Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Mass murder and mayhem down Latin America way!
Taito's mould breaking coinop started a stream of look 'n' play-a-likes, such as Mechanized Attack, Sega's own Line Of Fire and the sequel Operation Thunderbolt. However, Op Wolf (as it's known) was the one that started it all - and now it's on the Master System!
For everyone who wouldn't know an Operation Wolf from a Project Whale, here's the M.O. - taking the role of guerrilla commando hard-person, you are placed behind the stock of an Uzi 9mm semi automatic machine gun-cum-missile launcher jobby... er... and you have to kill people. OK? Got that? Fine. That's really all you need to know. However, there are few finer details and technicalities you should take note of if you want to survive longer than the first three seconds.
Your mission begins as you get para-dropped into the war zone (somewhere in South America, although the exact location is a guarded secret) in a one-man gung-ho Ramboesque mission to rescue prisoners-of-war. These poor saps are incarcerated in a secret hideout miles away, so you have to machine-gun your way into the enemy's communications set-up, through the jungle, across a village, into their ammo dump, through the prison camp (being careful not to hit the prisoners) and finally across the airport runway, giving covering fire as the POW's attempt to board a plane for home.
As the different scenes scroll by, enemy soldiers, armoured vehicles, helicopters and ships come into view, all of which have to be blasted to bits by gunfire or grenade (you can use a Light Phaser in port 1 with a joystick in port 2 to fire grenades, or just joystick alone). If you don't, they fire on you - and they never miss. Keep an eye on your damage meter if you don't believe it!
(Image caption) Here is today's itinerary. Looks like you've got a busy day ahead!
At the bottom of the screen, a panel displays the number of enemy men and craft left to be destroyed before you are deemed to have finished the level. As you progress through the different stages, this number grows until on the last scene you have to despatch 85 men, 11 choppers and four armoured carriers. Oh dear.
(Image caption) Guerrillas in the mist! The mass slaughter continues along the jungle river.
Of course, it would be too easy if you just kept your finger on the trigger. That's why you've only got a limited amount of ammo. Extra magazines (the sort that hold bullets, not pictures) and grenades are collected by shooting the corresponding icons on screen (just why the enemy leave piles of useful ammo lying around, or why they don't just blow up when you hit them is never adequately explained...).
(Image caption) The poor guy in the pyjamas is an escaping prisoner - don't blast him!
Not only that, but you can also get extra arms by winging the chickens, condors and pigs that fly and scamper across the scene. The poor creature leaps up in the air, and can be relied upon to drop a clip of bullets or grenade in their panic (again, the exact reasons why a Peruvian condor would be pegging it for the border with several rounds of ammunition under their wing remains a mystery).
Other icons that should be on the receiving end of your 9mm high-velocity attention are the 'P' bottles (reduces life damage), sticks of dynamite (blows up, taking any enemy in the vicinity with it), and the odd-shaped lump marked 'FREE' (temporary unlimited ammo for a trigger-happy blasting session!).
(Image caption) Take that chum! Er... hold on... is that a streaker in the background?
Things that you shouldn't blast are the scurrying natives, nurses and escaping prisoners. Hitting these is not only a very un-American thing to do, but aiso results in a hefty loss of your life. Obviously, this reduces the fun factor somewhat.
If you take too long over the first stage, you located by the enemy, which is bad news! An separate still screen comes up where you have to blast an unknown number of enemy guerrillas and helicopters before being allowed to continue. Lose it here, as they say, and you're in a whole world o' hurt.
One of the between-stage statics, which are almost identical to the coin-op.
That green bomb-shaped gizmo is a grenade. A quick blast and it's yours!
The joystick cross-hair pin-points the enemy. Watch out for that grenade!
At the end of the second, jungle sequence, you meet with one of the South American rebel generals who runs back and forth across the screen clutching a young woman in front of him for cover - the cad! You have to plug this guy in the head a couple of times to make him surrender and allow you to continue the mission. But beware! Hit the girl just once, and you’re dead meat.
The carnage continues in this general fashion until your life meter finally fills up with red. If you croak early, you can continue once per level, but only on the first four stages. The last two you have to finish in one go!
The one great thing about Op Wolf is that anyone can play, whether they have a Light Phaser or just a joystick (so why aren't all Light Phaser games like this?). Thankfully the assault is comfortable with both controls, and there's even an option to alter the speed of the floating crosshair in joystick mode!
If anything, the 'Phaser is slightly more effective than 'stick alone, although your trigger finger gets tired and you have to scrabble for the joystick button to launch grenades (try putting the stick on the floor, and pressing the button with your foot). The only pain is that when you use the 'Phaser, the screen flashes white every time a shot is fired. Now this is alright for the first couple of rounds, but after an extended session the constant flashing gets on your nerves - headache inducing or what?
The background graphics are pretty much up to scratch, with the only disappointment being the smallish sprites and standard two-frames of animation. The huge guy who appears from the bottom of the screen isn't nearly as impressive as he should be. Likewise, the armoured personnel carriers and helicopters look great, but are a bit on the titchy side. Generally though, these niggles don’t amount to much. It certainly looks like Op Wolf, and the frantic gameplay is there in all its adrenalin-pumping, trigger-finger-blistering glory!
Unfortunately, the use of continues - limited as they are - still means that you can breeze through the first four stages. You might have trouble on the fifth and then spend some time hacking through the final sixth stage, but it still won't take you long to finish the mission. At least the experience is good enough for a repeat blast, and you can always try to improve your hit ratios!
This is without doubt the best Light Phaser game to date (knocking Wanted from that prominent position) and this time joystick owners get a good slice of the action too! Shoot down to your local Sega store, and commandeer a copy now!
▲ Well drawn scenery is extremely faithful to it’s arcade big brother
▲ Superb static screens in between levels and during the attract mode
▼ Smallish sprites make the game slightly less visually impressive than the coin-op
▼ Background scroll is a teensy bit jerky
▼ Large explosions are flickery and a bit limp
▲ Authentic coin-op intro and jingles are pretty decent
▲ Meaty gunshot and explosion sounds adds to the intense atmosphere
▼ Silly warbly noise when the enemy kick the bucket
▼ Sampled speech of the original has gone walkies
▲ You have to shoot strategically - being trigger happy will only get you dead!
▼ The six stages are visually different, but it's the same style of action all the way through
▲ Manic blasting gameplay is a real pulse-raiser!
▲ Playing through the earlier rounds is no great hardship - not when it's as much fun as this!
▲ There's a really strong lure to finish the mission
▼ Continues - even the few you get here - mean that the game is still a bit too easy
A smart conversion and a belting good shoot 'em up. Your parents won't like it -but you'll love it!