Game.014 | Commodore 64 – Toy Bizarre – (1984)

Title: Toy Bizarre

Released: 1984

System: Commodore 64


Developed: Mark Turmell

Published: Activision

Genre: Platformer


Cover Art:

Somewhat odd. The cover is nicely painted but it doesn’t really tell you much about the game. It does have the creepy hand of Hefty Hilda (*shudder*) trying to release herself into OUR world. If this game had been released after the movie “Child’s Play” came out in the theaters, one would surmise that it’s a game wherein you are stalked by a killer doll. And that’s kind of the case in the game, but really the game is a Mario Bros clone with a NEMESIS stalking you as you solve platforming puzzles. I still like this cover though, it’s appropriately creepy. 

Game:

As a night watchman in a toy factory, it’s up to you to stop all of the toys from coming to life and taking over! In order to do this you have to either pop the balloons that appear on the screen to keep toys from generating or knock them into orbit by jumping onto platforms once they’ve landed on the corresponding platform. In order to beat a stage you have to turn off various valves that create the balloons, which isn’t easy because the constant presence of Hefty Hilda (*shudder*) looms about the level, stalking you and undoing your work just waiting for an opportunity to kill you…

Comments:

I’m beginning to think I was a big scaredy cat as a kid. This game freaked me out too. 

It’s essentially Mario Bros. Not SUPER Mario Bros, but the original Mario Brothers game. Single screen, a bunch of enemies and an objective to turn all of the valves off. 

This task isn’t easy because you cant jump on enemies heads in order to get rid of them (that mechanic would come later in games) and there is the presence of the thing that scared me the most in this game…Hefty Hilda! 



See that red thing in that screen shot? She constantly follows you throughout the game undoing your progress. Of course if she touches you, you’re dead. What freaked me out the most is that her pattern of movement was unpredictable, one moment she’d be running left, then all of a sudden she’d turn on a time and run smack into you. 

I dunno, it used to freak me out; like I said, I was a scaredy cat as a kid. 

Like most games of this era, there isn’t really any music in the game, just a little tune played before each level. 

It’s actually a pretty fun Mario clone that tweaks the game-play a bit by having you menaced by Hilda. I like this game. 

Plus/Minus:

+ Clever take on Mario Bros
+ Hefty Hilda is watching you!
– Music? What music? 

Media:






Game.013 | Sega Master System – Time Soldiers – (1988)

Title: Time Solders

Released: 1989


System: Sega Master System


Developed: Alpha Denshi Co., Ltd.

Published: SEGA of America

Genre: Arcade

Cover Art


Sega white box era mark 2. Sega always has a theme with their console titles, Genesis titles typically had a back grid and some mature looking art in the center while their Master System games employed a white grid with cartoon-y looking art for some reason. These actually represent their revised boxes as when the system was first released their box art consisted solely of white grid backgrounds with some ultra-minimalist drawings that vaguely represented the game. And i mean ULTRA minimalist drawings. 

Anyway, this one isn’t so bad, it conveys what this game is: you firing rockets at Nazi’s and Dinosaurs. The art looks like something you would see on Saturday Morning cartoons and I dig that the Time Soldiers logo looks pretty important. 


Game:

Time Soldiers was developed by a company called Alpha Denshi (who later went on to do mostly the same type of games on the Neo Geo such as Ninja Commando and Magician Lord) in which you play as the titular “Time Soldier” as you are sent back in time to rescue your friends from various time periods. Very reminiscent of Ikari Warriors, you can play as one person or two players simultaneously as you shoot enemies along a scrolling backdrop. Various power ups can be obtained to give your gun spread, rockets or lasers. 

Comments:

Sega was big on Arcade ports of both their popular games like Afterburner and Hang On; but they they ported a lot of arcade titles to the Master System and Genesis. Titles like Time Soldiers.

Never heard of this one? This was the game next to Quartet and Fantasy Zone in your local movie theater arcade room (remember when Arcade machines were EVERYWHERE?). 

The premise of this title is that you’re a warrior and you are banished back in time by the FINAL BOSS to fight you way from the Jurassic Era back to the future! Along the way you go through different time periods ranging from the Roman Era to World War 2. 


It’s a run n gun, pure and simple, similar to Ikari Warriors or Commando, only this time you face off against dinosaurs, roman praetorian, Nazis, SPACE Nazis and the like. A unique concept of the game is that its somewhat non-linear. You start off in the prehistoric era, but as you encounter certain mini bosses you’re given the option to enter a time warp to move on to a new era or finish the current one. There’s a number of “Time Warriors” that are stranded in each era that you have to rescue, you can only rescue them by defeating the final boss of that era. Non-linearity was a rare and pretty cool feature for the time. 


The graphics are actually pretty nice for this era of game; bosses are nicely detailed and stages actually feel like the eras they represent. Music on the other hand is very “Master System”, kind of a droning, high pitched, rambling mess. Not one of the stronger games on the system to showcase musically. 


Interesting concept, but ultimately nothing special like most Master System games. The thrill really was just having an arcade title in your living room…even if it was a stripped down version of an arcade title. 

Plus/Minus:



+ Nazis and Dinosaurs. I’d play that game. Wait a minute…

+ Arcade action without having to get tokens from the creepy guy at the arcade.
– The music kind of drones…

Media:






Game.012 | Sega Genesis – technocop – (1990)


Title: technocop

Released: 1990


System: Sega Genesis


Developed: Gray Matter Inc.

Published: Razor Soft

Genre: Action (Run ‘n Gun)

Cover Art:

Crime is a disease…meet the cure. Look at this badass motherfucker right here. Blueblocker shades. Leather jacket. 5 day stubble. Desert Eagle POINT FIVE OH. I don’t even need to see the back, this is going to be awesome!! It’s Cobra…the GAME! 

Game:

Originally developed as a PC title for the Amiga, Commodore 64 and others, this Robocop inspired game pits you in driving and foot sequences as you arrest (or kill) various baddies in a dystopian future. According to Wikipedia “The game was the first game on the Genesis to have a warning label due to its violent content.”

Comments:

TECHNOCOP…BUSTED! Before you do anything, listen to this epic theme song and take a look at this back cover:



Look at the back cover and tell me that this isn’t going to be epic? 

Yeah OK, it isn’t. It’s a pretty generic PC port on the Genesis that has both driving sequences and “run and gun” sequences. The only thing that really makes it stand out is the graphic violence; in fact, this might have been the first really violent game that I played. 


There were a lot of PC ports like this on the Genesis as the system was trying to set itself apart from the more “kiddie” NES. The Genesis was definitely your “older brothers” system. 



The game itself? Well, there’s not much to say, Cobra up there has waged a “one man war” against the dreaded DOA gang; so with your Judge Dredd gun and your fancy James Bond-esque Sports Car, you have to get through stage after mind numbing stage either arresting or executing baddies. Your gun has two functions, NET and GUN. The net lets you take people in alive, the gun blows them apart. I think you have a limited number of NETS that you can shoot out, but I don’t really remember. 


What I do remember is that the backgrounds hardly ever change, the driving sequences (which were kind of like Road Rash) are ALWAYS on a road in an empty green field. Which is odd because when you get to your destination you just pull off to the side of the road, get out of your car and all of a sudden you’re in an urban crack den. The on foot missions all recycled the graphics from the previous areas and just rearranged the layout a bit. 


Oh yeah, you can kill kids in this game. Yeah. It was a different time back then. The 9 year old me enjoyed blowing apart bad guys though, so that’s something, otherwise both the driving sequences and the on foot missions are pretty boring. The only other plus to the game is the rockin’ intro song and take it all in, because there isn’t any other music in the game! The composer for this game must have thrown down the mic after listening to that intro because he know there was no way he would have been able to top that! Genius. 

Plus/Minus:


+ Mature. That doesn’t mean much of anything today but to a 9 year old kid the sight of blood in a video game was just too much for your immature brain to handle. 
+ That rockin’ intro song!!
– Wholly generic, going more for shock value than actual fun.
– Besides that rocking intro song, there isn’t any other music in the game… 

Media:





Game.012 | Sega Genesis – technocop – (1990)


Title: technocop

Released: 1990


System: Sega Genesis


Developed: Gray Matter Inc.

Published: Razor Soft

Genre: Action (Run ‘n Gun)

Cover Art:

Crime is a disease…meet the cure. Look at this badass motherfucker right here. Blueblocker shades. Leather jacket. 5 day stubble. Desert Eagle POINT FIVE OH. I don’t even need to see the back, this is going to be awesome!! It’s Cobra…the GAME! 

Game:

Originally developed as a PC title for the Amiga, Commodore 64 and others, this Robocop inspired game pits you in driving and foot sequences as you arrest (or kill) various baddies in a dystopian future. According to Wikipedia “The game was the first game on the Genesis to have a warning label due to its violent content.”

Comments:

TECHNOCOP…BUSTED! Before you do anything, listen to this epic theme song and take a look at this back cover:



Look at the back cover and tell me that this isn’t going to be epic? 

Yeah OK, it isn’t. It’s a pretty generic PC port on the Genesis that has both driving sequences and “run and gun” sequences. The only thing that really makes it stand out is the graphic violence; in fact, this might have been the first really violent game that I played. 


There were a lot of PC ports like this on the Genesis as the system was trying to set itself apart from the more “kiddie” NES. The Genesis was definitely your “older brothers” system. 



The game itself? Well, there’s not much to say, Cobra up there has waged a “one man war” against the dreaded DOA gang; so with your Judge Dredd gun and your fancy James Bond-esque Sports Car, you have to get through stage after mind numbing stage either arresting or executing baddies. Your gun has two functions, NET and GUN. The net lets you take people in alive, the gun blows them apart. I think you have a limited number of NETS that you can shoot out, but I don’t really remember. 


What I do remember is that the backgrounds hardly ever change, the driving sequences (which were kind of like Road Rash) are ALWAYS on a road in an empty green field. Which is odd because when you get to your destination you just pull off to the side of the road, get out of your car and all of a sudden you’re in an urban crack den. The on foot missions all recycled the graphics from the previous areas and just rearranged the layout a bit. 


Oh yeah, you can kill kids in this game. Yeah. It was a different time back then. The 9 year old me enjoyed blowing apart bad guys though, so that’s something, otherwise both the driving sequences and the on foot missions are pretty boring. The only other plus to the game is the rockin’ intro song and take it all in, because there isn’t any other music in the game! The composer for this game must have thrown down the mic after listening to that intro because he know there was no way he would have been able to top that! Genius. 

Plus/Minus:


+ Mature. That doesn’t mean much of anything today but to a 9 year old kid the sight of blood in a video game was just too much for your immature brain to handle. 
+ That rockin’ intro song!!
– Wholly generic, going more for shock value than actual fun.
– Besides that rocking intro song, there isn’t any other music in the game… 

Media:





Game.011 | Atari 2600 – Seaquest – (1983)


Title: Seaquest

Released: 1983

System: Atari 2600


Developed: Steve Cartwright

Published: Activision

Genre: Shooter




Cover Art:


Another minimal Atari 2600 cover. Yes, you do get to do all of that in the game. You get to shoot sharks, “enemy subs” and other fish all to the backdrop of a nice sunset (or maybe it’s a sunrise). This cover has some vague 3D perspective as the yellow submarine looks like its coming right at you, torpedoing the sub and the shark while divers swim away! This one doesn’t get me as charged as River Raid but I guess all of this stuff happens in the game so I can’t fault it for accuracy. Other than that kind of boring. 

Game:

“Seaquest is a submarine combat game in which the player controls a water vessel and must avoid, collect, or destroy various objects at different levels of depth. The player must pick up divers under water and must get air from the surface before the air meter drains out.” (Yep, stole that right from Wikipedia!)

Comments:

Underwater Sea Action Shooter Sub…game. 

I remember loving this game as a kid. I’m a huge freak about water in video games, I really don’t know why. I’ve always loved water levels, water games, water sports, water graphics, WATER MUSIC…anything with water. 

Ever notice that the music in water levels have a certain…calming musical tone to them? Listen to an example from a completely unrelated game:



Maybe it’s just me, but to me all underwater stages sound just like that! I love it! Oh, there isn’t any music in this game by the way, in fact this is one of those games that doesn’t have a soundtrack but does have sound effects so annoying that you’ll have to play it with the sound off anyway. Definitely a game that elicited a “TURN OFF THAT VIDEO GAME DAMNIT AND GO OUTSIDE!” from many a parent I’m sure. 

I really liked this game as a kid, it’s pretty simple, you rescue divers, try not to get eaten by a shark and occasionally you come up for oxygen. 

Actually this game feels a lot like JAWS on the NES (the one LJN movie game that isn’t “terrible”, another post, another time!)

I remember making up my own adventures diving into the water with my sub. This is one of those games where I would take the adventure OUT of the game. If I had a little toy submarine in my bath, I was playing Seaquest with anything that I could find. If I was swimming in a pool, every time I would come up for air I’d pretend that I was playing Seaquest. As a kid, when a game gets into your head like that it was amazing. 

This is a solid game, nice graphics, I really dig on the sunset hue in the background. Very pleasent to look at. Ooh those sound effects though to a 34 year old me…I’d backhand 6 year old me too if I didn’t play this on mute! 




Plus/Minus:

+ Sub divin’ action!

+ Nothing like that Oxygen refresh sound!
– No music and those sound effects will eventually drive you insane! 


Media:

17:44 of Seaquest! by Scoreground user In The Woods!







Game.010 | Karate Kid – (1987)

Title: The Karate Kid

Released: November 1987

System: Nintendo


Developed: Atlus

Published: LJN

Genre: Karate Platformer (Movie Tie-in)

Cover Art:

Remember when I said that movie games sell themselves? Well, I knew a lot of people who had this game and this one it’s definitely not because of the cover! First of all, The Karate Kid is a coming of age movie that uses karate as a more of a plot point than an actual theme. There’s actually very little karate in the movie. Ah but this is a game based on Karate Kid II you say…which is also a movie that has less to do with karate and more about forgiveness and father/son relationships. 

Since this game doesn’t have any of that, and I guess they couldn’t use the movie poster as a cover since there isn’t any actual “karate” on it, we have this artist rendition of Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita just kind of staring intently at you. Well Daniel-san is staring intently, I’m not sure what Miyagi is doing with his “hey what’s going on over there” pose. These two were in the movie, so they’re on the cover. In the lower corner the “kid” is shown demonstrating his amazing “karate kick” in animated stills. It’s not even his famous “Crane Kick” (which is actually IN the game) from the movie. Wow. 

To be fair, 9 year old me would want to do “that karate stuff like Daniel-san” in a video game and would beg for this game. Poor stupid bastard. 

Game:

Karate Kid, developed by Atlus (?!?!) and published by LJN roughly follows the events of Karate Kid 1 & 2. With only 4 stages, levels are broken up by mini games which include hitting left and right on the game pad to avoid being knocked off a platform, hitting the B button fast enough to break rows of ice or catching flies with chopsticks. Successful completion of these mini-games reward you with power ups that allow you to do special abilities like Daniel’s Crane Kick or a Hammer Punch. Will you be a Martial Arts Master?

Comments:

Well, it’s a movie game! This is the other side of the “Rambo III” coin, the cheap, cynical LJN cash grab. 

The history of crapitude of LJN has been well documented on the internet, so i’ll just let an expert sum them for me:



That being said, Karate Kid is, as you ‘d expect, pretty terrible. It roughly covers the events of Karate Kid 1 & 2 in the form of four stages as Daniel-san punches and kicks his way through a never ending stream of brown shirted, uh, bad guys. I don’t know who these dudes are, I think they’re part of that one dude’s gang or something. You know, the villain from Karate Kid 2. I think he had a gang.  

Nothing really memorable about this game other than 8 bit Miyagi winking at you for doing a job well done! Pass.


Plus/Minus:
+ Well, if you beat the game Mr. Miyagi winks at you at the end.  
+ It’s short!
– Kicking, jumping and pretty much anything else that resembles game play is awful.

Media:





Game.009 | NES – Spelunker – (1987)

Title: Spelunker

Released: 1987


System: Nintendo Entertainment System


Developed: Micrographicimage


Published: Broderbund


Genre: Platformer Adventure


Cover Art:

I don’t know who the artist is that does Broderbund’s game covers, but they were definitely influenced by Drew Struzan. In case you don’t know who Drew Struzan is, every amazing movie poster that you remember from the 70s, 80s and 90s was created by Struzan. No, really. It was. And it was glorious. 

Whoever created this box art agreed. Look at what’s going on here: Look at the intensity on that guys face as he aims a feeble little pistol at a GIGANTIC KILLER VAMPIRE BAT OUT FOR BLOOD! Look at the giant idol in the background glowing ominous bright light. Is it treasure? Or Death! Obviously they were going for a little Indiana Jones thing here…look in the lower right hand corner where you can see other “events” from the game, white water rafting , swinging on a rope across chasms! The art here (and often in Struzan’s work) was to encapsulate the entire experience of the movie in one picture. Here, we can witness the excitement, the adventure that we’re in for!

 And then the game looks like this :



Yeah, not quite the same. Broderbund, as you’ll see, has some of the best cover art on the system promising all kinds of fun and excitement from the game cartridge within. Unfortunately their games are usually terribly boring affairs with baffling graphics and clunky gameplay…but we’ll get to Deadly Towers another day. 

Game:

Spelunker is a 1987 Platformer from Broderbund that originally started life as a Commodore 64 game. You are the unnamed Spelunker looking for treasure and adventure in caverns of old. There’s a time limit though, you have both an air gauge that you have to maintain with little air tank scattered around the levels and there is the ever present ghost that will appear if you linger in one place for too long. Interestingly enough, 2009’s Spelunky has a VERY similar feel to this obscure title right down to the ghost that appears to menace you throughout the game! 


Comments:

It’s simple: collect treasure, bypass traps and AVOID THE GHOST!! 

Simple little puzzler/platformer where you have to “spelunk” an increasingly complex cave in which you pick up golds (bags & coins) and avoid Bats, water, traps, falls, ghosts…oooh, the ghosts! 


So, you’ll be running along, jumping over objects, setting bombs to get rid of rocks when all of a sudden the music will go eerie and a ghost will appear! Everything goes silent as the ghost slowly moves closer to you. It can move through walls and it WILL get you…unless you blow it away with your gat! Technically it’s an air gun, but, again, I point to the cover with Mr. Spelunker up there taking out WILD VAMPIRE BATS with a handgun!

This game is pretty punishing, mostly due to the tendency of the game to kill you if you fall from even the slightest distance. We’re talking if you even fall a foot, you’re dead. For example, let’s say that you’re climbing a rope and you want to get off, you have to make sure that you climb all the way down (even if the distance doesn’t look like it’s that far) because the slightest drop will result in your death. You really only have about the height of your character to fall, any more and you die. 


This a forgettable game really. The only thing about it that I remember is the little eerie musical cue when the ghost appears and the GAME OVER music, which was also equally creepy. 


Oh, the opening is pretty creepy too musically. Very ominous, especially for a lighthearted spelunking game. 



Plus/Minus:– Seemingly arbitrary falls can kill you.
– When they talk about annoying music in video games, this is what they were talking about.
– That fucking ghost! Get it away from me!!
+ Was the genesis of a much better game. 


Media:




 



Game.008 | Sega Genesis – Rambo III – (1989)

Title: Rambo III 

Released: 1989

System: Sega Genesis 

Developed: Sega

Published: Sega

Genre: Action (Movie Tie-in)

Cover Art:


Whoa! Is that a movie poster used for cover art? Yes. Yes it is. It’s a pretty good one too. Giant sweaty Sylvester Stallone featured up there in all his roided out glory (along with that sweet hi-tech explosive bow and arrow set piece of his) looks suitably pensive as he looms over the entire Afgan army below. It really brings home that one man alone versus an army feel (but we all know it’s the ARMY that’s really in trouble!). Like most movie games, the cover doesn’t have to sell the game, the game has already been sold by the movie itself, still this is quality work by a master (Renato Casaro, if you wanted to know, find more of his stuff here). No complaints at all!

Game:

Based on Rambo III, you are John Rambo on a mission to infiltrate various bases, military installations, prisons in relatively short, intense levels filled with explosions and, well, explosions. You know it’s going to be rockin’ good times when the game starts like this.

Comments:

Y’know, going through my list of Genesis games that I’ve owned, I noticed that I had a LOT of licensed titles; I’m willing to bet a lot of kids back then did. Now today, as snobby, genre savvy gamers, we all kind of crap on these cheap cash-ins, not without good reason mind you as most of them are pretty poor, but a decent amount of these were good games back in the day. 

Rambo III is one of these games that was not so bad for a movie game. Actually, it’s quite good. The Plot? Well, you’re RAMBO! …obviously, and your mission…you know, I’ll just let digitized Red Forman explain it: 



Yes, Rambo, only you can help him! That’s pretty much the plot of the movie anyway, so I can’t really fault the game for that one. All I really remember about the movie is that sweet explosive tip arrow and the most intense headband tightening scene ever!


Check it out!





Come to think of it, It was pretty cool seeing REAL LIVE (stills) OF ACTORS in your video game though when you were a kid. That was VERY rare back then, kind of made you feel grown up! 

Speaking of grown up, doing this project, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of video game adaptions of movies that had hard R ratings; and remember, the video game market at this point was strictly aimed towards children throughout the 80’s and most of the 90’s. Were they assuming that their target audience was allowed to watch movies like Rambo, Robocop, Predator, Total Recall, and the like? I guess so because every little 8 yr old bastard in my 3rd grade class not only SAW Robocop but played with the toys, had the video game and watched the cartoon. YES A CARTOON! Of Robocop! You know, the movie with THIS scene in it:




As I’ve explained to my nephew who goes to a school where a bio hazard needs to be declared if a kid cracks open a packet of peanuts, it was a different time.


I’m sorry, I’ve gone WAY off track here, we were talking about Rambo III. This is actually a really good shooter, a top down perspective with some of the most satisfying 16-bit explosions that I’ve ever seen in a game like this. Oh, except for certain times when it goes “pseudo 3D” for some sweet bow action as you take down a HELICOPTER (and later TANKS) with one shot from your super charged bow!. 



Objectives would be simple, rescue prisoners, blow up a certain amount of the enemy’s weapons and vehicles, or just make it through an area alive. You get your machine gun with unlimited ammo, but your real firepower lies with your explosive tipped bow (hold down on the B button to charge it for maximum damage!) and your timed explosives, which you can set anywhere to take down enemies in towers, take out trucks before they spawn more soldiers or just to cause mayhem!


Oh and I LOVE the way things blow up in this game.


Beautiful!

This is a fun, fairly quick shooter that defies the usual “shitty” tag associated with games based on movies. Check it out!

Plus/Minus:
+ Very fun shooter in the vein of Ikari Warriors or Guerrilla War

+ Blowing up shit is always cool, destructible environments and vehicles (!) were a rarity when this game was developed.

Media:




Game.007 | Game Boy – Malibu Beach Volleyball – (1990)

Title: Malibu Beach Volleyball

Released: March 1990

System: Nintendo Game Boy


Developed: TOSE

Published: Activision

Genre: Sports


Cover Art:

Playing with the boys! Look at the intensity on that dudes face! I don’t know where this stock photo came from, but at least it’s not lying to you. Yes, there is volleyball playing in this game. And yes, it is radical and probably tubular. Look at the greens and pink neon, along with that bodacious blue scribble framing the photo. Bossa Nova. (Chevy Nova?)

Game:

Called Seaside Volley in Japan (with less radical box art), this dead simple volleyball game is basically just doubles tennis only with a volleyball. There are no more than two players per side and matches are played to the best of one or three games. Games are played to 15 points. Some pretty bitchin’ moves though as there is some limited movement and you can spike the ball. So, there’s that! 

Comments:

This game was acquired in one of my many ill-conceived trades at summer camp. I forget what I traded for it, but I KNOW it had to have been better than fucking volleyball. 

Thoughts about this game? It’s volleyball. Primitive volleyball at that. We’re talking, launch title NES primitive. I know it’s on the Game Boy, but this is 1990, WAY after games like Batman and Final Fantasy Legend were released on the system. 



Anyway, what I remember most about this game is I don’t know where the fuck this cart is. I had it THAT summer, the summer that I traded for it, played it a bit, took it home and put it with the rest of my collection and it fucking disappeared. When I moved way to college and, in another ill conceived decision, pruned away most of my gaming collection by selling it to Funcoland (hey! remember that place?), I still never found this game. To this day I don’t know what I did with it, no idea where it went, it is fucking G O N E. 



Plus/Minus:+ Simple addicting Volleyball. This would be a .99 cent app today.
+ Minor 8-bit T n A
+/- Erm, it’s volleyball. 

Media:
Big ups to YouTube user Patryk429 as he plays 1:21:15 of mind numbing, Game Boy, grayscale (greenscale?) volleyball for your amusement. 







It’s a bummer man.

Game.006 | PC – Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix – (2002)

Title: Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix

Released: 2002

System: Windows, Xbox, OSX


Developed: Raven Software 

Published: Activision

Genre: First Person Shooter


Cover Art:

Special Ops guy is in your face with his silenced MP5. Ooh. Intimidating. I guess the “Matrix” back there is the titular “double helix”…you know, cause the game is subtitled “Double Helix” so you have to LITERALLY have a double helix on your cover. Ok. 

Around the end of the last century and especially getting towards the middle of the 2000’s cover art meant less and less as it really wasn’t as necessary a tool to sell a game with internet marketing in full force. So a lot of “art” that would appear around this time was just terrible photoshopped bullshit like you see here. This was also kind of a trend in American media in general during this time period really, as supplementary art materials for DVDs and CDs also suffered from a distinct lack of caring from the publishers standpoint. Just slap something together in photoshop and push it out the door. Why have something as gorgeous as this when you can have this. Ah the early 2000’s. 

Game:

In this sequel to 2000’s Soldier of Fortune, you play as John Mullins, a freelance operative who has to take on a few Slavics, some Russians and any number of South Americans through 9 levels of globetrotting adventure in order to stop the shadowy organization Prometheus.  

Comments:

There was a time, in the early part of the last decade where two things happened: games needed to become EXTREME AND there were a dearth of Modern Warfare-esque shooters. 

Sure, there were games like Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Delta Force and Spec Ops, but these games prided themselves on tactical combat. The thinking mans shooter. There wasn’t really a…well this is 2002 so a “Quake” style FPS using real world weapons against your fellow man. Most FPS games around this time featured Sci-Fi style BFGS and space aliens. 

The only real recourse you had to satisfy your craving of splattering the brains of human related enemies with a MA1911 rested with World War II games and Counterstrike. Enter 2000’s Soldier of Fortune. Developed by Raven Software using a modified Quake 2 engine, this game was designed to satisfy your blood-lust for real world weapons and (here’s where the EXTREME part comes in) straight up gore filled killing! Gore zones people, gore zones! Limbs shattered, heads blew apart, CHUNKS of guys all over the place with a well aimed bullet from a Desert Eagle. AHH, violence! 


But I’m not hear to talk about Solider of Fortune 1 as I never really played that game outside of the demo, I’m talking about its 2002 sequel, Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix. I loved this fucking game. A slick combination of stealth, real world environments, real world weapons and all the dismemberment that you could handle. I wasn’t here for the actually very disturbing amounts violence, I was just glad to play a real, honest to goodness, single player FPS with a modern warfare tone. You can only kill space monsters with acid puddle guns for so long without getting bored, y’know. 

Oh the story was pretty generic: you’re a wet works agent (or retired CIA operative, or mercenary or something) you work for a secret splinter faction of the CIA, you’re sent to an eastern bloc country, there’s a mole, you get into a bunch of firefights, etc. Nothing to write home about, it was all about the game play. There were missions where you needed a certain amount of stealth, some missions where you had to use specific weapons and some that were all out war zones. You could crouch, go prone, lean around corners, very interesting and somewhat advanced game play for the time. In retrospect it very much feels like a prototype to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. 


I love the guns in this game; weapons sound and handle fairly real..or as real as I would imagine. Certain guns had different firing rates (single shot, burst fire, etc) which was something that I don’t think I had seen in games prior to this. There were mods, scopes, laser sights, thermal sensors…your arsenal was amazing. 

This is a very solid FPS, one that was probably missed by a few folks since the original Soldier of Fortune was fairly mediocre. If you would like to see where Modern Warfare began, look no further than Soldier of Fortune 2. 

Plus/Minus:
+ VERY realistic depictions of graphic violence. When people get shot in this game, I actually think this is what would happen to them if they really were shot in the face a point blank range with an M16A1.
+ Good pacing and mix of the occasional stealth missions and all out warfare (there’s even rail shooter, Chopper Gunner style segments). A winning combination that would later work in the COD franchise. 
– Game is grim as hell, and all the graphic violence is a bit disturbing, even for a cynical asshole like me. 

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