Before you break up

Crack Down logo

MAD scientists, threats to overthrow the world. Bah! Sounds a bit boring. No, hang on a minute... What's this? He has created an army of biogenetically engineered humanoids blah blah crush all opposition blah blah two special agents blah blah must penetrate his fortress blah blah destroy each section with detonation devices...
Excellent! A murder mayhem explosive unnecessary violence situation. My favourite.
Why don't these scenario writers just come right out with it at the beginning?

The situation is this: You, and a friend if you have one, run around a sort of maze killing people and planting bombs on the large red crosses someone has very generously painted on the ground for you. Then you run away very quickly before everything blows up. This continues until the mad professor has run out of things to blow up, so you have to blow him up instead.

Before you start laying the violence guilt trip on me here, remember these are bio-engineered monstrosities, not humans. OK, so they look a bit like humans and they sort of do humanish things, but they're not, so that makes it OK. Doesn't it?
What do you mean, "No"? Well, if you're going to be like that I shall have to ask you to leave this review. No, you too.

Armed with only your bare fists, a light machine-gun and a submesonic nuclear auto-cannon you must combat the foes of humanity as you traverse level after mazey level of baddie hideouts, shortly before they blow up. You are a mean avenger and an angry one at that. Mind you, wouldn't anyone be if Mr and Mrs Breaker (yup, s'right) had named them Ben.

A radar scanner at the top of the screen will let you know where you are, where the crosses are, where any ammo to be picked up is and loads of other useful information which I have temporarily forgotten.

The really excellent thing about this boisterously addictive game is the way combat takes place. It isn't just the odd exchange of laser death, may the person with the fastest trigger finger win - a bit of stealth is involved, too.
You can crawl along flat against walls, sneak up behind people and big them before they know what's happening. All potential adversaries show some signs of intelligence. Well, they're not too hot at getting out of the way when you blast them, but they know an infiltrating scumsucker when they see one and will waste little time in trying to establish contact with you, usually via a flamethrower.

Two-player mode is good. When you are cooperating not only do you have double the firepower but you can also do the old decoy dodge.
Picture, if you will, a packing crate, which has a baddie behind it. From one side nimbly dances Player One and with some footwork that could out-Fred any budding Astaire he dodges the odd bullet. Meanwhile Player Two appears on the scene from somewhere stage left, that is to say behind the baddie. A burst of sporadic fire later and the world is a safer place.

It's the same old story really in terms of sound and graphics, but the excellent gameplay elevates it that little above the crowd.


Crack Down logo

US GOLD £24.99 * Joystick

Andy Attacker and Ben Breaker are unlikely names at the best of times, but it is even harder to believe both of them are FBI agents. Then again, when you are designing a coin-op machine's scenario you are allowed some poetic licence.

It is a one or two player game converted from the original Sega machine in which Andy and Ben are out to destroy the nefarious Dr K. The action is viewed from above and takes place in the 16 levels of Dr K's fortress, which is infested with his army of biogenetically engineered humanoids.

The agent's job is to destroy each level of the fortress by dropping three special explosives per level - the exact positions the bombs have to be dropped at are marked out by large red crosses. Finding the places to drop the bombs involves wandering through the mazes that make up each level and constant referral to the map at the top of the screen.

Finding the crosses is much easier than dealing with the baddies who patrol the levels and come popping out of concealed exits, but there are two ways of dealing with the baddies. The first way is to dodge them, pressing yourself tight up against walls; do not rush too much and this proves to be a good way of avoiding them, as a lot of the baddies follow set patrol patterns. The other way to destroy them is by shooting them with your machinegun and rocket launcher. The limited ammo supplies of each of these weapons can be replenished by walking over extra ammo boxes, which can be found lying around each level.

Plant the bombs and find the exit before the time limit expires and any remaining time is converted into bonus points. Then you are ready to move on the next, harder level.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Crackdown looks just like its arcade parent: well drawn and well animated. The music and effects are fine too. Software houses are really getting to grips with these arcade conversion, especially in the cosmetics dept.

LASTING INTEREST

In one player mode it burns out much faster than it should. In two player mode it is better but even then it is not going to have you playing for months.

JUDGEMENT

It is far too repetitive as a one player game - this is no fault of the conversion but a fault of the original game. In two player mode it is a lot more fun but it is still not breaking any new ground and won't win any awards for originality or gameplay.


Crack Down logo

Was kommt dabei aus, wenn man "Gauntlet" mit einem Ballerspiel à la Rambo kreuzt und das Ergebnis auf einem Splitscreen präsentiert? Ein rieseiges Durcheinander? Nein, ein knallhartes Actionspiel!

Dr. K ist ein ganz Böser: er hat sich eine Arme von Mutanten zugelegt und eine Superfestung gebaut - als nächstes steht die Zerstörung des Planeten auf dem Plan. Der Regierung gefällt das gar nicht, deshalb hat sie Ben und Andy, zwei Söldner der Marke "Ultrahart" losgeschickt, um Dr. K's Festung in die Luft zu sprengen. Die beiden müssen in jedem Stockwerk/Level drei ZeitBomben legen und anschließend schnellstens den Ausgang finden. Sie haben zwar alle möglichen Waffen zur Verfügung, aber nur einen begrenzten Munitionsvorrat. Wenn man einem Gegner zu nahe kommt, schaltet das Programm automatisch auf Handkampf um; eine gelegentlich sehr nervige Einrichtung, die oftmals eines der fünf Leben kostet.

Die Grafik ist schön bunt und holt erstaunlich viel aus der Vogelperspektive heraus. Besonderes Lob verdient die kleine Übersichtskarte, auf der man die Plazierungsorte für die Bomben, Extrawaffen und Standorte der Gegner erkennen kann. Leider ist der Screen viel zu klein (Splitscreen und NTSC-Streifen), so daß die Feinde oft völlig unerwartet auftauchen, dazu ruckelt das Scrolling gar schauerlich. Der Musik ist prima, nur die FX sind ein bißchen schwach auf der Brust.

Insgesamt ist das Game dem Automaten sehr ähnlich (Anlehnen an die Wande, Restzeit erhöht den Bonus), und macht vor allem im Simultan-Modus zu zweit lange Spaß - wenn man mit dem rasant anwachsenden Schwierigkeitsgrad mithalten kann! (mm)


Crack Down logo CU Amiga Screen Star

US Gold
Price: £24.99

US Gold's world of drugs, sabotage and espionage blows its way onto the home computer. The intricate web of drug dealing forms a hierarchical empire. At the bottom, you have your carriers and your corner-shop dealers. Then you move up to the big dealers, exchanging large amounts of illegal substances for even larger amounts of cash, and at the top you have your Mr Bigs, who sit on the dosh and gloat. These nefarious masters of crime need somewhere to hide out and stash the 'stuff'. They think they have got away with it. They think. But you are no ordinary cop. You may be called Ben and your partner called Andy, but there is nothing mundane about your work - as you go undercover and blow up the villains' bases.

In a nutshell, Crackdown is a high quality, split-screen Gauntlet clone, with great graphics and a generous dollop of playability. Travel around each building, represented by a top-view, eight-way scrolling play area, planting time bombs.

Ammo is extremely limited, so you have to pick your targets carefully. Some are unarmed, so it is often a good idea to get in close and dispose of them with a well-placed kick.

Without a doubt, the graphics are intricate, although it is a little too hard at times to pick out certain detail. But even though the split-screen playing area is small, the scanner ensures there is no problem with things off screen killing you before you get a chance to see them.

Approach this game as a piece of light entertainment with just the right difficulty to keep you playing for a while. It is definitely worth a shot.


Crack Down logo Zzap! Sizzler

US Gold, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

Flushed with its success creating a breakfast cereal, Dr K has decided to take over the world. Secure within his gothic castle he has created an army of genetically engineered soldiers to accomplish his mad ambition. All that stands in his way are the terrible twosome - Andy Attacker and Ben Breaker. Sounding like a pair of cartoon characters to promote 'Special K', they must progress through the 16 levels of K's castle, placing at least three explosives on each.

To be effective the explosive must placed in the correct positions, but thankfully Dr K's interior decorator has placed large 'X's to mark these. They also show up on your radar scanner, which can be vital for finding your way through the mazes, with just three minutes per level. The main screen is divided into two: one half for each player, with an overhead, Gauntlet-style perspective.

Of course, each level is packed with K's goose-stepping soldiers who are weighed down with weapons such as pistols, machine guns, and even flame-throwers. Thankfully our daring duo are not pacifists, and begin the game with rocket launchers. If these run out of ammo they can switch to machine-guns or - as a last resort - fists and feet. They can even use smart bombs. Refills for the weapons can be found in boxes scattered around the corridors. You can also flatten yourself against walls, to sneak along without being hit. Later on in the game there are poisonous rivers, lava puzzles, and some nasty traps to beat.


Phil King I'm a big fan of two-player games - and this month we've had more than our fair share with Pipemania and E-Motion; both excellent. But I'm afraid Crackdown left me cold. Admittedly, US Gold have done a fine job with the conversions, but the coin-op wasn't that hot to start with; just a souped-up Gauntlet, really. I found it frustratingly hard to get into, especially as you can never hit the smart bomb key in time - surely holding down fire would've been a better way to trigger them? Still, both Robin and the Scorelord really enjoyed blasting all those androids, and technically both versions are quite impressive. The Amiga is particularly good value at just £20 for virtual arcade perfection. Worth considering if you like this type of game.
Robin Hogg I'm amazed just how close the Amiga translation is with the looks, quality and feel of the coin-op. Progression through the levels is rewarded with significantly different graphics, some stunning effects and gameplay changes making it one of the best two-player games for the 16-bits that I've seen. Crack Down works extremely well on a technical level, more so on the C64 with smooth scrolling and fast paced action to match - the collision detection is a little suspect but it makes for a little more lenient game. The C64 game is let down a little by the lack of extensive colours per level although this is compensated for by some superb static backgrounds and a general variety in the graphic style throughout - look out for the System 24 chip on level eight; well worth fighting through to see!
Scorelord US Gold have produced yet another first-class conversion with this one. While the C64's sprites are a bit blocky, the backgrounds are very good indeed and move surprisingly fast - even in two-player mode. The variety within the four levels per load is excellent; I particularly like the junk yard's mangled cars as well as the conveyor belts and deadly lave flows on the later levels. Of course, the Amiga version has more detail: the swinging wrecking balls in the junk yard, a sign you have to knock over, and the way your sprite shrinks as he falls down a gap. In fact, the graphics are virtually arcade perfect - though they still don't really push the Amiga. I think the C64's are more impressive for a host machine, although Robin would disagree.
What we do agree on is that the Amiga game is the hardest - you have much less ammo for the weapons, and the machine gun is much less effective than the cannon. This makes it a bit harder to get into, but improves lastability.
Crackdown's gameplay is clearly second-generation Gauntlet, with the need to plant bombs, collect ammo and the 'sneak' feature making for a much more cohesive and involving game than simply finding keys to exit all those dungeons. What's more the levels contain a surprising amount of variety, and the different layouts force you to use different tactics. What I think is particularly good is how, in two-player mode, you can compete with each other over score - but the joint bonus depends on you both getting out together. On the first levels you can race to plant the few bombs needed, but later on co-operation is essential.