Monday, 15 January 2018

Game Review: RoboCop (Nintendo Game Boy)

Developed and published by Ocean Software in 1990

Up until the release of the Game Boy, portable video gaming consisted of those hand-held LCD games from Tiger Electronics and all manner of low-cost clones from the Far East. That changed overnight when Nintendo released the original Game Boy system in 1989, finally delivering a "proper" gaming experience on the move - I'm pretty sure the Game Boy became the solution to many a parent's problem on those long car journeys.

With total sales somewhere in the region of 64.2 million units, the Game Boy trounced the competition by some considerable margin. I never owned a Game Boy growing up, but, ever keen as I am to broadening my retrogaming horizons, I've been checking out some titles for Nintendo's first, true portable gaming system, and, I have to say, I haven't been disappointed so far.

RoboCop is not the first game that I've played on the system, but it is the first that I've reviewed. The game was developed by Ocean Software, a UK-based developer/publisher that released numerous games based on move licenses, for 8-bit and 16-bit systems. While the majority of their titles were released on home computers, Ocean were responsible for a number of console releases, RoboCop being one such title.

RoboCop for the Game Boy is a side-scrolling arcade/platform where the player controls cyborg cop and justice-bringer, Alex Murphy, as he attempts to clear crime from the streets of Old Detroit. The game's structure and levels broadly follow the plot of the film, seeing Robo cleaning up the streets, to bringing down Dick Jones, senior vice president of OCP. It's not a new game design, however, largely copying and pasting the template used for the Spectrum, C64 and other versions of the game (including the Data East arcade game).

RoboCop taking down criminal scum

Bad guys will appear from both sides of the screen, as well as popping up in windows to take pot-shots at RoboCop as he stomps down the street. As the player, it's your job to mete out justice against these ne'er-do-wells in the form of heavy calibre gunfire. An interesting feature of the Game Boy version is that RoboCop's starting weapon is, with the exception of the Cobra assault cannon, probably the most powerful weapon in the game, thanks to it's ability to fire so rapidly. Additional weapons can be found in the form of flashing power-ups lying around each of the levels, including a 3-way spread and bullets that pass through enemies, but I actually found these to be less effective since they can't be fired as rapidly. For enemies getting too close to RoboCop, they'll find themselves on the receiving end of a 400 foot-pound knuckle sandwich, a move that is equally able at removing obstacles from Robo's path.

Mixed in with the action stages are a couple of mini-games that give players the opportunity to restore some health which they may have lost doing battle in the previous level. The first of these is the photo-fit section, where the player must rebuild a copy of the facial image shown to the left of the screen by piecing together various eyes, jaws and other facial components. The second mini-game is a shooting range, where players must pick off a series of targets as they appear - those who are fast on the draw can hope to pick up some bonus points in addition to more health.

RoboCop vs. ED-209

As with so many other titles made at this time, it should come as no surprise that it's quite the challenge. You'll be facing multiple enemies at once and the key to success will be knowing when and where they will spawn, using this knowledge to your advantage by having lead in the air, ready for when they appear. There are approximately 10 different levels to the game (including mini-games), but most of the longevity comes from the difficulty itself.

On the visual front, the main RoboCop sprite might bear a strange resemblance to a Power Ranger, but other than that I was generally impressed with quality of the graphics and artwork on display. I thought that the Game Boy's monochrome colour palette would put me off, but I was surprised that it really didn't bother me and that everything looked as good as it did. The character sprites are chunky and well animated, especially the ED-209 droid that shows up a couple of times throughout the game. I should also note that the presentation and layout is also very good; poor screen layout and overly-large (or too small) art assets can negatively impact the overall gaming experience by crowding the player, or not giving enough time to react to events on screen, but there's none of that here - there's always

Cobra Assault Cannon - pew pew!

What took me completely by surprise was just how good the music is. Jonathan Dunn translated the music from the classic Spectrum/C64 versions of the game, but has reworked them so that they have their own distinct style, including some funky, break-beat sections, plus there's a great interpretation of the movies signature theme tune! Factor in some satisfyingly chunky sound effects and you have what I consider to be a great-sounding game, one that will probably sound better than you remember, thanks to the improvement in speaker/headphone technology.

If I'm honest, RoboCop is a pretty standard side-scroller with features that you will have experienced in many similar titles. However, if all you want is a bit of uncomplicated shooting action then I guess you could do a lot worse, plus there's always the awesome music to listen to - certainly worth checking out, at least.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review for this lovely game.
    Includes all levels and it has the same gameplay as the 8-bit and 16-bit home computer versions.
    Jonathan Dunn's music is once more outstanding.