Today on Super Adventures I'm playing an hour or so of Undercover Cops, a 1992 arcade game developed by Irem. You should probably just ignore the title though, as it's likely going to feature about as much actual police work as a Streets of Rage game. It's really about people in jeans and shoulder pads punching other people in jeans and shoulder pads, while walking over to the right for several stages in a row in order to eventually save the city from a mad doctor. At least that's what Wikipedia says.
Wikipedia also says that many of the folks who worked on this later split off from Irem to form the Nazca Corporation and create the legendary Metal Slug franchise, so I won't be entirely shocked if this turns out to look kind of amazing for its time. In fact I've gone and got my hopes up now.
Eight mysterious people gather around a mysterious desk in a gloomy symmetrical meeting room. I first I assumed this must be the mayor's office, but then I noticed the guy with the shoulder tassels and now I'm wondering if they're actually a shadow cabal of dictators and businessmen who run... uh, a town. It's just a meeting in the mayor's office isn't it?
Anyway the condition of the peace in this town is at the worst state in, like, forever, but the gentleman speaking right now has a plan to put things right...
Of course he doesn't literally mean road sweepers, no he's talking about sending in an ex-pro football player who was banned from playing due to false allegations that he was a 'dangerous man'. His name's Bubba, but his friends call him 'Fire Ball Crusher'.
The guy in the middle is the U.S. karate champion, who once accidentally killed a man with his bare hands, and the woman on the left is an ex-vigilante with both an excessive hatred of evil and leg warmers bolted on to her knee guards. Together they are... not actually undercover cops, weirdly.
Funny how the two guys' arms are almost as wide as the woman's waist, while she looks like some kind of regular human being. Seems that they've been hoarding more than their fair share of the steroids.
Man, how did Irem's artists pixel a recognisable hand at that resolution? That's some skilled spritesmanship right there. Bit of a shame though that Flame didn't think to pull that knife out of the Polaroid earlier to give her something to put in it.
Uh... are those two on the right trying to take a crap or something? Oh I see, they must be watching that TV.
No idea what the TV is about by the way. I can't even tell what's on it it; some bird-man waving his creepy bird-man hand maybe? I'm curious about this now, I wonder if anyone online has figured this out.
I can also do a running attack, a throw, and a super attack, but other than that my moveset seems pretty limited. I'm basically just walking over to enemies and hammering the attack button, and that's likely to be my game experience here in its entirety. I always struggle to write about scrolling beat 'em ups, even when they're as pretty as this, because there isn't usually anything new going on worth mentioning past the first few fights. You're going to see a shot of me punching someone, a shot of me getting punched by someone, a shot of some graffiti that made me smile, maybe a shot of me picking up some fast food if you're lucky... and so on.
Hey I just noticed that my timer reset back to 60. Doesn't seem like I'll have any need to rush through these stages thankfully; I've got time to slow down and smell the tuna.
Seems I can't afford to just walk right up and wail on him with my fists like I've been doing to everyone else or I'll get a pneumatic punch to the face, so this time I'm going to have hang back and wait for the right moment to strike. If only she'd brought the knife, she could've cut his arm cables!
MEANWHILE, IN JAPAN...
|Undercover Cops - Japanese version (Arcade)|
My character is even pulling out extra moves in combat, like headbutts. I've always been able to double tap a direction to dash forward and set up a kick, but in the Japanese version I can end with a jumping kick instead. It's weird how much was cut out or changed for the World release for no good reason I can think of.
|Irem Arcade Hits (PC)|
You can likely tell just by looking at the background, but the game that comes with the PC compilation is the World version with the missing moves and inferior artwork. There is actually a rare updated edition of the game called Undercover Cops: Alpha Renewal that combines the English translation with the Japanese gameplay, music and visuals... but this isn't it.
|Irem Arcade Hits (PC)|
The regular enemies have been fairly down to earth thugs up to this point, but these clones are all bouncing around like lunatics on one leg. I kill one wave of them, and another just bounces right in out of nowhere, which is a little bit strange considering that I'm halfway up the side of a skyscraper, but okay.
There are a few differences I've noticed though: props like the Humvee and the box of grenades are missing, you're limited to just 5 continues, and these hopping lunatics have been forced by Uncle Nintendo to pull their tops down a little to avoid exposing themselves when they're kicked across the level.
That kick that the woman in purple does at the end is amazing though.
Anyway, I could continue as Flame, she's certainly proven herself capable, but I think I'll take the opportunity to bring Bubba out on this continue.
He may go to the same hairdresser as Duke Nukem and he dresses like he couldn't decide whether to cosplay as a knight or an American footballer, but Bubba has the build of a bulldozer and the dogged tenacity to chase a pig around the screen for hours. And now that lunch is finally taken care of, I'm pretty sure he can handle anything this stage has to throw at him.
30 SECONDS LATER.
Yeah I just summoned a football made of pure willpower and then slammed it into the ground with enough force that the shockwave even sent Fatso here airborne, what of it? Shame it cost me a chunk of my own health to use it though.
Oh I'm not trying to be insulting by the way, she really is called Fatso, check the health bar. It's presumably an ironic name though, seeing as she's clearly all muscle. Look at the tone on those arms!
He's the bloke with the gi who kicks like Chun Li, and he has equipped both a beard and a mullet to supplement his machismo. It's possible he's named after Jean-Claude Van Damme, but only in the Western release, as in the original version he's a Japanese guy called Zan. Yup, the names Claude, Bubba and Flame were added during translation, as Zan Takahara, Matt Gables and Rosa Felmonde were apparently considered too weird/mundane for English speaking audiences.
Still, those explosion effects are amazing. If I absolutely had to blown up by something today, I'm glad it was by something so well animated.
Sorry Claude, you had a good (but short) run, but it's time to bring out a professional vigilante to get this job done properly.
FOUR CONTINUES LATER.
The guy likes to dive in and out of the ground, and smack me when I get close, so he's a bit of a bastard to get within punching range of, and as you can see he's a bit of a bastard at a distance too. Fortunately I have one advantage in this fight... I wasn't actually planning on winning it! I've already got all the screenshots I need, so when he strikes me down that'll just gives me the excuse I was looking for to turn the game off and walk away.
Wait, fuck, I didn't want to win this! It's all going wrong.
I made it this far on the Japanese version as well, but man it was a struggle, and I'm not entirely sure what was making it so much more difficult. I can tell you though that this is a game you really don't want to get surrounded in. Okay, I'm done now, I'm turning it off.
Undercover Cops looks too damn good for me to ever really dislike, I love that awesome 90s Irem arcade art style, but man when those mole ninjas and slide-kicking bikers turned up I sure wanted to.
I'm not a massive fan of scrolling beat 'em ups, so I think half my problems with the game are more like issues with the genre itself. It's very repetitive, sometimes you find your punches aren't connecting because you're not lined up right, you can get stuck in the middle of a group but only attack in one direction at a time, and it seems like it takes a half-second too long for your dude to jump out of the way of an incoming slide-kicking biker... man I hate those guys. I found that I always wanted my character to be a bit more agile than they were, but those bikers made it readily apparently how crap I was at getting out of the way.
The game has five stages and I found I could fly through the first three fairly fast, but it's an arcade game so you wouldn't expect it to last all that long anyway. I just wish there was a bit more variety to it. It doesn't necessarily need some awkward platforming section or an impossible hoverbike tunnel sequence, but maybe something more fun and interesting than 'the floor is now bombs and there are tiny moles leaping for your face' would've been nice.
If you enjoy the genre I'm sure you'd find it worthy of an hour of so of your time, and I'd play it again myself, so it's an easy Gold Star. I liked it, but I didn't love it.
Also, it has nothing to do with undercover cops.