Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Paladin the bounty hunter doesn't spend his time in pursuit of the taste of paradise, as his job title may imply. He lives for danger, excitement and large wads of unmarked, non-sequential bills the tax man knows nothing about.
The year is 2242 and things have been getting a bit silly recently. Vipron, lord of all things not particularly pleasant, has launched an all-out bid to rule the planet with his army of cyborgs. These uglies have been frightening children, murdering folk and generally making the place untidy (dropping litter, etc). So the powers that be - or at least were until Vipron came along - have hired Paladin to nip down to the big V's fortress and give him a piece of their mind.
(Image caption) Don't do big jumps, the ceilings too low - SMASH! - Uh-oh, too late...
The fortress is divided into seven main areas, each composed of a five-level complex - so let’s hope young Paladin’s got his walking boots on. He’s got to explore each area in turn to find the equipment that he needs in the next, and destroy a set number of Chief Cyborgs before leaving the area.
There are also some nasty Cyborg Bosses which must be defeated before moving onto the later sections (you don’t need to worry about these guys for a while).
The passageways and corridors scroll across the screen as Pally moves around, and there are lifts to take him to floors above and below. As expected, there are also hordes of beasties and traps ready to hit any unwary bounty hunter right where it hurts: in the energy bars! At the start of his mission, belting the mutant ’borgs in the kisser is the only way to kill them. But cyborgs are so tough that even the wimpy ones aren’t, and it soon becomes apparent that extra firepower is in order. Ray or Light guns would be nice, but the ever-so-jolly Psycho cannon would be bestest of all. And if Paladin wants ’em he’s gonna have to find ’em!
Pally-poos has two vital statistics that must be watched as he sets about the slaughter. Firstly, and rather obviously, is his life bar which shows how much damage the lad can take before it’s time for a crash course in daisy-pushing. Secondly, and much more fun, is his Psycho Power indicator. Paladin is a registered nutter who can summon up all his strength for super powered slaps, causing major league grief to anyone stood in his path.
Each Psycho shot takes energy from the PP bar, and as it’s the most important weapon in the game, conservation becomes even more important to Psycho shots than it does to rain forests.
Extra energy and Psycho Power pods can be found all over the shop, while the guns, bombs and jet packs are a little harder to locate. Paladin's sense of direction (and thus his chances of ever seeing the next issue of S) are helped by the two map screens: a cut-away of the area showing where the current carnage is taking place, and a 3D enemy detector. If a 'borg's coming your way there's a quick blip here so you can brace your Pal’ for the battle.
Preparation is everything for the successful bounty hunter because the choice of weapon has to be made on a separate screen, accessed by a controller plugged into port 2. Bombs are the only weapon not selected in this way, being dropped by pushing the stick up (vast amounts of high explosive are wasted in the lifts which are controlled the same way!).
And so it continues as you venture deeper into the complex to meet ever more vicious and horrible cyborgs. And then, of course, there’s Vipron 'imself...
With an unusual method of accessing the weapons screen plus fiddly lift controls, some good advice for Cyborg Hunter is to read the instructions! The mission is straightforward enough, though, and whenever you encounter a major hindrance, some fast talking woman from your base rings up with some helpful hints to keep you on the right course. The maps are easily understood, so there's no chance of getting lost, but while the 3D warning screen looks good, it’s just a tad too simple to be really useful.
The game is pretty slick on the visual side, with nice metallic scenery and a good selection of slimy cyborg-alien-types later on. Paladin, too, looks and moves really well (shades of Robocop here!).
With some mood music, warning alarms going off all over the place and heaps of cyborgs just waiting to pounce on you, the game really sets the pulse racing - at first.
Once the novelty has worn off, the run-about-and-bash-’em-up-a-bit gameplay proves to be standard fare, but the mission is detailed and very long. Collecting the right bits in sequence is a tall order, and staying alive long enough for the effort to have been worthwhile even taller.
(Image caption) Paladin lashes out at a yucky green snot-monster (bogeyman to his chums).
▲ A nice line in background graphics livens things up a bit
▲ Great animation on Pally; pretty good on the aliens
▲ Check out the cool 3D scanner!
▲ Gooey cyborgs are really gross!
▲ Atmospheric tunes really boost the tension
▲ And so does the beeping cyborg-proximity alarm!
▲ Explosion noise is pretty effective
▼ Silly 'Loony Tunes' jumping sound
▲ Vipron’s den is, like, her-uuge, man!
▲ Different aliens, traps and collectibles help to vary the action
▲ Strategic selection of armaments keeps your brain on its toes
▲ Easy to get going, tricky to stop
▲ Moody tunes, alarms and surprise attacks really ups the anxiety level!
▲ Useful continue feature keeps the punches flying!
▼ Constant jumping, blasting and catching the lift gets rep-rep-repetitive
If you’re a keen search ’n’ destroy merchant, this one will have you bashing beasties until the cybo-cows come home.