Graftgold would happily stick with the Amiga if it were up to them, you know. They've spent around a decade getting to know the ins and outs of the system, and the tragedy of their possible departure from the Amiga is that although they can weave their own magic and creativity on other systems, all the tricks, short cuts and 'special' routines they've mastered on the Amiga will be lost for ever.
Like the indigenous Amazon tribes losing their oral tradition due to the encroachment of so-called civilisation and television it's inevitable, and, like images of once independent hunter-gatherers sitting in concrete huts wearing ragged T-shirts, it's immensely sad.
Virocop's so full of clever touches, in jokes, refinements and technical achievements that it's verging on smugness. If any game's got the right to look down on the majority of new releases this is the one. If any game's pure of heart and free from the software-
crimes laid before AP's very own Kangaroo Court, then this is it.
Apart from one biggie of course. Did not the Court in session during AP46 note that littering games with microchips, disk icons and little joysticks constitutes a crime against the gaming public as a whole? And yet Virocop's not only littered with this sort of thing, it also takes place WITHIN THE WORLD OF VIDEO GAMES. It is for this reason that we'll gloss over the plot, and should you buy it, we'd encourage you to do the sam.
Being actually set inside other video games, Virocop's just about as hugely self-referential as a game can get. If something's in a computer game, the chances are it's in Virocop, so scan your eyes over the dinky little boxes that cover the four different worlds, and gorge on the feast of game cliches.
Among the glut of Nice Touches, one really clever idea has Virocop messing with your idea of scale. The sports zone start off with the D.A.V.E. (a monstrously contrived acronym standing for *hnng) Digital Armoured Virus Exterminator, and in capitals that I refuse to use again) on a pool table, apparently a third as big as the cue ball.
Yet moments later, he's on an American football pitch and is as large as the players, and by the time you get to the combat levels, he's a hulking tonnage of metal squashing insect-like squaddies beneath him. THIS IS GOOD, and goes a long way to proving that Graftgold are actually very clever people.
Apparently, Virocop started out as a tank game, with you controlling an increasingly powered-up vehicle over various ramp-infested, Marble Madness type levels blowing everything away, but then the Bitmap Brothers revealed Z (a tank-based game o the (hnng) PC) and Renegade had a serious rethink.
Before offing the child
Obviously, it all looks different now, but the game's still solidly based around moving, shooting, picking up power-ups and shooting other things, sort of a cute version of the Chaos Engine. Pretty much anything that can be a baddie is one, making it a bit disconcerting to be attacked by such everyday objects as bins, basketballs and fire hydrants,
Although the overall idea's to destroy the nasty 'viruses' that have 'infected' your 'system' (sigh), there's a good reason to kill everything in your path as their misfortune is your credit. Quite literally. Each meany drops a power cell in its death-throes, and when collected, these go towards powering up new and meaner weapons in the in-betweeny microchip sections.
The well thought out-ness of the game continues to the weapons. As you progress, you pay for more and better weapons, but can only take three into each zone. You can fire on the move, but if you press fire and keep it pressed while moving the joystick, Dave swivels on the spot and fires in different directions, which is most handy when you're in a tight spot.
Also, if you plug in a CD32 pad or a two button joystick, iT KNOWS, and not only lets you use the second button to change weapons (instead of the space bar) but also displays a corresponding icon on the menu screen. Clever, clever.
The two player cooperative mode makes things a little too easy by letting one player control Dave and the other control the direction and type of weapon. Obviously, to do this properly takes quite a bit of "Shoot him on the left. No! The left" type conversations, but once you're working together, it's simple to blast through the first eight levels (about half the game) without too many problems.
I think the problem is that each level's been so well tuned to be a single player game, with battery recharges placed uncannily just at the point that you think you're going to die, that any extra advantage you may gain, such as firing one way while moving in another, throws the balance off a bit.
So many good ideas, so well presented, and yet... I'm not hooked. Despite playing through half of it properly and all of it using level codes (which, incidentally, are unique to each version, so don't bother to send any in), I never really got excited playing it.
Entertained, yes, frequently amused, yes, but never excited. I thin that maybe the levels are a bit too big, but that the main problem is that by being clever with the setting, it all becomes too abstract to becoming engaging.
The Chaos Engine had all the exciting music, voices shouting out things and of course people at the centre of the action, and it's hard to get too bothered about a robot being attacked by rubbish bins. It's great, it's zappy and well presented, but beneath all the gloss is a fairly standard and unremarkable shooty game, and I can't help thinking that I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if it had been tanks. But then again, maybe that's just me.