Robocop is a particularly good bloke film. Ladies, if your man has never watched this movie with a few beers and a bunch of mates then I'm afraid the truth is that he's not a 'real man' at all. A particularly violent, and really quite stupid, comic-book style movie interspersed with media breaks offering some biting social comment, there was an arcade machine version of the game released at exactly the same time. And, indeed, people have been arguing about how none of the home conversions matched the standard of the arcade machine ever since!
Right, what I am not going to do in this review is to give you a diatribe on the subtle differences between all the versions. I'm reviewing the Amiga version here, which is exactly the same as the Atari ST version. The game was released by Ocean at £24.95 - which was a significant amount for cash-strapped schoolboys of the early Nineties. At that sort of cash, it wasn't really worth it to be honest - there's only seven levels and the playability is humdrum, if not positively mediocre! However, assuming you're about to pick it up to add to your collection then let's talk about the game.
You are Alex Murphy, reborn as a futuristic cyborg and ordered to clean up the streets of Old Detroit. This involves, for the most part, walking along a street from left to right, very slowly. Baddies with the Intelligence Quotient of mashed potato appear either on the street, or hang out of doors and windows. Some baddies employ a style of attack best defined as a 'Rambo-charge' - usually two or three of them at a time just stampede towards you. A punch to the head or body of each will send them flying; miss and they will rebound off your steel frame and die anyway - but will drain a little of your precious power meter.
Other baddies are similarly one dimensional. They appear at windows and fire some of the slowest bullets in computer-game history, rotating their position by 45 degrees in relation to where your police-cyborg is standing. Other baddies have guns or chainsaws - and at the end of each level you face a big R-TYPE-style 'boss'. On many levels this takes the form of ED209; on others you deal with a van full of mercenaries or Clarence Boddicker driving a crane.
There are some sub-games involving practising shooting at a target range, piecing together an old-style Photo ID of a suspect and re-enacting the famous 'defeat of the would-be rapist by gun shot into the testicles' scene.
And, um, that's it. Graphically this is a very good game. The music is reminiscent of the arcade original and the movie and there is even a scrolling arcade style intro and some quite pleasing effects. There are notable pauses whilst bits of the game are loaded in - nothing too substantial but there nonetheless - and the graphics have a sort of cartoony-feel to them. I am not sure if this quite fits. Clearly the game was aimed at a much younger audience than the 18-rated film - never more clearly demonstrated by an onscreen message telling Robocop "You are a bad dude" (as opposed to the line "You are a bad mutha-f*@!er" used in the movie).
Playability, however, is a wholly different story. The keys or joystick used to control Robocop are, truth be told, very awkward. Left and right work as expected but up aims your gun (if you have one) and down ducks. Which leaves you with the combination of down-then-up for a jump or, horror of horrors, lean over your computer and press the space bar! This severely limits your reaction time and the repetitive nature of play basically reduces each level to a memory test. That is, you need to remember when baddies will appear, which direction they will attack from and the combination of moves that will defeat them without them being able to drain your 'power' level.
The final big bosses too, are defeated with only a few shots. The ED209 of the movie is certainly a monster you wouldn't want to meet in a lit alley never mind a dark one - in the game it is reduced to a cameo appearance. Two or three blasts and it explodes and beats a hasty retreat. Not much of a challenge.
Also, am I really alone in finding the repetition of ED209 as the big boss something of a cop-out? Why didn't the programmer introduce the famous acid-bath trap, or the uber-villain Dick Jones' henchmen with machine guns in tow? The player is left with the expectation of a big boss because levels one and two are different. After that, his sentiment is very much Oh gee, I get to fight ED209 again, do I? Ho hum.
I tend to remember Robocop, the game, as a lot of hype around a game that does not have a lot of substance. Once a person has mastered the moves necessary to complete a level, it is quite impressive to watch them kick butt. But if you then try to play it yourself, you quickly become frustrated by the dodgy key/joystick combination and the game's peculiar idiosyncrasies.