Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Lethal Weapon (Amiga)

Lethal Weapon Amiga Title screen
Today I'm playing Lethal Weapon on the Amiga by Ocean Software, the former kings of licenced movie tie-in games. The game came out just after the third movie and has the poster as its box art, but pretty much just does its own thing storywise.

I actually played this a fair bit when I was younger so it's not entirely unfamiliar to me, but it seemed like a good time to give it another look. Mostly because the music has inexplicably crept back into my head somehow and has been spinning around my brain on a loop this last week, tormenting me (but in a good way). This title music is nothing mindblowingly incredible, but it's catchy enough to be worth a listen I reckon: youtube link.

The internet claims that this was also released on the NES, SNES, Game Boy, DOS, Atari ST and the C64, so I suppose I should investigate them as well. I'm sure you won't mind when this ends up dragging on twice as long as it needs to because of all the extra screenshots.

The game begins with Sergeant Martin Riggs inside his police precinct, surrounded by doors. You can't really tell in this screenshot, but I assure you that his 80s action mullet is present and accounted for. You can probably see how weird the shading on his sprite is though; it gets less detailed the further down you go. He has a 16-bit head but the legs of a NES game character.

Here, have some more game music to go with the screenshot: youtube link. Doesn't sound even slightly like it's from any of the movies, but it works for me.

Oh, by the way there's a reason I'm balancing on the edge of this message board, like the world's cockiest, thinnest cat. There's only two things I remember from when I used to play this game you see: falling barrels are not my friend, and that the walls of reality are a little weaker in this area of the office.

lethal weapon bonus room demon monster
Entering the secret door takes you here, a room with four hearts and a mysterious demon who looks like he's wandered in from Parasol Stars or something. If he actually is making a cameo from another game and you can identify it, please let me know in the comments.

Anyway I'm counting this as a cheat and I don't do that, so I'm going to leave these extra lives sitting where I found them and play the game properly.

SNES
Oh shit, this isn't how I left my office! The doors are all still there, each leading to a different mission or options screen, but there are way too many chairs now and I don't like that one bit.

Actually this is the SNES version of the game, or more likely an entirely different game which happens to have the same name.

Also for some reason they've taken Sergeant Roger Murtaugh, a man who made it through the movie series wearing mostly white shirts and grey suits, and stuck him in a blue outfit with a white cardigan over it. Though his sprite does have way more colours than its Amiga counterpart, thanks to the awesome graphics power of the Super Nintendo.

I can switch between the two cops at will in either version just by entering the locker room, but sadly there's no way to bring them both out and get a two player mode. A bit of a shame really seeing as seeing the two play off each other was basically the point of the films.

I've got three open mission doors to pick from (the fourth is locked), so I decided to go crazy and live a little for once, and start with the first one.

It seems that the game takes place in a slightly different universe to the movies; a universe where cops are routinely sent out on solo missions to confront entire gangs of international criminals and 'prevent' them from smuggling. Permanently. With bullets.

I must work for the Punisher division.

Hey I didn't start off on a forest level for once.

You know, this really isn't a bad looking Amiga game. I love the distortion effect on the water... and the shark. Man, I didn't even know Los Angeles had sharks.

Oh right, here have another song, I hope it brings you happiness: youtube link.

That guy up on the floor above seems a bit shifty, so I should probably go up there and execute him for the state. But first... I want to see what the other versions look like!

Atari ST                                                                                      DOS
The Atari ST and DOS versions seems to be more or less the same as the Amiga game, though the colours ain't so pretty no more and the water effect is gone. The music's a step down as well, but they have the right tunes and they both play them reasonably well.

I can't say the Atari version plays so well as a game though, as the screen doesn't feel inclined to begin scrolling across until you've already walked a good few steps, then it jumps forward by a quarter of the screen and slumps back to a halt again. It's makes the game very jerky and doesn't give you much time to react to enemies.

Oh shit, an enemy! A bloody ninja just leapt out of the shark invested water at me and took off a quarter of my health without even firing a bullet. Fortunately Murtaugh has apparently been taking martial arts classes and managed to dispatch the ninja with two close range kicks to the face.

I wonder if I can go into that door in the background.

Hey I can go into the doors in the background!

When ninjas aren't invading his personal space Murtaugh automatically switches to his gun instead, which seems to get the job done just as well; except that it costs ammo, of which I only have a limited stash. This dumb-ass doesn't even realise he's been shot in the back and the bloke dropping on dynamite nobody in particular seems completely obviously to everything.

Annoyingly Murtaugh has a terrible jump, so I'm going to have to catch the lift to get up to the top floor. Riggs is just as bad, though if I remember right the two of them begin with different attack power; Murtaugh being better with his gun and Riggs having a stronger kick. Though I could be completely wrong about that.

Well the doors led me up to a blind jump. Nice work level designer.

And Murtaugh smashes into the deck of the boat below so hard that he bounces, shattering his spine and instantly losing the rest of his health. It would appear that I take falling damage.

It wasn't a blind jump after all: it was a dead end. I was supposed to collect the pickups then come back out through the door and carry on to the right along pavement like a sensible person. Now I've lost a heart, the level's been reset (minus the pickups) and I've been kicked right back to the start of it.

I think I'll take a quick break to check how the NES version compares. 

NES
... the fuck?

NES
You maniacs! You started a Lethal Weapon game with a forest level! Ah, damn you!

This seems to be a different game entirely, more like an inoffensive side scrolling beat 'em up than a platformer, so I should probably switch it off and leave it for another day.

I suppose the Game Boy version is a port of this game then?

Game Boy
No, not quite, though it's very similar. Lots of walking around the screen and kicking people until it scrolls across and lets me kick people on a different screen.

I like these guys that pop up out of little holes they've apparently dug in the floor of this shopping mall in anticipation of my arrival. I have to respect an opponent who plans ahead and goes the extra mile.


MEANWHILE BACK ON THE AMIGA GAME, I FINALLY REACH MISSION 1 - STAGE 2.


I finally reached the second stage of the first mission! I saw a password room back in the precinct, but I apparently haven't done enough to earn one yet (annoyingly), so I'm trying not to fall off this crane if I can help it.

But where do I go from here? It's a total dead end and it'll definitely end with Murtaugh dead if I screw this up and crack his head on the pavement below.

Oh no, they can't be expecting me to jump onto the lamp post can they?


MEANWHILE ON THE SNES VERSION.


SNES
Sorry I keep interrupting my thrilling Amiga adventures, but I have a lot of versions to compare here. Spoiler: Murtaugh can climb up those lamp posts, despite them looking just like the boat masts back on stage 1 which he definitely can't climb up.

It turns out that the SNES game is also a platformer and it does visit similar locations, but you couldn't really call it the same game. It has different level design, enemies, graphics, music, they've added a time limit, and Murtaugh waves his arms in the air like a damn fool when he jumps.

Also it has continues! The Amiga version on the other hand doesn't; something I learned first hand after losing all my lives trying to do an tricky jump from the end of a crane onto one of those horizontally sliding floating platform girder type things hovering around beneath it.

Well I was all fired up to give that second stage another shot, but having to wait for both the title screen and then the precinct to load before it let me retry has made me lose all interest in the idea. Fortunately there's two other missions here that I haven't tried yet. And the second mission is a sewer level!

It seems that this time I'm being sent to single handedly take down a group of suicidal terrorists before they can... extort money from the city. Or try to anyway, as 'save the city' kind of implies that they city has no intention of paying up.

So I guess I'd better accept then, if I'm the only man capable of saving the entire city from a huge bomb. Wait, are you absolutely sure I can't bring my partner with me on this one chief? Okay fine.

Doing well so far. I managed to walk about ten meters before being hit by a rocket from out of nowhere. It didn't explode or anything, just really hurt.

Hey assholes, can you at least wait until I can see you before you start opening fire next time? I'd rather not have to memorise these levels if I can help it.

In the end the rocket launcher guy is just a variation on the pistol enemies. I just have to dodge his shot, then send a couple of bullets his way, no problem. The flamethrower guy on the other hand is a little more annoying as he likes to monopolise the floor space with his wall of fire and deny me a good spot to stand and return fire.

Right, this part of the level ends rather suddenly with a brick wall, but I'm sure I can figure out the solution to this puzzle and I believe it has something to do with door #1.

Nope. Door #1 led me to a whole lot of barrels, two terrorists, and another dead end. Man it would be so much easier to take these guys down if I could fire while ducked.

Oh by the way, the exploding barrels in this game are renegades that believe the rules don't apply to them. The enemies like to hide behind them, as they can shoot through them and I can't, which is fine with me as detonating exploding barrels is always more fun when some idiot is trying to use them as cover. But in this game the explosions only harm me.

Really what I should be doing instead is using the barrels as a platform, as I'm entirely safe from guys like this as long I'm not on the same horizontal level as them.

In the end I gave up and checked a walkthrough video to see how to get that second door open, and it turns out I had walked past a switch. And here it is, right where the rocket launcher guy was standing at the start of the level three screenshots ago. Remember the grey shape behind him on the wall? Well I jumped at it and now it's red.

I'm not going to say "here's how they should have done it", as I'm sure they had perfectly sensible reasons for making their important door switch a plain grey octagon and then sticking it twelve foot in the air, unconnected to everything, but here's how I would've done it in a perfect world:

First off I'd make the switch look like some kind of switch. Then I'd make it as bright and detailed as possible, so it screams 'I'm important, pay attention to me!' But even that wouldn't really be enough, as a switch on its own is pretty damn mysterious and interactive objects haven't been introduced in the game up to this point, so I'd put a cable leading to the door, to either give the player a clue to what it opens, or give them something to follow back when they reach the locked door.

It's a shame because the background art has mostly been great up to this point.

Just when I though that leaping across tiny platforms over a river of sewage couldn't get any more fun, they put in more of those ninjas that leap out of the water at me, so close that I have to immediately react or I take damage.

Fuck it, I'm just going to sacrifice some health and run right through this section because this is kind of ass. It's actually making me nostalgic for Castlevania's leaping fishmen.

Huh, is this ladder a dead end? Oh right, there's a switch over on the left. Wow, they've put me in an entirely featureless room and it still took me a few seconds to notice it up there on the wall.

Well now I know what the ladder's here for, there's nothing left for me to do here but do an action hero jump off it.

Oh right. Falling damage. Forgot.

And so the loading begins. Actually speaking of loading, there's still a version of this game I've forgotten to play.

Commodore 64
Well, the Commodore 64 version is definitely similar. In fact at first I thought it was just a zoomed out version of the Amiga game, but it turned out to have different levels and even plays a little differently. For one thing enemies can take five hits to kill, Murtaugh can't duck, and hr walks incredibly slowly. He's somehow even worse at jumping too, though I do like the little 'boing' sound he makes. It almost makes up for the fact that there's no in game music.

The game does have a nice SID chip rendition of the Amiga game theme at the start though.

Commodore 64
But then it abruptly cuts to complete silence, with these two staring back at you during the entire seven hours it takes to load. Uh, might have been a little less than that, it didn't occur to me to time it.


WHATEVER, HERE'S THE THIRD MISSION OF THE AMIGA GAME.


Alright this is the third mission now, the final one accessible from the precinct at the beginning of the game, so I just have to get my ass killed here a few times and then we're done here.

Is that box over there a safe place to jump to I wonder? That nice solid shadow it's casting is making me think 'yes'.

Nope. It turns out to be a fence in the background behind a bottomless pit. Back to the last checkpoint then.

Oh it actually restarted me back at the start of the jump, well that's nice of it.

Actually this screenshot comes from my next attempt at the level, where I knew about the fence and tried to carefully jump across the pit from the ground level. But Murtaugh is terrible at jumping, so that didn't work out so well either. I have to basically be standing over the hole before I press the jump button if I want any hope of making it across (which is actually 'up' seeing as it's a joystick game).

Surprise collapsing floor planks! Just what you want to run into in a game with falling damage. They do look slightly different to the rest of the planks, with a pixel missing off the top corners, but that's easy to miss when I'm being harassed by barrels rolling down the walkways like I've wandered into Donkey Kong.

I gotta give them credit though for getting the shadow right on the falling tiles.

DOS
Meanwhile on the DOS version of the game, it seems they've over-compensated by making the falling planks absolutely impossible to miss. They couldn't be more obvious if they had flashing warning lights on them. Also I'm sure I can jump further in this version, as I'm making it across every gap effortlessly this time.

You know, despite the art and music, this might turn out to be the best version of the game to play.


LATER, ON THE WAY BACK DOWN ON THE NEXT STAGE.


DOS
So, I have to hit the switch mid-jump then? What will that do, give me the rest of my ladder and let me climb down? I can't see anything else around it could activate.

It didn't much matter in the end as I messed up my jump and got game over'd before I had time to really think about it. Every failure here is instant death, kicking me back up to the start of the stage. Though at least the switches stay on.

So I turned the game off and decided to watch someone else complete the stage on youtube to see what I was meant to do... and on the level immediately after this there was a perfectly normal and obvious switch looking not so different to the one I just pixelled sitting on the back wall in a semi-sensible place:

If they've got actual switch tiles, then why didn't they use them in place of those octagonal switches I just passed? Some of the choices they've made in this game just make no sense to me. I'm going back to the NES version. Back to nature.


MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE NES VERSION.


NES
Are those... pyramids? Never mind, I'm out. I'm just walking away from the games.


Okay my opinion on the Amiga/ST/DOS variety of Lethal Weapon is thus: it's alright, looks decent, controls well, but I didn't enjoy it much. It's way too fond of pixel-perfect jumps and surprise enemies. I'm sure I could've put up with a lot of the quirks and frustrations a little longer though if it hadn't been so quick to drag me right back to the title screen every three or four times I fell off a building. It completely kills any 'one more try' appeal the game had going for it, for me anyway.

I can't really recommend the game, though I can recommend the soundtrack. It's by Barry Leitch (Lotus 2, Space Crusade) and Dean Evans (Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues) and it's catchy enough to still be stuck in my head after all these years.


Thanks for reading all those words I just wrote about some ancient movie tie-in game on the Amiga. Huh, you actually just scrolled through the screenshots and then read the last two paragraphs instead? Well that's fine too I guess. Comments are always welcome either way.

5 comments:

  1. Another great review!

    Also, I think you should give the game "Spelunky" out for a spin. It comes out in a day on steam, and it is really great yet hard at the same time.

    I am sure it will make you want to not give it even a star and yet give it a prize at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First you praise me, then you try to destroy me!

      Spelunky is actually on my list (and my hard drive), though I can't really make it a priority as the site's already starting to turn into Super Adventures in Recently Released Bastard-Hard Indie PC Platformers and I'd like to space them out a bit better. Expect it when you see it I guess.

      Delete
  2. Ray, could I make a suggestion to save you some time.

    Don't bother about looking at every version of an old game that was on several platforms, your thoroughness is commendable but we are all running on emulators now anyway.

    I would suggest drawing the line at the 8-bits (is anyone really going to choose a C64 version of a game if they have a 16-bit available?) and just focus on the SNES, Amiga, etc. which are by far the most popular emulators, this will give you more time to try out other cool games.

    Love the reviews, keep up the great work.

    Tom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the suggestion. It would make a lot of sense for me to limit the versions I play to systems anyone could plausibly care about (for reasons of time and boredom), but there's a couple of reasons that I don't.

      1. I genuinely want to know what versions are out there and how they're different. I'm not sure why I want to know this, I just do, and I'm presuming that if I care then someone else out there must do too.

      2. It winds me up when I see a game listed as being for 'Amiga, C64, DOS etc.' but when I investigate further it turns out that they're actually three similar games with the same name! Like in Lethal Weapon's case there's actually five DIFFERENT games here. I don't mind getting a screenshot or two to point that out, especially if it shows Riggs jumping on enemies in a forest level.

      3. A lot of people visit the site for nostalgia, not because they want to find out anything new, so I want to make sure that everyone gets at least one screenshot from the version they used to play.

      But I apologise to everyone who has to put up with my sidesteps into the 8-bit games, I realise I'm boring a lot of people to tears. But hey look on the bright side, at least I haven't played the Tiger Electronic Handheld versions! Yet.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for the reply, no no it's not boring at all, my post was out of sympathy not frustration :) But I guess you don't need any sympathy, as you have your reasons and they do make sense. Do I sense a mild OCD similar to mine?

    How about a couple of great 8-bit games to ease the pain, Starquake on C64 and Wonderboy 3: The Dragon's Trap on Master System, that one in particular was great with the different animal characters and was very deep for an 8-bit platformer.

    Cheers, Tom



    ReplyDelete

Semi-Random Game Box