Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
The Dark Zone, was once a normal town, filled with life and activity, but then the dreaded M arrived and turned it into an utter wasteland (Ludlow, you mean? — Ed) But worry not readers, this isn’t a Sesame Street out-take, M is a fiendish villain with a full quota of mindless soldiers in his employ at the Zone’s HQ (EuroPress Towers? — Ed).
Stories of disturbances and disappearances went around like wildfire (a bit like after the staff party!) and soon reached the ears of the police (it is the staff party — Ed). Anyway, Sgt. Brody went investigating and failed to return home for tea. Cue Sgt. Gray, Brody’s partner, who went searching and found him lying outside the Dark Zone, fatally wounded.
“Hyptonist...M.." his last words. I think he meant Hypnotist, but let’s not be too picky. Gray knew at once that he must avenge the death of his friend, and rid the town madness. It’s payback time!
You must battle — and run — through five stages of fierce street-fighting. Your ultimate aim is to defeat M, but he has an endless supply of demented soldiers, who get smarter on each level, and there’s your regular end-level super-baddie challenging you to one-to-one combat.
On the plus side there’s loadsa pick-’em-ups; a pistol (30 bullets), rifle (10 rounds), extra energy, Super Suit (improved attack ‘n’ defence capabilities), plus extra lives and 5-second invincibility (with improves speed and agility). The last two will be hidden, meaning you have to destroy something to expose them. It’s also important to remember our macho hero isn’t that smart; he can only carry one weapon so a pistol with shots remaining will be dropped when you pick up a rifle.
Stage One features one of the many hideouts of the Soldiers of Darkness, who aren’t too difficult to defeat — one bullet does the trick! Captain Blass (looking rather like a Ninja Turtle) waits for you at the end of the stage, he’s a bit of a fatty, but still dangerous — keep low and attack them from a crouch. Beware of the wall-mounted guns and electric shocks on Stage Two, where the soldiers are that much more difficult to kill. Killer the Kid reminds me of Freddie Kreuger, a nasty piece of work he’ll shoot you dead given half a chance! Try and have a couple of lives left for him.
Stage Three’s soldiers greet you with grenades, and watch out for robots! Get through this and you’ll come face to face with Samurai Man, who resorts to magic if you manage to avoid his sword. The enemies which were previously easy-peasy are becomingly increasingly difficult to beat. The difficulty curve is in fact nicely judged, hazards such electric shocks and lazors add to the problems, but as you get five options to continue, it’s not too frustrating to be beaten as it only means that you go back to the beginning of the level, not :he whole game.
Using continues Level Four isn’t massively difficult to reach, and once there you’ll find a mysterious room with a switch on the wall. Pull the switch and go on in... Level Five is M’s special treat just for you!
Once the first screen appears you’ll notice the good clear quality of the graphics. Gray is a nicely animated sprite who responds well, and is very controllable. It is a good idea to perfect the technique of ‘jumpkicking’, as this is much more effective than punching in hand-to-hand combat. Watch out for the gaps between platforms, always a little wider than they appear!
The game is instantly playable, and addictive. Simple controls and a relatively simple task makes the core of the game ( punching, kicking and shooting) very enjoyable. The sound quality is very clear, especially the rifle crack! The gameplay isn’t all that varied, but it’s very enjoyable and extremely playable.
What an original game design, horizontally scrolling, one player, jump & kick, pick up guns etc. — this game is about as original as a Russ Abbot sketch! But monotonous play is not the only bad point, tricky collision detection and awkward graphics, play a part too. Whilst the backgrounds are reasonable, and the sound okay, the game does not play particularly well. Levels are long, but lack variety and going back to the start when ‘continuing’ play is frustrating. The end-level villains are also disappointing, small and unimaginative, only the backgrounds impress. This isn’t a bad game, merely mediocre and with little to appeal to veterans such as myself. Newcomers like Claire could get some enjoyment though (and reach higher levels! — Ed).
Competent but unoriginal blaster