Monday, 17 September 2012

Judge Dredd (C64)

Adventures in Judge Dredd Games - Part 1

Yeah sorry I've gone crazy again and decided to waste the best part of a week on games no one cares about. No RPGs, no requested games, not even a Zelda game for the entire week. Just a guy with a big helmet and a metal bird on his shoulder shooting people.

Judge Dredd Melbourne House Beam Software Commdore 64 title screen
There's been a few games made about 2000AD's Dirty Harry inspired fascist super-cop, but this is the very first of them, released on the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum in the mid 80s.

I hear Dredd's comic book stories are actually pretty decent, but all I know about the character comes from vague recollections of the 1995 Stallone movie. So I'm pretty much expecting Dredd's going to take his helmet off about ten minutes in, then the rest of the game will be about his run from the law, punctuated by slurred one liners and a digital Rob Schneider giving his best imitation of comedy.

Judge Dredd Melbourne House Beam Software ZX Spectrum title screen
ZX Spectrum
The game came out on the ZX Spectrum as well, and I think despite the obvious colour limitations it's actually got a better looking title screen. Though his helmet's looking a bit squished on the left side there.

Not really sure how they could have messed that up seeing as it's a symmetrical object and he's looking right at us, unless they were copying it from an issue where he stops a train with his head. Still, it probably took way too much effort to get it even looking this good using humble Speccy picture editing software... if that even existed.

Damn, it sounds like the composer's torturing the SID chip. I dunno what the C64's sound hardware did to piss the guy off so much, but I wish he wouldn't take it out on my ears.

The game starts with various crimes like 'arson', 'murder', and 'comic book selling' popping up all over this city map. I'm assuming each is a different mission for me to to play, and I have to use the hovering robot cursor thing to select one. Arson sounds like a laugh, so I'll go with that first.

Hey, I thought Dredd was supposed to have green boots and gloves. Plus I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a bright yellow helmet. I'd put it down to technical limitations, except every other character on screen is coloured green just fine.

Anyway, straight away I find myself facing off against a robot dog and a TV-faced hover droid. Annoyingly though they seem immune to my bullets. Well the floating robot is anyway, I'm shooting right over the dog's head.

Though it's just occurred to me I'm here looking for an arsonist, not to blow away everyone and everything I see. Perhaps these two are just harmless background characters, put in to add a bit of life to the level.

Urgh, the dog's not harmless! Time for me to find another screen to be on.


Whoa, Dredd can really jump. I didn't even realise this building continued up past the top of the screen.

I wonder if I can go inside that blue door. Actually, I just want to try something first.

Just checking. Okay, now that I've wasted some more bullets... actually, no the bullet count hasn't gone down at all. That's strange.

Anyway, now that I haven't wasted some more bullets, I'll go and investigate the blue door.

Oh shit, cats! Or maybe rats!

Either way they were bad news for Dredd. They quickly swarmed around him like a school of rodent piranhas and nibbled him to death.

That didn't exactly go as well as I'd hoped. But that's okay, I'm still in the game, and there's plenty more crimes to stop. Like 'littering', or 'tap', whatever the fuck that is.

Well this looks familiar, shame I still have no clue what I'm doing.

Hey, wait a sec, is that a human over there on the right?

He was a human, and I was able to shoot him! And it looks like I'm getting points for it. I've finally found something to do!

Uh, you can't just yell 'BLAM' at people Dredd and expect them to fall over. Oh, it seems I've somehow managed to set it to :WARN: mode. Maybe that's his idea of a warning shot.

Well warning shots aren't going to get me any points. Time for an Elvis Presley Block massacre.

Huh, my points are going down now? I honestly don't get what it wants from me. Why does the game make no sense?

Still I suppose it could be worse. I could be playing the ZX Spectrum version.

ZX Spectrum
"Urgh" is right.

Judge Dredd Commodore 64 game over screen
"Game over. Crime is now raging through Mega City 1. Your final score is 0000500"

Room for improvement there I think. As much as I'd like to turn it off right now, I know I'll never be happy until I figure out what I'm actually supposed to do in the game. So I'm going to go and give it another shot.

Ah, so you can kill the robots! They just needed the right kind of ammunition. Unfortunately I was only carrying a small amount of it, and I used it all up here. But hey, I got some points out of it!

And then a few screens later I ended up stuck on a random treadmill in Gerry Anderson Block (nice to see the creator of Thunderbirds getting equal respect to Elvis Presley), which eventually sent me on a fatal fall to the floor of the piranha cats.


But I shall not be discouraged.

Actually I'm totally discouraged. I've already muted the annoying music, and I'm just looking for an excuse to turn this off.

You know, it seems I actually lose points for killing these civilians. Which makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. Still doesn't explain where I got the points from in the first place though.

WAIT, that guy looks far brighter than the others. I think that's my perp!

Oh for fuck's sake Dredd, we've been through this already. You can't just shout 'BLAM' and expect it to do something, you have to actually point the gun and pull the trigger.

See, like that!

Great, now I have to start again and find myself another criminal.


I made sure it was set to :KILL: that time. Shot to the gut at point blank range.

Still, swapping bullets with the guy hasn't helped my health any. I'm down to a chain link and a half on my chain-o-meter, and finishing a mission doesn't get me a refill.

Okay now I've crossed that guy off the list, what's next? Seems like a lot of tobacco smoking and murder today. I should probably just pick one and get on with it, before the screen fills up with crimes and I lose.

So I guess I'll go with... crap. Too late.

Judge Dredd Commodore 64 game over screen
I knew you'd say that.

I'm still a fair way off understanding all the subtleties of the gameplay, but so far I'm definitely getting the impression that this is a crap game. In fact I doubt it was much fun in 1986, never mind 2012. The music's painful, there's no sound effects, and it seems that the entire game is just Dredd playing hide and seek with the guy in white over and over again in a block filled with near indestructible robots and dangerous feline street gangs. I can't say I'm a fan of this one.


  1. About the asymmetrical helmet Dredd wears in the speccy version title screen. I think it has something to do with speccy able to show only a limited number of colours in one character's area (by characters, i mean like letters, which basically means that the screen is divided into blocks of equal size, perhaps, 8*8 pixels, each housing one letter) I don't know much about the Speccy, but I know something about programming Commodore 64, and it had a rarely used graphics mode, besides the basic hires and multicolor modes, which might have been similar to what I see here. If that really is the case, it's a hell of a thing to work around. So, basically, it's not so much a problem relating to graphics software, but more like a problem with the hardware. About the title screen on C64. Well, drawing a multicolor bitmap image was also tricky. You had to plan carefully which colors to use in which block's area (again, one block housing one "character") , or otherwise the colour would "bleed", filling the block next to it. Also, since four colors on one block was made possible by using two bits to represent one pixel, the pixels were twice as wide, making it also twice more "blocky". Just try drawing a pleasing image with those wide pixels. They, of course, could have also done the image the speccy way, and used a hires mode. Sorry, if this was slightly too technical, and hence, boring. But that's the way it is.

    1. That does make a lot of sense, and didn't even occur to me. I guess I should never attribute to incompetence that which is adequately explained by the Speccy's terrible attribute clash.

  2. My guess, with the helmet thing, is that the original artwork has a speech bubble in the way, and the loading screen artist was told to copy the image *verbatim* (minus the speech bubble).

    It's a famous pose but sadly I can't find the original. The manual credits Brian Bolland for the cover, but "judge dredd brian bolland" is futile because he drew lots of Dredd strips.

    "Gaze into the fist of Dredd!"

  3. Ah. Aha. A shufty with Google's "black and white" and I find that it's based heavily on a frame from one of the Block War stories - "I'm with Rowdy Yates block!".

    In the original Dredd's fist obscures the left side of his head. It looks as if the loading screen artist shifted his head to the right a bit, and wasn't very good. If only we could go back 28 years in the past and... 28 years, blimey. I remember reading the reviews when this came out, it didn't look much fun.

    1. Whoa, nice find. I looked up the image myself and there really is no way it can be based on anything else. Funny how the fist doesn't actually cover up all that much though. Not that it matter much if it did, seeing as he's facing forward and the other side of his symmetrical helmet isn't hidden at all.

      And yeah the game's not much fun, or at least I didn't think so.

  4. I played the shit out of this as a kid. I wish they'd reboot it! And that soundtrack ruuullllleeeeeesssssss!


Semi-Random Game Box