Popeye and wrestling, eh? Now theres a tenuous link. Or is it? (He said an has best confidential no-it-isn't-and-I'll-tell-you-why-not voice.) Well, no. It follows the plot to one of the original Popeye cartoons. So that's all right then. (Phew.)
To save the Earth ol' Pops has to defeat five alien opponents by whittling away their energy and pinning them to the floor. To aid him in this endeavour he's got a quartet of wrestley moves - the headlock, the piledriver, the ridiculously big fight and the shin kick.
Popeye 3 is an out-and-out joystick waggler. While Zeppelin's Tag Team Wrestling used the old 'press fire with a direction' control method, to beat your opponent in Popeye 3, you have two stages of frenetic wrist-mangling. To win the bout, you have to grapple with the alien (by waggling the joystick), then try to force him into an energy-sapping headlock (more waggling). Naturally, while you're doing this your oppo is struggling to do exactly the same thing. There's a nice bit of variety in that when your waggle meter reaches full power you can stab fire and perform a piledriver (where you pick up the alien and bounce him on his head!), but basically it's a case of whoever's misspent their youth murdering their joystick with Daley Thompson's Decathlon having the edge.
IT'S TIME FOR A TIE-IN!
The Popeye tie-in is limited to tie cans of spinach that you can grab to initiate a pretty funny cartoon scrap, and as the gameplay is mostly limited to waggling (there's that word again) it gets boring very quickly. (Another prob is that on Level One, the energy-boosting hamburgers thrown by Wimpy totally refills your energy bar rather than giving you a little bit of extra power as in the later levels, so if an alien grabs a burger when you're on the point of defeating him, you have to go through whole process again. Aie!)
Te presentation of the game also leaves a lot to be desired. The graphics are smart, but the playing area is small (most of the screen is taken up by an animated background) and the action tends to get confused and obscured by the front ropes. Soundwise, you've got just a few bleeps and bloops. The (very) basic waggling gameplay is repetitive and not even the two-player mode can save this game from the bottom drawer.
Argk, agk, ark, ark, ark! Exactly what Popeye has got to laugh about I'll never understand. He's got the ugliest girlfriend in the world (and you went out with her sister Garth - Big 'Al), his friends are all physically deformed and he's a sailor. Not a lot going for him there I'd say.
Until of course you put him into a computer game. There have been two other Popeye license games, both of them simple platform affairs which have done little to promote what should have been a huge license. But what of Alternative's Popeye 3?
Well, once you take away the cartoon perfect plot of an bunch of inter-galactic grapple fans who want to take over the Earth, well covered in numerous previews, you're left with the broken bones of a wrestling game where Popeye has to grapple his way through the unwelcome attentions of several off-world wrestlers in a bid to save the Earth from the nasty Kraggs.
The game is for one or two players, joystick (recommended) or keyboard control, chosen at the end of one of the unhealthy three (count 'em) loads that you have to go through before getting to the real action.
The game begins with Popeye in the corner facing his alien (aggh!) opponent. The ring is seen from a side view and the colourful background is populated with an even more colourful audience consisting of all known life forms in the cosmos (except Jimmy Tarbuck and George Bush).
When the bell rings, something inhuman drifts out of their corner towards Popeye and play commences. Popeye 3 the game is a bit of a joystick wiggling affair. Next to their picture icon, each opponent has a strength meter showing current levels of juice and a vertical power meter which increases when you waggle your joystick. If you hit fire when this power meter is at the top, you can attempt a hold.
When the characters get closer, they will attempt to grapple. This is where the joystick wigglin' really begins in earnest. When you get near an alien, you must wiggle left and right to hold onto him before attempting a move. The power meters show just how the two players are doing. The first player to get their power meter to the top is rewarded with a headlock on their opponent and subsequently robs them of some of their strength as shown by the green bar beneath their picture. If you also press the fire button when you're at the top you move straight into 'the piledriver' which is guaranteed to give any casual alien a headache. (Except the indigenous life-forms of Septic 6 who as we aM know resemble small pools of irradiated snot).
Other moves are arrived at with similar dexterousity. You can kick and punch for a little effect but it's the specialist moves that make for variety. You can climb the ropes and jump right off the screen, hoping to flatten your opponent on re-entry. The other move involves Popeye grabbing one of the cans of spinach that are tossed liberally between Wimpy and Olive Oil, presumably because neither of them actually want that green goo anywhere near them.
Popeye however loves it. If he catches a can, an icon appears near his piccie. The next time he gets a headlock, his specialist move is revealed. This is fairly spectacular even though you can't see what's going on.
Popeye finally has a license that has had some thought put into it. Colourful, quick and with real cartoon style graphics, the only problem is a horrendously long loading system.
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
STEVE: Popeye 3 is an out and out wrestling game and in a way the Popeye character is only co-incidental to the main plot. However the spinach flinging antics, some nasty aliens and an excellent Popeye sprite make Popeye 3 worth a look. It's not WWF but it was never intended to be.
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