Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Retro Lookback # 3: Alcatraz - Amiga

Alcatraz. Off the shoreline of San Francisco and once home to many notorious inmates, the prison has been closed for years, it's residents long gone. Until a drug dealer named Miguel Tardiez came along with his band of thugs and took over, using it as his base of operations and from which he can distribute his narcotics all over the world. Enter a crack special forces team to tackle the threat, destroy the drugs and laundered money and save the day (hurrah!).

Essentally, this is a follow up to Infograms' 1988 title, HOSTAGES. Well, I say follow up, it uses the same graphical style and gameplay as its forbear, but to me, that doesn't make it any less of a cracking underrated gem. Best played as a two-player, the screen is divided into two, with player one on top (oo-er!). This is used for the first level, which is side on, and is set on the start of the island, with you (and your friend if you have one) having freshly arrived by rubber dingy, ready to start your mission. Near enough as soon as you start off, you are attacked. And near enough everytime you dispatch an enemy, they leave a weapon behind, be it grenades or a flame thrower or a machine gun which you can pick up and add to your arsenal. The status bar is minimal, with just your health (represented by 4 red blocks), lives and a small box with your current weapon, but, in this game, that doesn't matter, as the screen stays clutter free, giving you more time to see the thugs coming. The graphics are nothing short of great. Even though the game is near enough full of grey, it still gives a gritty, forboding look. The animation of your character and the enemy is second to none. It makes it feel like you're really watching a movie. The second level is a first person shooter, with you looking down coridoors, blasting down the baddies patrolling them and looking inside rooms to find stashes of drugs and cash and maybe the occasional bad guy. Once you've torched the cash (nooooooooo!) and the drugs (hurrah!) the action changes to another side scrolling level (if I can remember correctly). Then its a building scaling level, with you avoiding the spotlights, then onto the final confrontation with Tardiez, then onward and upward to the end of the game. Oh, and you have 2 hours to do it all in.

Sometimes the controls in the fps levels take a while to use, and are maybe too sensitive when you turn and when you have to move your gun, but apart from that they're fine to use. Some magazines at the time griped with the way you switch weapons (when you're hiding in the shadows), but it brings in a sense of tactics about how best to approach the situation. Another thing, as well as hiding in doorways, you can even jump over walls (you can tell which ones) when the enemy come a knocking. Difficulty wise, it's pitched just right. It starts out easy, then the curve doesn't go up sharply, but gradually, which makes it easy for newcomers to this sort of game. The sound is up there with the graphics, which sound amazing. The gun shots sound real, as do the explosions, the flame throwers give a good 'whooooosh' when you fire them and even the screams of the thugs you kill are blood curdling. Yes, it might seem to be near enough the same as HOSTAGES, but it contains enough gameplay within its 2 hour time limit to keep you glued to the screen, wanting to find out what happens next.

Heartly recommended to fans of Metal Gear Solid, the game is a must. Go. Buy it. You know you want to.


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