death massacre affairs. Nope, it's actually rather well done. In fact I'd go so far as to say that it's really good. You've got the usual moves and you're going to need them - you're up against some pretty unpleasant people.
Yep, Darkman's certainly on the superior side. It's got tons of action sequences, its fast, it's flicker free and it's very difficult. This last point's actually pretty important - it you're notoriously crap at these sorts of games you could get hacked off with it because you start off with only one life and apart from the occasional energy power-up, you have to conserve your strength for ages. I found this hard to do. I tried wading in and punching every-body I met but my energy just melted away. So then I tried running off and only attacking people when I was behind them. I lasted longer but it wasn't as much fun. Three lives would've been better.
The graphics are well spiffy and change with every level, but the basic idea remains the same. You don't get any super-weapons to use (pity), and you can easily get overwhelmed by dozens of baddies. It didn't spoil the game drastically but I did chew the joystick to pieces once or twice in my frustration (and you know those Konix Navigators - they taste revolting!). Now I'm off to wrap loads of toilet-roll around my head, put on the shades and see if I can scare people on the streets of Bath. Who says computer games don't have any effect on you?
Time traps. They're a bit funny, aren't they, readers? If Johnny Alpha, of 2000 AD's famous Strontium Dog, found himself in a particularly tricky situation, he'd whip out a time trap and hurl it at the villain, dooming them to play out the last two seconds of their life forever. And, in an incident relatively unknown to the general public, Johnny visited Ocean HQ just after the original Robocop had been written, and detonated the biggest damn time trap you ever saw. This explains why every single film licence since has involved the picture's hero running around some platforms and fighting people, with a couple of sub-games chucked in to break up the pattern. And the 2000 AD final-framestyle twist is that every follow-up to Robocop has been complete tosh.
Darkman is complete tosh. In an attempt to promote some sort of reviewer-reader media interactive experience. I'll run through the game live during the review, but to distance it from a review I remember writing in exactly the same style, I'll be wearing a hat. Okay, here we go. Level One: Chinatown. Darkman has to steal a gangster's drug money to finance his plans for revenge. He doesn't carry a gun, so it's a beat- 'em-up. A flick-screen beat-'em-up, to be exact, which doesn't allow you to leave the screen without killing the bad guys. Each screen follows the same format - two bad guys wander on from the left and right, shoot at you if you're far enough way from them, punch at you if you're up close, and do nothing if you're somewhere in between. As soon as the chap on the left appears, kick him twice (if you punch people, they take three hits). Then walk across the screen, ducking the bullets, and do the same to the other man. Then walk off to the right, as some deadly blobs will immediately appear on the left of the screen and start chasing you. After a couple of screens, an invincible dog appears, running from right to left, and a few screens after that, another visibly half-hearted villain joins the man on the right. A little while later some crap ninjas appear, jump around a bit and poke their swords in your general direction. Oh, and occasionally there'll be a screen empty of villains, but with loads of blobby things to avoid. And that's it. Some nice touches, such as the bad guys pausing to draw their guns from their jackets, but lots of poor touches, such as the absence of gameplay.
Ha ha ha ha ha. (Maniacally)
The sub-game which pops up from time to time: The photo session. You have to snap one of the villains from a tower-block full of randomly-moving people in order to construct a mask to fool the bad guys on the next level, so they'll leave you alone. Great idea, and a funky sub-game as well. Not only do you have to snap the right man, but you have to get a clean shot - too much wall or window and the computer rejects the picture. Pity you can just leave the camera over one window and wait for the villain to pop up there, but . still, eh?
Level Two: The factory.
Eight-way scrolling, lots of jumping, villains who are only stunned, a crap routine which lets them beat you up five times in a row and chuck you off a platform without you getting a blow in, and dangerous machines which fling exploding things at you. Oh, and the first sight of any energy-replenishing hearts. Damn. I forgot to mention you only get one life in the entire game, didn't I?
Level Three: The rooftops Run along and jump to avoid the grenades being fired by a helicopter baddy. The grenades are random and the explosions massive, and there's a time limit, and if you miss a rooftop you plummet to the the pavement, so tediously hard is the order of the day.
Level Four: The warehouse lab. Build a bomb, run around, jump.
Level Five: Swing from Level Three's helicopter as it dips into traffic. Overhead view, over-the-shoulders-glances-at-anything-else-at-all gameplay.
Level Six: Jump, jump, jump, push somebody off a skyscraper.
Level Seven: Drive at high speed avoid the trees, shoot the fleeing bikers. Oh. sorry. I seem to have switched off Darkman and loaded up Death-chase instead.
So, as we come to the end of our interactive experience, three things are obvious. One, Deathchase is a great game. Two, Darkman is not. And three, a hat really sets off my cheekbones quite nicely.
That shadowy figure makes a decent appearance on the Speccy in a six-level game that bears all the hallmarks of a well-produced Ocean game. The only thing that may be off putting is the difficulty level, which is rather on the hard side. It's arcade combat with most of the action based on platform leaping and beating up opponents. However, level five is played differently as Darkman grabs a rope, and dangling from a helicopter has to avoid obstacles as the scenery of a highway scrolls vertically past!
It all looks very good, the Darkman sprite is well animated and the backdrops are colourful and appealing, although they can hide the sprites at times.
Darkman's a big game and a good one, only it didn't quite meet with Smash standards because it may be too frustratingly difficult for some.
Hands up anyone who's heard of Darkman. O.K. quite a lot of you. Now hands up who's seen the film. Ah ha! Is that an up-stretched arm I see at the back or is it Garth doing his Statue of Liberty party piece?
Darkman, the film, didn't do particularly well when ferried across to these shores so Ocean must be hoping that the game fares considerably better. To all intents and purposes there is no reason it shouldn't as it's plot is as intriguing as the contents of a Scotsman's sporran! (Sellina Scott's underpants is what I want to put but Garth'll only edit it!) (Damn right! - Ed)
Taking the shrivelled form of Poyton Westlake, master of plastic surgery and disguise, who has been horribly disfigured in on acid bath by mobster Robert Durant, you wreak your revenge on the scum of the city as the Darkman.
The game follows the film very closely and incorporated into the six levels of platform beat 'em up action are a horizontally scrolling street fight in Chinatown, a race across the roof tops whilst being pursued by helicopter, a platform beat 'em up set in your booby trapped laboratory as you race to get out, and the final scene set in a skyscraper where you must rescue your girlfriend from the evil master villain Strack and throw him off of the building.
Well with all this off the wall mayhem you're gunna need a man tougher than Arnold Schwarzenegger's underpants and unfortunately our dark chum is not up to the job. Now I can understand that he's a bit weak, he's been through a lot, but he's about as useful as a cat flap in an elephant house when the brown stuff hits the fan!
You only get one life which is represented by a green and yellow strip at the bottom of the screen which allows you to get hit about 27 times before you die. I know that that's three times more points than your average cat, but unluckily for us old Poyton's as agile as a one footed centipede with athlete's foot! Not much good against a pack of acrobatic blood thirsty Ninjas, gun toting thugians, mad Pitbull's and flying rocks and that just the first level!
The graphics in Darkman however, are very good. The first foe you meet slumps to the ground once you've defeated them and although the usual colour clash problems exist, you can easily see what's going down. The various sound tracks and effects are also great and if you get bored playing you can sit back and enjoy at least two tunes whilst you have a cuppa. Backdrops are excellent and have that Double Dragon look to them.
Along with each level there's a specific mission. On the first, for example, you hear of a drug drop and must steal the money to finance yourself, in the Freeway section Westlake leaps out of an exploding warehouse and grabs a rope attached to Durant's swooping chopper. He lowers you into the traffic where you must swing out of the path of trucks and avoid grenades.
As usual Ocean have produced another high quality game. They haven't skimped on production and whereas gameplay is lacking, quality abounds. Darkman is far from being a white elephant and warrants attention, but the balance between being too easy and a pig to finish has not been found.
Price: £10.99 Tape, £13.99 Disk
Reviewer: Steve Keen
GARTH: Another game bites the dust due to the main sprites meagre pain threshold. Only those of you with the desire for a beat 'em up that will last for years will need apply for this particular game.
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