Ah, the virtues of simplicity. The first thing that is great about Prohibition is that the plot is utterly simple. You move a gunsight around and try to take out as many members of a rival criminal gang as possible.
And as an added consideration you have to try to off any members of the general public who might be held hostage.
That's it Total game plot.
Sounds a bit dull? Wrong wrong wrong. Prohibition is a classic example of an utterly simple game idea which has been perfectly executed.
It works like this. Over a backdrop of a dingy New York street of tenements several Spectrum screens wide you move your gunsight. Suddenly, seemingly (but not actually) at random, a face appears at a window - find the face, move your gunsight over it and Fire. Kill as many of the bad guys as possible.
The basic problem is where is the next killer going to appear? You get a clue by some arrows flashed up at the bottom of the screen - they tell you vaguely the right area to look in but mostly it's up to you. Your time to find that face is limited - numbers tick away the moments until the killer has got you lined up in his sights and... well you can guess the rest.
The reason Prohibition works so well is the dodge factor. It has the same sort of nervous appeal that hide and seek used to have when you were young. Dodge is the hide bit - in Dodge Mode you won't be hit by anybody but it uses up bullets and, more importantly you can't Fire at anybody in this mode. This means you have to watch the timer constantly and make a judgement about whether you have enough time to find and kill the bad guy before it gets too late and you should have dodged instead. Usually you get it wrong - but it's that constant 'Shall I risk it?' that makes the game thrilling.
Technically there is some clever stuff going on in the game - incredibly detailed backgrounds have to be scrolled yet the effect is achieved pretty smoothly. The sheer excellence of the graphics means that after a few moments you automatically ignore the fact that they are only in black and white. It could almost be a digitised photograph of a real New York street scene, so realistic is the detail and so authentic is the atmosphere of crime and decay.
There is, you begin to realise a pattern to the appearances of the bad guys - obviously you can learn it and move your gunsight cursor into the correct position ever more quickly. The snag is as you get better so do the enemy - not only do you get more and more of them at ever faster intervals but hostages start to appear (mainly distinguishable by their lack of nifty hats). This means you have to waste precious extra microseconds figuring out - having found a face a window - whether to shoot or not. It's time you don't have.
Yes, it's a pity the game is only black and white, yes the sound could have been better, yes it's a very simple idea but yes I really liked it.
A simple idea brilliantly realised with excellent hi-res graphics and a pace of play that'll keep you interested for ages.