Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
As a Roman centurion, you were a pretty mean warrior-dude. That was until you died, of course - then you were a pretty mean wormbait-dude. So there you were, dead. Having a good kip. Next thing you know, the evil Neff (don’t they make kitchen appliances?), Lord of the underworld, kidnapped the right tasty Athena, daughter of Zeus.
Now Zeus isn't the sort of god to just sit back and let this Neff-blokey spring off with his offspring. But rather than get all grubby himself, he brings you back from the dead to do his bidding: go forth into the underworld, defeat the many guardians therein, kill Neff and rescue Athena. "A doddle," assures the big Zee.
Now the underworld is a pretty rotten place, filled with demons, monsters and serpents and such. And each of the four levels is also defended by a boss creature. So, before you face the evil Neff, you must first defeat Aggar, the headthrowing mutie; Octoeyes, a poisonous plant that hurls out deadly spores; and Crocodile Wyrm, a foul amphibian that spits fire! Stripped of armour and weapons, you're gonna have to rely on feet and fists to hack your way through this wild bunch!
Our transforming chum faces a bad case of assault with battered cod.
Al proves he can leap headstones in a single bound, as zombies wait for the bus.
Zeus - kindly soul that he is - has decided to give you the power to transform into powerful werecreatures. However, the Spirit Balls (fnar) containing the magic you need are carried by white wolves which run through the demonic nether regions. You have to give wolfie the old one-two and then touch the liberated spirit ball to initiate a power-up transformation.
The first Ball in each area turns you into a massive Schwarzenegger-type figure, with bulging everythings. This makes the going easier.
Collect the next Ball, and you suddenly get a strong liking for red meat and feel the urge to comb your face. You're a lycanthrope, a flippin' werewolf! You can throw balls of fire at your enemies, and blast through all comers inside a shield of fire. Now all you have to do is touch the baddies now, as you blast your way through to Aggar, the head-lobbing mutant.
You must begin each new level as a human, but you get the chance to transform into a weredragon, weretiger, and finally a golden werewolf in the final duel against Neffy himself.
The Master System really has to work overtime here, what with scrolling a big detailed backdrop and moving several huge characters on screen at once. It comes as no surprise that it doesn’t cope too well. The scrolling is jerky, and all the characters are poorly animated and slow. This limits the overall speed of play, and makes your character unresponsive. It's annoying when you know what you want to do, but can't get your character to act in time, especially when he's got enemy creatures coming from all sides!
If you get hit, it takes a few seconds for you to fall down and get up again. If you get hit in the meantime, you fall down again, and so on. Get surrounded and you can do little else but hammer the fire button and hope one of them dies! Until you get good at it (or you check out the cheats in S5) Altered Beast can be very frustrating!
As regards the sound and pictures: the soundtrack is a passable rendition of the arcade, and there's even a nice (if a bit quiet) sampled scream when the transformations take place.
The backdrops vary between brill and iffy, such as the Boss sets which are against a black backdrop. The Bosses themselves are neatly done, if a bit unexciting.
Once you learn to live with its shortcomings, Altered Beast isn't really too difficult to finish either, with only four shortish levels. There are better quality games like Golden Axe on sale for about the same price, so unless you are a BIG fan of the original arcade machine you'd probably be better off giving this one a miss.
▲ Tidy backdrops with good use of colour and plenty of clean detail
▲ Great transformation sequence -just like the real thing
▼ Flickery when the screen fills up with big graphics
▼ Not much animation to speak of, two or three frames if you’re lucky
▲ Chilling sampled scream, pump up the volume and scare Granny
▲ Some good arcade-style effects
▼ Different tunes for each level, used to good effect
▼ Too few moves at your disposal -even less in the various ’were'person modes
▼ The Bosses add some variety, but aren't as tough as the bits inbetween, ie. the levels
▼ Four small levels, and the kicking and punching action remains much the same throughout
▼ Slow gameplay and lack of control reduce the instant appeal
▼ The game is quite a challenge, but is frustrating to get to grips with and quickly finished once you do!
A brave attempt at a very tricky (and not terribly brilliant) coinop. Ten out of ten for effort - but no thanks...