Monday, 20 October 2014

RoboCop 2 (NES)

Robocop NES title screen
Okay, that's how you do a title screen. Shame they had to squash up the title a bit to fit it all in though; that poor letter 'B' has ended up overlapped and mangled.

Today I'm taking a look at RoboCop 2 on the NES, obviously, and I'm amazed that it's taken me this long to get a RoboCop game onto the site. Well okay my associate, mecha-neko, wrote a guest post a few years back about the 2003 PC game, but that thing's more of an eldritch abomination trapped in a crude video game form, and knowing too much more about it could drive you mad.

I've played a couple of the old RoboCop platformers in the past, but I've never seen this one before so it's all going to be new to me. If it's anything like the others I've seen though... we're not going to get on.

Pressing Start brought me straight to this screen, which informs me of my first assignment as a cybernetic officer of the law. Murphy demonstrates his feelings about the task by flashing his spiky middle data plug and sparkling for a bit in silence.

It's been a long while since I've seen the second RoboCop movie, but I definitely remember a raid on a drug lab, so this seems to be following at least some of the plot. Oh 'nuke' is a drug by the way, I'm not wrecking nuclear weapons here.

River Rouge, huh? Now that definitely sounds familiar... oh man, look at that RoboCop sprite!

He's even chunkier when he's stretched out to the NES's proper aspect ratio. Here's the RoboCop sprite from the first NES game for a comparison, because why not?

Huh, he looks like RoboCop. Not sure what I was expecting really.

Weirdly the designers have chosen to give him a bit of inertia in RoboCop 2, so it takes me a second to get to full speed when I walk, and he even has a bit of a slide when he stops. It's an interesting new interpretation of how a titanium cyborg would move, but I can't help but notice that it sucks.

This'd usually be the part where I completely ignore the manual and try to figure the game out for myself, but I flipped through the thing out of curiosity and found that someone's drawn little cartoons in there to show off Robo's moves.

If you ever wanted to see what the original RoboCop would look like if he ever tried a running jump, this is your lucky day.

Yeah I know his alternate universe doppelgänger leaps around a lot in the new film, nuRoboCop is an nimble and athletic cyborg indeed, but I've seen all the original movies and I definitely don't remember RoboCop Classic even once managing to get both feet off the ground of his own accord.

Well okay he did do that jaunty little hop once to get out of the way of a van, but that's all that springs to mind. I ain't even acknowledging the jetpack.

Oh shit, he can jump like a Mario Brother! What the hell kind of RoboCop movie did the developers watch? He's still two pixels short of getting up onto these barrels though, annoyingly. It can't be set up like this to prevent me from backtracking though, as the screen doesn't scroll backwards anyway... even though this came out in 1991. Even the first NES RoboCop game lets you walk backward! Nope, this is specifically designed to make sure I only had one chance of making that jump up to the walkway, and I blew it.

It's a bit of a pain, because there's some nuke sitting up there that I'm meant to be destroying and now I can't reach it. But I deliberately dropped down here because there was some other nuke placed next to the barrels as well! I'm so confused.

Like nearly all RoboCop games, it turns out that this is mostly about stomping down the street getting harassed by endless thugs. You'd think that their first instinct when spotting a near indestructible cyborg coming their way equipped with targeting sensors, trick shots and titanium arms that can punch through walls would be to get their fragile fleshy ass elsewhere, but they're all willing to make a go of it.

Of course I'm playing as an officer of the law, so I can't just open fire at criminals no matter how much they annoy me; I'm not The Punisher.

Nah I'm only joking! I've got a custom Beretta here with infinite ammo, and I'm encouraged to slaughter every single person I run into around this factory. Especially that bastard who keeps popping up from under a sewer grate, he gets a double dose of lead.

"BADDDAMABDMA", yelled RoboCop to the corpses now lining the street, spraying off a few more rounds for good measure. "WHAP!" he added, making obscene gestures with his other hand.

When enemies get close I switch to fists instead, but I'm not sure it makes much difference. This guy in the body armour can take several hits either way it seems, but the others haven't been putting up much of a fight.

Hey there's some more nuke down there, surrounded on both sides by water. No idea how they expect me to destroy that, seeing as I can't swim or drop down through platforms.

Oh shit, I dropped down through the platform! This place is a real death trap, filled with holes and water pits. It doesn't help that RoboCop is terrible at jumping. Sure he can leap nearly two barrels high, but he's got next to zero horizontal travel in the air unless I get a run up first.

Fortunately my cybernetically-enhanced instincts kicked in and I was able to steer RoboCop backwards enough here to land him safely on the pavement.

Hah, you can see what I mean about RoboCop having a few issues with friction. I'm actually in danger of overshooting the edge and sliding right into the water here. I'm only trying to get him in position to take a running jump to that next bit of land.

Well there he goes, he really did slide right off the edge! It's like RoboCop On Ice out here. Now I've got to replay the entire stage from the start again.


ONE REPLAY OF THE ENTIRE LEVEL LATER.


One last daring leap and that's it, the level's complete! I didn't even have to fight that guy on the other side, he just vanished when I landed (along with the nuke weirdly).

Damn, I only DESTROYED 22% of the drugs? No wonder Robo's so pissed off that he's crushing that brown paper bag with his bare hands; he is not a happy cyborg.

One-eyed RoboCop says: I WILL CRUSH ALL DRUGS BENEATH MY METAL FEET.

Strangely it claims that I inadvertently ARRESTED 20% of the villains somehow. I guess some of them must have survived their gunshot wounds.

The manual mentions something about "making physical contact with a guy" to arrest them, but it's vague on the details. I think I'm supposed to listen out for an alert noise, which means an enemy wearing a cap is about to run out at me. Walking into this particular bad guy instead of shooting them will then lead to an arrest.

It certainly adds to the challenge, but it doesn't seem all that fun to me. In fact the manual even specifically mentions that it's more fun to shoot them, so who knows what the developers were thinking there. "Fuck, our game is really tiny, what can we do it drag it out so they can't beat it in one rental?" probably.

Huh, I didn't find enough nuke so that means I need to go to the firing range? What's my aim got to do with anything? If anything it's my inability to walk backwards more than a few steps or jump up onto barrels that needs to be seen to; those are the things that are really harming my drug smashing performance.

Well here I am on the firing range then, moving my crosshair around and shooting the bad targets as they pop up. It seems I have to kill a certain number of them with a certain number of bullets, within a certain time limit. And shooting them makes them explode into confetti.

It's a little awkward though, as the cursor is as slippery on screen as RoboCop himself and it likes to drift for a bit after I've stopped moving it.

Plus the game doesn't doesn't really go out of its way to make it clear that the screen scrolls across here, so it's possible to miss targets popping up in windows you didn't even know existed!

To be honest though, now that I've learned to compensate for cursor momentum I'm enjoying this more than the platforming. Funny really, as as the firing range is supposed to be my punishment for failing the first stage. The penalty for failing the firing range is replaying the first stage, with the false hope that maybe you'll actually destroy enough drugs this time around. It's a very Sisyphean kind of game I guess.

Oh, but there is one catch:

I'm only allowed to use the shooting range to get me through to the next stage twice during a playthrough. After that I'm doomed to endlessly replay each stage until I finally meet their insane nuke and arrest quotas.

But whatever, I'm through to stage two now, and I've still got one shooting range second chance left if I need it, so I'll try not to worry about the things that don't matter yet. The way things are going I'll be lucky if I can even make it to stage three.


STAGE 2.


Uh, did I just enter a Mega Man level by mistake?

The arrest counter has been replaced with a screaming purple face counter on this stage, so I imagine I'm supposed to be walking into people to rescue them (without accidentally shooting them). Oh wow, Robo's got a purple lives counter now as well. Incidentally the number next to the battery is my health bar, which continually ticks down when I'm being hit. No invincibility time after taking damage in this.

Commodore 64
Here's a shot of the Commodore 64 version of game for comparison. There's six different RoboCop 2 games that I'm aware of, spread across seven different systems, but only the Commodore 64 and NES versions bare any resemblance to each other. As far as I can tell, the C64 version really is identical in gameplay to the NES game I'm playing now, with nothing obviously different about them aside from the visuals and the loading times.

Amstrad CPC
Atari ST
ZX Spectrum
Amiga
Commodore 64
NES
Game Boy
Even though they're different games, I couldn't resist taking a shot of all the other RoboCops anyway. You know, when they're lined up like this you can really tell that the top row of Robos seem to be animated in two halves, while the bottom row is barely animated at all.

But which RoboCop sprite is best? Well the giant Amiga sprite is a giant and has the most animation (plus a very shiny head), but I gotta give this to the Atari ST guy. He just looks a little bit more authentic to me, he stomps a bit more naturally. Plus it helps that he's got enough room to lift his arm up into a proper RoboCop pose.

I have to jump between tiny moving platforms here and catch the nuke mid-jump? Did the level designer forget that I need a run up to jump more than a few inches forward?

Actually I think I've got just enough space to do this, as long as I don't fall off while trying to step backwards. I might not make the moving platform, it's going kind of fast, but if I screw it up I should be able to use that blue ledge down there as my safety net.

What the fuck? 

Oh of course the blue block is just part of the background! How could I be so dumb to assume otherwise? Sure it's coloured basically the same as the platform I was just standing on and contrasts strongly against the orange back wall, but that was merely an obvious misdirection.

This bloody game...


SOON ENOUGH.


Taken away for calibration huh? I guess OCP must have noticed that he keeps throwing himself down holes and into bolts of electricity. Also his limbs appear to have fallen off, that's likely something that should be looked into as well.

Or alternatively they could just plug him into the high score table instead. That's your new task Murphy, keeping track of 8 sets of numbers. Forever.

Fortunately I do actually have infinite continues so I can jump right back into the level I failed on. In fact they're basically infinite lives, seeing as the only difference between lives and continues is that my score gets wiped when I continue. I'm sure I'll get over that somehow.


SEVERAL LIVES LATER.


Oh crap, I overshot the conveyor belt. There goes another nuke. Not that I would've likely been able to walk over there anyway with the floor pushing me the other way.

I land with the grace of a robotic elephant, immediately spin around to send a single bullet into the hostile on the right, and then rescue the captive simply by stepping over and touching her. I'm just that good.

SLAM! I took a few steps forward and got instantly compacted by a crusher hidden in the ceiling!

To be fair, if you scroll back up to the previous screenshot it is possible to see the crusher up in the top right, looking all innocuous on the ceiling.

BUT if you scroll even further up to start of stage 2, you'll see another crusher right there above my head next to the hostage... except that one didn't catch me because I jumped past it. So not only are these things hard to spot, but the game's subconsciously trained me to ignore them!

I did give the level a few more tries after this, but eventually decided that I have better things to do instead.

Robocop press start player 2
Like playing two player mode!

Two player mode can be turned on and off at the title screen whenever you lose all your lives, so it's possible for player two to jump right into your game, just with one small catch... they have to play it from the start. Yep each player is playing their own basically separate game, on separate levels, alternating each time one loses a life or finishes a stage.

They don't even give player two a different colour! I wanted to play as purple RoboCop.

I did manage to reach a new stage though this time, full of nuke to collect/destroy/whatever. Man it's such a NES thing to let the player jump up into the HUD like that.

Oh this isn't after the stage with the cogs, this is actually an ultra secret bonus level hidden in stage one. It's under two unshaded paving stones; if you stand on them and press down you slide into the ground and appear here. The only reason I found the place is because they tell you about it in that manual.

So, a secret level full of nuke huh, that has to be more than enough to push me way past the quota I need for stage one right? Well, kind of. After I collected everything I could reach above ground and all I dared to grab from the sewer, I still only ended up with just 72% nuke at the end of the stage. It was enough to get me through without a trip to the firing range, but it seems like I HAVE to find the secret levels to continue on through the game.

That is so much bullshit.


LATER.


Oh wow I'm making some serious progress now! Here you can see that I'm riding my jet platform around these cogs, collecting (and destroying) floating drugs along the way.

Actually I just left the title screen on for a bit and it started playing demos from the later levels. I still haven't made it past stage 2.

Demo RoboCop's going up against tiny green ED-209 now! How can he possibly win this fight without a Cobra Assault Cannon or some stairs? More importantly, where is this place even supposed to be? I don't remember the giant purple hexagon tile room full of TVs in the movie.

Then Demo RoboCop travels to space! Or maybe the rooftops; yeah that seems more likely.

Nice use of ceiling rockets there, they're always a stylish and ridiculous addition to any platformer level. Also Robo's still destroying nuke I see, so I guess that collect 'em up puzzle aspect isn't going away any time soon. Gotta find the correct route around the level to destroy 'em all!

Then finally Demo RoboCop meets up with the eponymous RoboCop 2 and they begin their final dance.

You know, RoboCop 2 really wasn't the greatest film, but definitely had some impressive visuals at times, especially in the final fight between RoboCop cyborgs Murphy and Cain. It was one of the last live-action blockbusters to use stop-motion with the intent to create realistic looking visual effects (before Jurassic Park came along with its CGI and put an end to all that nonsense), and it definitely did the technique justice. It looked even better than this in fact, if you can believe that. Though that is actually a pretty impressive boss sprite for a NES game I reckon.

Sadly walking into the boss turned out to be a terrible strategy, as Cain hits Demo Murphy's quick release button, simultaneously ejecting all of his limbs and leaving him in a pile on the floor.

This is a sad day for RoboCop indeed, and indeed all of Detroit. Now there's nothing stopping Cain using his new metal body to start an even more insidious drug empire, and soon there'll be little flasks with an 'N' on the side scattered in hard to reach places across the entire city!


CONCLUSION

I realise that I've only played through one and a half levels (plus a target range bonus stage) and that isn't really enough time to fairly judge a game, but I'm definitely getting the impression that RoboCop 2 is a bit shite.

The game is about jumping, shooting, and collecting flasks with an 'N' on them, and I didn't much enjoy doing any of it. The jumping is terrible due to the character's horizontal inertia, destroying the drugs is a puzzle made needlessly challenging by the way that you can't backtrack (and the fact that half the drugs are hidden in secret levels), and the shooting... well it's just kind of mediocre really. Enemies appeared, I pressed the shoot button and they went away (they never did manage to kill me). It's certainly not as bad as some of the other RoboCops in that regard at least, but it's not exactly thrilling gameplay.

I could've probably gotten some entertainment out of this, even with the awkward jumping and the surprise traps, but the nuke and arrest quota bullshit makes me want to split the cartridge open with a pile driver and reprogram the rom chips with a friendlier personality. Considering that the movies are basically about a man doomed to forever view the world from behind a computer interface, trapped in an awkward simulated semi-indestructible body and forced to endure a video-game like existence of constant shoot outs and action scenes without the comfort of normal human interaction, people sure do fuck up his games a lot.


If you've got anything you'd like to say about this game, RoboCop games in general, my website, or anything along those lines, you can leave me a comment right now! Share your insight and wisdom with the entire world... well, whoever ends up scrolling down this far anyway. I'll read it at least!

8 comments:

  1. Not only is it a good title screen but its existence means that the game has one up on the film; next time it's on ITV4 or something watch for the title that never appears.

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    1. You made me remember that the Ewoks films exist earlier, but there's no way you're tricking me into watching a RoboCop sequel.

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  2. I was right then: it WAS a Robocop videogame!

    I don't think I've ever seen Robocop 2 tho. I could, but I worry it's gonna suck and ruin the fond memories of the original. Only Alien and Terminator had sequels that didn't suck when compared to the original, when it comes down to it.

    Although the Robby in this game looks more like a R2-D2 from Star Wars! Or like one of those toys that you charge them and they walk on the table, you know.

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    1. Indeed Alien and Terminator had the only good, worthwhile sequels.

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  3. I never realized that the icon for "Next Game" actually featured a piece of art from that game until now. Dont mind me, I has the dumb. Looking forward to your thoughts on ROTT though!!

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    1. Also if you click it, it'll even take you to the next game! Assuming there's that there's a next game up for it to take you to (which there is in this case).

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  4. Great review. I realm enjoyed Robocop and the SNES and Robocop vs Terminator but never played this btw.

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Semi-Random Game Box