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.
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