Crime City (Arcade) review
"Remember Miami Vice? Or, failing that, the Lethal Weapon series? Well, from the two-word titles, right down to the main characters - the cool ADD-afflicted Caucasian guy, and by-the-book clean cut black guy - Crime City isnít ashamed to imitate. "
To begin: I love this game. I'm sure you know that, 'what games would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island' scenario. And yes, it makes no sense, but it's fun to envisage. Anyway, Crime City would receive considerable blocks of time on my travel itinerary to whichever sandy limbo found me.
Remember Miami Vice? Or, failing that, the Lethal Weapon series? Well, from the two-word titles, right down to the main characters - the cool ADD-afflicted Caucasian guy, and by-the-book clean cut black guy - Crime City isnít ashamed to imitate.
Meet Raymond Broady and Tony Gibson. Theyíre two tough cops who get the call to clean up the crime city in which they live, starting with handling a jailbreak situation, progressing to various other offense driven missions. Crime City is a jump and shoot side-scrolling platformer, so if youíve ever played Shinobi, youíll feel at home here. The same rules apply - just one hit and youíre dead (from projectiles anyway), and you've got enemies ducking behind crates and such, so that precise timing in this game, like Sega's famous ninja adventure, is paramount.
You wonít be rescuing children really (though the odd damsel in distress needs saving), nor will you be super jumping to higher ground, or using ninja magic. Instead, you will start the game with a basic pistol, and by killing enemies, you will find better weapons to trade up to (including, but not limited to an M-16) all of them having limited ammunition. Should you run out of bullets, your character can punch while ducking or standing.
Those offensive options would probably suffice in making this a decent platformer, but Taito went a step further and included an interesting - if impractical looking - roll move. Pushing the joystick diagonally forward and down will cause Ray or Tony to execute a roll that renders them invincible from enemy contact (bumping into an enemy normally lowers your vitality bar) though not from projectiles, which will of course, kill you instantly, vitality bar be damned. Rolling also covers ground faster than walking, and most importantly, it dispatches most enemies. It is particularly useful when you are dealing with a hostage situation and would prefer not to fire, or when youíve got a row of weaker thugs approaching you and you want to conserve bullets. Think of Ray and Tony's roll as a slower and less dynamic version of Blanka's roll from Street Fighter II.
Whatís even nicer is how you can execute the roll in midair! You can actually leap over a barrel, or some such obstacle, onto a higher plane and come down rolling on top of an enemy, effectively taking him out and coming to rest back on the ground on the other side of the rise. The move looks very impressive while being relatively easy to pull off with a little practice.
In addition to Crime City's side-scrolling levels, there are short sections that feature Cabal-style first person shooting, with your character featured on the screen along with a targeting reticle.
In keeping with the pervasive Crime City theme, the enemy line-up ranges from cliched to innovative. They include masked burglars using wicked blue tracer ammo, hostage takers wearing lightly armoured vests (make them prove that itís bullet proof!), to heavy machine gunners. There are more unconventional opponents too, such as Molotov cocktail throwers, jail breakers wielding only batons, and Doberman pinschers hidden in crates.
Everything is drawn well and the animation is smooth. The game's visuals don't stand out from other Taito offerings of the same era but they are certainly competent. The sounds are great old school fare, from your weapon firing, to chandeliers crashing, to the cries from some enemies as you 'roll' them. And while it's true that the score isnít varied, the tracks that are present are remarkably catchy, fitting, atmospheric, and memorable. From the moment that your credits register with the sound of gunfire and the 'Iím on a dead cool detective mission' first level and theme music kicks in, you know youíre in for a fun ride.
There are a lot of very cool elements in Crime City, such as shooting out the lights, making daring rescues, pounding your bullets through Kevlar, air rolling, firing the killer tracer ammo and more. But the game is still really a basic old school arcade platformer that is unspectacular in the looks and sounds areas, features mostly clichťd characters and a simple Shinobi game 'engine'. Fortunately, none of that matters when the game is this much fun. Whether I want to just blow through it mindlessly, or obsess over finishing it on one man, what is certain is that I keep coming back time and again for more. If you can find this in your retro arcade, add it to your extra large valise marked ''desert island toiletries, food stuffs and arcade cabinets''. Don't worry: it'll fit.
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 16, 2003)
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