Beast Busters logo

ACTIVISION £25.99 * Mouse

There has been a fair number of films about marauding zombie creatures. From the recently televised 'Carnival of Souls' to the more frantic, violent films of Sam Raimi and George Romero. Beast Busters owes more to the splatter genre of the latter directors rather than the former classic Sixties suspense drama, with heavily-armed creatures of the dead wandering around a damned city causing all manner of havoc.

Day of the dead
The game places you as part of a troubleshooting team that has been sent to the city to try and determine the cause of the strange disappearance of the inhabitants. The previous attack teams didn't last long, sending back very little apart from some garbled messages about shambling forms emerging from the ruined buildings and quickly overpowering the investigators.

The powers that be have come to the conclusion that everyone in the city is dead: overpowered by the strange creatures there. This time, the investigation is to take on a more military approach. Two mercenaries have been selected to enter the city and blast their way through until an answer to the mystery has been found. However, as you enter the shopping mall on the outskirts of the city, you discover the depth of the problem. The building overrun with zombies, crawling out from every corner and they are intent on destroying any interlopers.

After a short skirmish, you decide to flee the city, only to find yourself trapped by a hoard of zombies. There's no going back - you must defeat the creatures and solve the mystery.

The game itself is an Operation Wolf-style blast with you guiding a sight with the mouse, on your journey through the infested city. After fighting through a particular area the zombies will summon-up one of their leaders to try and stop you from escaping. After killing this creature, you earn a short rest before you hurry on to find some more clues.

As well as all manner of strange monsters to kill, you will come across floating pick-ups which drop from the decaying structures. These include ammunition clips to reload your gun, rockets, grenades, fragmentation bombs and gas grenades to take out a wide area and medical kits to repair damage.

Zombie Holocaust
Beast Busters is not the first Operation Wolf-inspired game to appear in the arcades, but most have been converted to the Amiga with more success than this. The original coin-op is pretty good fun, with the strange combination of a military blast and a Romero zombie film making a fast, frantic and remarkably tongue-in-cheek shoot-em-down.

The graphics of the coin-op have been converted reasonably well, giving a fair Amiga representation of the zombie-action. The sound, on the other hand, is pretty dire, sounding weak and feeble rather than menacing.

On the gameplay side, the action has suffered a great deal during the conversion. The going is painfully slow, with the difficulty being in moving the pointer fast enough to keep up with the juddery animation. Things jerk about the screen so much that it becomes close to impossible to work out where the hell you're supposed to be firing, a point which isn't helped by the cursor being the same colour as some of the backgrounds!

It has been proved that this kind of game can be done on the Amiga, but unfortunately Beast Busters hasn't really converted well at all. The action is far too slow, disk access is pretty hefty and there isn't really a great deal of challenge. After only one go, it can almost be completed.

Fans of the Beast Busters coin-op should tread very warily before buying this version. In fact they'd probably be better off saving their money and clocking up a few credits down in the arcade.

Beast Busters logo

Manche Spiele sind wirklich ein elektrischer Waschlappen - und das, was die guten Leutchen von Activision hier zusammengestopfelt haben, gehört ohne jeden Zweifel in diese anrüchtige Kategorie!

Das Spielprinzip gleicht fast bis auf's i-Tüpfelchen dem von "Line of Fire", bzw. dem der indizierten "Operation Irgendwas"Knallereien: Ein oder zwei Spieler fuchteln mit einem Fadenkreuz auf dem Bildschirm herum und versuchen dabei, so viele Monster wie nur möglich zurück ins Jenseits zu schießen. Die Gegner sind denn auch der "Riesenunterschied" gegenüber den gerade erwähnten Games - anstatt von bis an die Zähne bewaffneten Soldaten dienen nun halt mit den Zähnen fletschende Werwölfe, eklige Zombies und sonstige Untote als Zielscheibe. All diese reizenden Kreaturen lassen ihre schlechte Laune am Spieler aus, indem sie ihn scheinbar mit scharfen Messern und blauen Bohnen bombardieren, oder gleich höchstpersönlich aus dem Screen herauszuspringen drohen.

Diese sieben Level währende Langeweile ('n Fließband is' richtig spannend dagegen!) wird nur unwesentlich dadurch aufgelockert, daß man gelegentlich zum Monster-Massakrieren in einen Tunnel hineinlaufen muß. Ja, und Granaten kann man (per Keyboard) auch noch einsetzen. Ansonsten wird halbwegs flüssiges Mehrwege-Scrolling geboten, die Animationen sind dafür etwas ruckartig, der Sound läßt sich gottlob abschalten.

Aber was soll's überhaupt, wenn man sowieso nach spätestens zehn Minuten eingepennt ist - schaut Euch lieber das Testbild im Fernsehen an, das ist billiger und spannender! (C. Borgmeier)

Mix hordes of the undead with Operation Wolf, and the result is...

Beast Busters logo

And this month's Operation Wolf clone is... I've never been a fan of arcade gun games, but Beast Busters was one that I did pump a good deal of cash into. The three-player option, the touches of humour (watch out for the birdmen on the third level, that's all I am saying) and the zombie gore factor (bits of bloodied corpses flying around like snow in a blizzard) made it much more fun than the usual hormone-substitute snoozerama, and a trip to the seaside was never complete without a quick laughter of the undead. (And then we used to go and play some video games, but that's another story).

Anyway, this long-awaited conversion has been rescued from the ashes of Activision UK, and boasts all the features of the coin-op, except for the three-player capability (the maximum here is two). The graphics have been very authentically reproduced, and all the original levels are included for that authentic full-scale massacre experience. This is one conversion that looks very like the original. That's not normally the big problem with coin-op conversions, though - the real question is usually over the gameplay, so how well does Beast Busters hold up?

Well, Amiga Beast Busters plays very much like arcade Beast Busters or, at least, like arcade Beast Busters would if you used to bung two quid into the arcade machine at a time. In common with many Amiga conversions, you get several 'credits' to play with (five in this case), and with BB, by the time you've used them all up you've completed half of the game on your first go.

The difficulty level is very badly-judged, being extremely low until certain points where a particular enemy will leap out and kill you in two seconds flat (no exaggeration). In fact, it's not so much of a difficulty curve, more like one of the lines you get on heart monitoring machines in TV hospital programmes, where the little dot moves along quite sedately, then suddenly leaps up to a peak with high-pitched 'ping', and settles back down to a straight line again. This makes the game very short in lastability, as most people will complete it on the first day or get bored trying.

Beast Busters is another competent conversion job, and certainly looks very nice, but even devotees of the original won't really get their money's worth out of it.

Beast Busters logo CU Amiga Screenstar

The undead are rising from their graves to devour the living. Quite who is behind their revival is unknown, but only one man can save us, Steve Merrett. Basically, we're doomed...

The Beast Busters coin-op was one of the more inventive machines to be released last year. Although the basic gameplay was only an extension of the well-worn Operation Thunderbolt theme, Beast Busters' grisly scenario and big and gory graphics ensured it was a sure-fire hit - and its massive, three Uzi-toting cabinet ensured that it couldn't be ignored.

Now, after a development time of some eight months and the disappearance of Activision, the Amiga version is finally with us. The B-movie-esque scenario starts in a suitably creepy way, with the disappearance of the inhabitants of a small, desert-based town. Reports show that the town's people had no previous history of odd behaviour and therefore there is no conceivable explanation for their mysterious vanishing. Thus, a party of three specially-armed investigators have been called in to locate the whereabouts of the missing people, and resolve the mystery behind their sudden disappearance.

Somehow, Beast Busters' development team, Images, have managed to cram nearly all the original game's features into the Amiga's comparatively humble memory. The only major difference is the reduction of the original three-player mode down to two, but as far as I can see, everything else is there. As mentioned the gameplay is basically an extension of the Operation Wolf and Line Of Fire style, and the game's controls are essentially the same, with the mouse or a joystick used to control the on-screen targeting cursor. The left and right buttons fire a gun and grenades respectively.

Starting in an apparently deserted garage, the screen scrolls both horizontally and towards you, bringing with it the amassing hordes of the undead. Far from being the shambling zombies with the Romero films, Beast Busters' undead are semi-intelligent and attack using guns, knives and grenades, whilst using jeeps to evade your weaponry. Unless the oncoming projectiles are shot or avoided, the player's energy will be steadily reduced and if it is totally exhausted then the game is over and one of your three credits is lost.

Similarly, in addition to the waves of zombies, further hazards appear in the shape of rabid dogs and similarly manic wildlife, but, as with the zombies, repeated shooting ends their menace with a satisfying explosion of grue. As you make your way through the level, extra ammunition supplies are dropped from the top of the screen and are added to your inventory when shot, and are essential for the oncoming face-offs with the massive mid and end-of-level creatures.

As progress is made through the game's seven stages, the mystery behind the locals' disappearance is slowly unravelled as the riverside action gives way to a claustrophobic cavern network which houses a number of larger creatures and a strange laboratory.

Oddly enough, whilst Beast Busters is quite simply Operation Thunderbolt et al with zombies replacing footsoldiers and gunners, it's the scenario that helps make it so appealing. As the story unfolds, it adds to the already playability of the game and entices you on for another go. In addition, Images have performed wonders with the game's presentation, and the assorted zombie sprites are large and relatively well-animated with no loss of speed. On the sound front, the game features effects and tunes taken directly from the coin-op, and these add to the atmosphere and create a loud and bloody crescendo. Basically, Beast Busters is a fine conversion which doesn't house an ounce of originality, but is one of the best of its kind.

FILMS THAT BITE During the video boom of the early eighties, horror films went through something of a renaissance. Films such as Wes Craven's 'Last House On The Left' and Lucio Fulci's 'Zombie Flesh Eaters' appeared, lined up alongside such diverse titles as 'Absurd', 'House By The Cemetery' and 'Evilspeak'. Due to the violent nature of these films, a body of censors were banded together to cut out any scenes that may offend the public. The main reason for this was to stop minors from viewing the gory works of Fulti and Co. and to stop people from copying the scenes that they were watching.
This in itself is a tender subject, with very little actual evidence to link horror films to certain killers, but the cuts were made, and from 1982 onwards every film had to undergo the scrutiny of the newly-formed committee. Such casualties of this era - the much-touted 'video nasties' that kept hitting headlines and which are now extremely sought after in their uncut forms - were the aforementioned Fulci film, and 'Cannibal Ferox', 'Don't Anser The Phone' and 'Nightmare In A Damaged Brain' - not to mention the now infamous (and extremely tame) 'I Spit On Your Grave' and 'Driller Killer'.
America also formed a censorship board around this time, too, the much-criticised MPAA. They instigated an 'R' rating, which meant that anyone under seventeen couldn't watch the film. However, any movies that failed to reach this rating had to be sent for cutting or doomed for an unrated release - which unfortunately means that they cannot be advertised or go on proper release - effectively killing any chance of the film succeeding. For the foreseeable future, the only way to see the banned films is via the underground network where illegal copies sell for small fortunes. This is a pity as, compared to the likes of Rambo III and even the Turtles, 'Zombie Flesh-eaters' and 'City Of The Living Dead' would now be deemed almost acceptable but are doomed never to be viewed by fans of the genre again.
The origins of the undead can be traced back to the beginnings of the voodoo religion and are shrouded with mystery. However, whereas the media view of a zombie is that of a flesh-eating ghoul with no apparent motive for its rising, real zombies are hypnotized people used for slave labour by cult leaders. A system used to overcome subversives and to deal with enemies, the would-be victim has a series of toxins added to their food and consuming these renders them unconscious. As an example, their body is then buried for as long as two months, with sufficient air holes to allow them to breathe. With the toxins keeping all of the body's functions down to a minimal level, the victim can survive without food or water, and on leaving the catatonic state the toxins will have caused extensive brain damage, leaving them as useless vegetables with no other option but to server their leaders.

Beast Busters logo

Tired of spacecraft shoot 'em ups? Tired of driving games? Tired of flight sims? Tired of arcade/adventures? Oh dear, let's hope you're not tired of into-the-screen Operation Wolf clones too, because as Duncan MacDonald discovers, Activision's Beastbusters is one of those very things...

Beastbusters is easy to pigeon-hole - it's Operation Wolf in monsters' clothing (with bats, zombies and hounds from hell replacing soldiers of the Vietcong Army). Using the mouse to position your crosshairs on-screen, you press the left button to let off a hail of bullets or the Return key to launch a grenade. But use too many of either and guess what? You run out, don't you.

So hoorah for the 'clip' and 'grenade' icons falling from the top of the screen then. If you hit them, they become part of your ammo stash: more power to your killing-elbow basically. And what an elbow it must be, because, as you'll have come to expect of this genre, there's a virtually inexhaustible supply of nasties after your blood.

Beastbusters offers a bit of variety as it doesn't just confine itself to the horizontally scrolling world (like most of its predecessors). Indeed no! There are also uppy bits, downy bits and pseudo 3D 'scrolling into the actual workings of your television set cor blimey, that's a bit jerky isn't it' bits to contend with as well! But how does the game fare as a whole? Read on...

Amiga reviewDunc: Operation Wolf - that's what started the genre off in the arcades about three zillion years ago. You, an Uzi and a screenful of deadly VC soldiers. But what was 'the draw' of the oh-so popular machine? Was it the sultry nurses in danger scattered liberally throughout? Was it the 'doggies in distress'? Or what it the fact you were fighting the Vietcong? No, it was quite simply the model of the Uzi sub machine-gun glued to the front: full-sized, matt-black and pretty realistic. Had you ripped one from the cabinet, you could probably have conducted several successful armed robberies. Anyhow, that was most certainly the draw... 'The Gun'.

However, here in computerland we don't have 'The Gun'- what we have is 'The Mouse' (in one player mode) and 'The Joystick' (for player two). Now I don't know about you, but I generally feel sorry for the 'Player Twos' of this world - and a 'Player Two' in Beastbusters is a good case in point. How on earth can you hope to aim quickly with a joystick? You can't, that's the answer.

Anyway, I'd better not digress, so back to Beastbusters. Er, well, it's an okayish-if-not-particularly-brilliant conversion of the coin-op original which suffers from quite a bad dose of jerkiness in the 3D sections. Mind you, it's not really the 3D scrolling you're looking at in this sort of game, is it? You're busy looking out for the nasties that are going to be lobbing sticks of dynamite at you, biting you... or doing various other things to you. So what of these?

Well, they range in size from the miniscule and hard to hit ones up to the large and easy to hit but just won't die ones. (And loads in between). Some of them are well animated and some not but there's one thing for sure - get a handful on the screen at the same time and your machine-gun fire-rate moves into the slow lane - 'Rat mississippi, tat mississippi,' and so on. I'll have to admit to not being one of this genre's greatest fans - I wasn't particularly enarmoured of Operation Wolf, Thunderbolt or anything else. Beastbusters, for me, is more of the same - not better, not worse. If you like the genre you'll enjoy it... it's quite good. If you don't like the genre, well... you won't enjoy it. Pretty obvious, really. Stop