Due for an overhaul

Human Killing Machine logo

HUMAN Killing Machine is the meanest son of a snake you've ever seen, as the blurb goes. You could be forgiven for wondering whether this description refers to the character or to the person responsible for foisting this game on an unsuspecting consumerate.

It begins in the fabled Temples of Moscow with our hero, Kwon, being set upon by a nasty Red guard. So much for glasnost. Fortunately, Kwon is not only a notable miser of reptilian extraction but is also tough and mean.
This would be more believable if not for the fact that on the second level he is easily dispatched by a dancing border collie.

Kwon goes on to face a selection of unusual adversaries including the horribly bemuscled Maria, a drunken German, Arab terrorists and the cunning master bullfighter Miguel and his pet fighting bull, Brutus.
If Kwon manages to defeat his opponent with ease he will be able to take a greater deal of punishment in the next round. Exactly why he is travelling around notable trouble spots like Spanish bullrings and German bierkellers is never explained. Pity.

The gameplay is similar to the karate games of which there was a spate a few years back on the Spectrum and C64. Kwon wouldn't look out of place in Way of the Expoding First.
The strengths of the combatants are represented by the time-honoured colour bars at the top of the screen, but the inclusion of little passport photos beside them is a nice touch. The bull is especially photogenic.

The graphics, particularly the backdrops, are very well done but the animation flickers, jerks, and, in a word, is terrible. One of the best features of the karate games of years gone by was the wonderfully smooth animation as the player executed a well timed roundhouse kick or reverse punch.

To its credit, when one side or other scores a hit a small explosion caption is overlaid containing the word "pow" or "zap" or some other Batmanesque phrase.
Sound is not very well supported. The tune gets very boring in record time and there are no interesting or novel effects in the game itself. It really is incredible the number of software houses that think they can get away with mediocre bang and splat noises or, as in this case, no effects at all.

This game just doesn't compel you to play it. With nothing else but gameplay going for it, the Human Killing Machine looks in dire need of an overhaul.

Human Killing Machine logo

US Gold
Price: £9.99 cass
£14.99 disk

In the latest of a long line of beat 'em ups, you are the Human Killing Machine (HKM to your friends) and the idea is to travel to five different countries beating up ten of your enemies en route. Nothing new there.

Your grudge journey begins in Russia where you face Igor the fearless and his rabid dog Shepski. Successfully mutilate these two and you move onto Amsterdam. HKM is no ladies' man as he proves by beating the living daylights out of Maria and Helga. Next is Barcelona where you stop off to beat up Miguel the kinky toreador (complete with whip) and Brutus the bull. Hans is the first opponent in Germany; he is followed by Franz, the waiter, who throws bottles at you until you convince him that you are not a lager lout (a swift kick in the head usually suffices). Last stop is Beirut where you face Sagan and Merkeva who try to kill you off.

Just reading through the storyline you would think that it's going to be Street Fighter with different opponents. How wrong you would be. Street Fighter had nice graphics. HKM doesn't. Street Fighter was playable. HKM isn't. In fact everything that made Street Fighter playable is missing from HKM.

Each country has a different backdrop, temples in Moscow, a tank in Beirut (no building left I suppose), that sort of thing. Most of the backdrops are blocky and suffer from colour clashes but at least they are better than the sprites. Both your character and all opponents are very small and poorly defined. Animation doesn't enhance them either, the fighters don't walk, they gracefully glide towards each other trying, as they do so, to execute jerky moves.

There are no sound effects but there are a couple of nice pieces of music to amuse your ears with. Gameplay is very poor, all you have to do is find a move that your opponent is susceptible to and use it until he is knocked down. Control is easy enough with sensible joystick movements.

Due to the ease of HKM it won't last long, add this to the poor graphics and awful gameplay, and what you have is a game that is only marginally more enjoyable than a kick in the head.

Human Killing Machine logo

US Gold, C64 £9.99 cassette, £12.99 disk; Amiga £14.99

In today's moral climate, it seems that more and more people are living by the rule 'kill or be killed'. Some people are taking the idea to the extremes, plunging into danger just to prove that they're really hard and a lot stupider than all the other guys.

Kwon is one such person. Filled with the need to demonstrate the power of his homeland, he decides to travel the world doing battle with all manner of opponents. First off it's away to Russia and to the majestic city of Moscow... to kick seven colours out of the Russians (and this month's Henry Kissinger Award goes to...) starting with the nearest Kremlin guard and then his dog (very friendly - no I think I'm lying).

After those little Russian confrontations it's off to Amsterdam for a bit of... WHOARR! KNOWORRAMEAN! But Kwon's reputation has spread and one of the... er... young ladies (ahem) tries to knock him stupid. Once you've got rid of her, there's her friend to deal with.

Next comes the holiday atmosphere of Barcelona, where Kwon decides that Miguel the bullfighter isn't doing the best job of beating the horned brute, so he leaps in the ring, smashes Miguel unconscious and then deals with the bull.

Well after a beating a bull, Kwon is well away. Nothing can stand in his path... can it?

Gordon Houghton I usually love this kind of game - in fact IK+ is one of my all time favourites - but Human Killing Machine fails to generate any excitement in the old fighting genes at all. The similarities to Street Fighter are inescapable - apart from one thing: HKM is actually worse because you get one game instead of two. The graphics are poorly animated, the sound is annoying, the multiload dawn out and the playability virtually non-existent. In fact, it lacks just about everything that a good game should have, so stick to IK+ until something better comes along. The Amiga price tag is a great idea - I just hope better products will support it in future.
Kati Hamza The backdrops are quite attractive - detailed and atmospheric - in both version of HKM; but the sprites are pretty appalling. The animation isn't exactly incredibly on the Amiga or the 64 and the blobby animal sprites on the 64 just have to be seen to be believed. Worst of all, there really isn't any gameplay to speak of in either version - the 64's really easy, the Amiga version's annoyingly hard and both are really repetitive with little skill involved. Avoid.
Maff Evans As soon as I saw the naff loading screens, I thought that things were starting to go a bit awry. That's when the game came on - oh dear. The sprites on the Amiga version are large enough, but the animation leaves a lot to be desired. All it amounts to is a few basic moves and actions, none of which are particularly realistic. The 64 version doesn't even have decent sized sprites to fall back on (just some twiglet-like dogs, people and bulls) and if we're talking about playability... there's hardly any! The 64 version is ridiculously easy - so easy in fact, that I finished after just one go - I don't think I'll be returning to it again. This is an incredibly weak program and one of the worst fighting games I've ever seen.
This is US Gold's first venture into 16- bit games at £14.99. For an experimental period, a selected number of Amiga titles should go on sale over the country for five quid less than you'd normally pay for a full-price game. OK, so this might not be the best title to start off with, but with products like Out Run Europa and Last Duel (which would have got a Sizzler if we'd known the lower price) to be sold at exactly the same price, this has to be one of the best moves for Amiga owners in a long time. If only other software houses would follow suit...
Zzap's Rockford: Go on! Kick 'em in, Son!