ZX Spectrum Classics - Robocop - A retro review by Florinthedwarf


Welcome to what I'm hoping to be a new theme where I look at bona fide Speccy classics. I have ideas of which games I want to feature but also please, if you have suggestions, feel free to tweet me @florinthedwarf and I will see if I can include them. There may well be some absolute stonkers which I haven't played before so I welcome any suggestions in case I missed out on these first time around. Right, on with the first game to feature - Robocop!

Robocop - an epic film with some of the most glorious violence ever put to celluloid, would surely deserve a game that was equally excellent? The arcade beckoned first but then the conversions to home computers started. Who knew what was to happen when the Speccy version was released? Rave reviews all round, the game stayed in the Speccy charts for literally years along with an absolutely brilliant soundtrack. Also, the speech, which was so good it was a feature in itself. Also, you get to shoot a lot of people - good times.

Dun-dun-dun dun dun-dun dun dun-dun dun.....you all know the tune!
When I first played Robocop all those years ago after waiting a *few* minutes for it to load, whilst I was still asking myself 'Did my Speccy just say 'Robocop'?', I was hit by that tune. We all know it, that tune that when you first hear it, makes your jaw drop. And the second time, and third time.... you get my drift. The first few opening bars - class, and then the drums kick in. It's at this point that's it's probably best not to stand up, unless you want to cause yourself embarrassment. *ahem* It has to be listened to all the way through, what a waste otherwise! Just one of those tunes of epic proportions that really did set it apart from the others. You all probably know what I'm talking about so apologies if this part is boring you.... But how could it?? That tune! 😜

Anyhoo, with regards to the game itself, after hearing more sampled speech of the prime directives *drools again*, you're thrown head first into the action. No time to dilly-dally, by the time some more excellent music starts (I'll stop now) you have three hoodlums waiting to unload their pistols into you. Little tykes, eh? Of course this is met by your retaliation by laying as many bullets into them as you can (take that!) though you also have to keep an eye on them as you will run out if you get too trigger happy. More bullets can be collected as you go but if you do run out, Mr Murphy gets punchy until you find some more.

Aim for the balls! Aim for the balls!
The game plays like the arcade version as opposed to running like the film so don't expect a police car chase with a body getting thrown onto the bonnet or Murphy getting blown to smithereens (shame). It's a left-to-right shooter with a few extras thrown in, including the scene where there's a lady to be rescued, though don't try what I did - trying to shoot through her skirt ultimately kills her. Dammit. I guess some girls really are attached to their clothes...

Animation is pretty slick and there is something satisfying about people falling out of windows after you've shot them - I'm talking about the game of course - after which they seem to disintegrate into floor. I guess it helps with the clean up afterwards. There are enemies aplenty in each of the main levels and also and array of weaponry. You start with your simple one-bullet-at-a-time shooter but you can also pick up a three-way bullet, bullets that kill with one shot and if you make it far enough into the game, you can get your hands on the Cobra Assault Canon - state of the art... bang bang!

Aside from all the shooting, there are a few other not-so-shooty missions. One being the identity match up, where you input the face of one Emil Antonowski into the computer and then try to match it up to the police records. Though, I've just told you his name so no point in looking now. Though, if you want to progress through the game, I suppose you better had. This is one which can be pretty tricky, as it's not case of just picking the face that matches, you have scroll through a whole library of eyes, chins, hairlines, noses and ears to get the face to match bang on. Some facial features can look oh-so similar, but it's that one tiny little line out of place that will get you. Grrr!

I know you, you're dead! Oh no, it's not you. I do beg your pardon. You have slightly different eyebrows.
Also, making an appearance is our old friend ED-209. I say friend, though obviously his does try to kill Robocop several times in the film, though it's noted without success. We have to give him some credit though as he absolutely annihilate's poor Kinney at the first attempt, so he kind of redeems himself there. Poor Kinney. I'm sure he wouldn't have felt a thing. Hmmm....

One thing you will notice about Mr 209 is that he's not really a fan of moving, as in he doesn't do it all. Slightly disappointing, though you have to remember that this is the Speccy version and I guess most of its' memory is used up by the (glorious) theme tune and (equally glorious) speech. He does pose a tricky task though as like in the film, you meet him just as Directive Four kicks into Robocop's brain so it's no gun for you, sir! Will you defeat ED-209 with just the use of your hands? Well, you'll have to if you want to complete the game.

Your move, creep. Oh, you can't.
You find as you go along that some of the later levels contain stairs that you actually get to use, so you'll get to shoot diagonally down, go Robo! But not only that, there are also lifts that you can use. Exciting stuff, but here is where I find my major bugbear with the game. Maybe it's just me, (I totally blame the game) but I do seem to struggle with my aim whilst using the lift. I always find myself shooting across instead of diagonally, leading to much frustration when the bad guys come along and pop you, leaving you helpless for a few seconds.

Not to spoil the game, but if you fancy finishing the game, you will have to come face to face with Dick Jones, DICK JONES!!!! who you take on in a similar style to the man with the hostage, only this time, he's got a gun! You will again have to aim for a flailing leg or that little bit of shoulder poking out if you want him dead. Again, film authenticity fails here so if you're waiting for The Old Man to elbow him in the guts to get a free shot, you'll be waiting a long time. Oh, and he will have shot you by then anyway.

Without bigging it up too much, though this is hard to do, Robocop is an excellent game and fully deserves the praise and credit it frequently receives. Well put together, music is to die for and it feels 'complete'. You can see a lot of effort has gone into the game and it's one of those that has held up over the years, namely due to the slickness and accomplished feel to the game.

If you haven't yet, play it. If you have, play it again! Or if not, just load it up and listen to that music. Sorry, I've done it again haven't I!?

Article by @Florinthedwarf

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