Twin Cobra (Genesis) review
"Twin Cobra is Raiden with boxes. It's also an overhead helicopter shoot-em-up. A shoot-em-up that is mediocre at its absolute best, for a system that was inundated with shooters, some of them phenomenal. Without proceeding any further, it's safe to say that if you're not a fan of the genre, you shouldn't give this game even a moment's notice. "
Twin Cobra is Raiden with boxes.
It's also an overhead helicopter shoot-em-up. A shoot-em-up that is mediocre at its absolute best, for a system that was inundated with shooters, some of them phenomenal. Without proceeding any further, it's safe to say that if you're not a fan of the genre, you shouldn't give this game even a moment's notice.
However, die-hard shooter fanatics might have a tenuous interest in Taitoís Twin Cobra, and that may well be because they don't know enough about the sad contest. Truly then, ignorance is bliss, maybe here more than ever in a gaming context.
I remarked that the game is Raiden with boxes. You should notice this less popular Taito titleís similarities to Raiden right away; the boring music and landscapes should be evidence enough. But Twin Cobra looks and sounds worse than Raiden ever did! you cry. It should. Twin Cobra is about three years older. Still, you sort of pray that this Sega Genesis home version, released much later than the arcade original, would dress things up a bit. Please? No.
Youíll have a lot more respect for Raiden when youíre finished with Twin Cobra. As challenging as the newer game might be, here, off screen bullets frequently do you in. Your enemies are much faster than you, and you won't find any fairy to help restore some of your lost power ups after you die. Often your best strategy will be to drop the ever-present utility smart bomb in desperation, hoping that the circular explosion will absorb encroaching, approaching enemy bullets as well as doing some of the bullet-dispensers in the process. I call this the tried and true 'room to breathe' technique, and it should never figure so prominently in a shooter as it does in this game.
Enough with the Raiden comparisons though. About those boxes. Playing through the very vapid first level consisting of helicopters that look just like yours, as well as the inevitable tanks and turrets, will allow you to face the first of many boss 'boxes' to follow. It moves slowly, and spews yellow bullets. As much as you might not want to - get used to this.
Area two replaces tanks with boats, and the specialty choppers that drop power ups will be replaced by massive airplanes with the same role. As the presence of boats might indicate, much of this sleepy stage is set above water. Unfortunately, the water does not move. At all. Not even a simplistic, two-frame rippling effect could be mustered by developer Taito, and publisher Toaplan (two big names in shooters to be sure, but Twin Cobra for the Genesis must have been an unfinished project released mistakenly, surely). If you're used to Genesis powerhouse games like M.U.S.H.A., you'll come to the realization all the more painfully that Twin Cobra has more in common with the bland and archaic Xevious, than the aforementioned Compile hit.
Still blue waters (snicker) sitting serenely between blocky buildings serve as the backdrop for stage three. A single blue box with a confounding bullet pattern was stage two's boss. Well now, stage three gives us two boxes to face, at the same time (oh joy)! At first, stage four will seem more promising, providing waves of giant battleships for target practice, but the familiar boss boxes still make their appearance.
It will start to dawn on the player at this point that this is how it's going to be.
Levels will include helicopters that are palette swapped copies of your own, as well as simply drawn tanks and boats, ultimately culminating with two boxes for every boss (my mind plugged those last words into the tune for ''Two Girls For Every Boy'' momentarily, giving me a laugh - which was more entertainment than the game itself could provide). For even more comedy, later on pairs of boxes do-si-do while firing at you. I laughed here too, until I realized that they did not stop firing. Ever.
It gets worse. In the marsh lands of area five, I began to realize that the game had no qualms about restarting you right on top of enemy turrets after you died, with no power up-bearing choppers anywhere in the vicinity. Better that you should die and be respawned right in the thick of the action. The idea of restart points is to give the player a chance to tool up a little as he returns to the thick of things. Not here. Twin Cobra just wants an excuse to piss you off further: ''He died, let's put him in a place where he's likely to die again, only now he'll have lost everything and be more likely to die a second time.'' And a third, and a fourth, and so on.
Unbelievably, in those same area five marshlands, we get more bad news. Yellow choppers will descend to your level near the bottom of the screen as the other coloured choppers would in previous stages. The deadly difference is that they will hover erratically, wasp-like, and dive behind you - off-screen - curling back up to reappear on your other side. As they finish their 'J' pattern, they will try to ram your helicopter! I would welcome such devious enemy strategies in a shooter that gives you the required tools for such a strategy to be fair. Twin Cobra isn't that shooter.
Your weapons are long in powering up, and when they do attain their maximum destructive capabilities, they are quite underwhelming in both magnitude and majesty. The typical foursome are your only options: the blue spread (pray for it), the yellow 'plus sign' spread (a decent choice if blue isn't an option), rudimentary red (more washed out shades of Raiden), and concentrated green (absolutely useless).
With enemies that are often relentless, sometimes suicidal, and always swifter than your slow ass, you'll be dying a lot. Dying a lot means restarting, hopelessly outgunned by enemies that come in wide, outside your puny, default, thin red lines of fire - and that means even more deaths. Not fun.
There are cheats available for Twin Cobra. One gives you eight smart bombs, one gives you a fully powered version of whatever weapon you're currently using. When I used both codes, I realized that the game played a lot better, because even though you're still as slow as chewing gum hardening on the sidewalk in the August sun, the pumped up arsenal will afford you a fighting chance. The irony here is a good indication of a poorly designed game: you really only have a chance of getting powered up when you're already powered up. It's something like the bloody rich getting richer, dammit, and we know thatís not right!
Having already described many of Twin Cobra's ten levels, I'll say that the game's ending is typically bad shooter fare, but the still shots are the best graphics in the game. They might even be great. Or maybe the excitement of the occasion coloured my judgment.
Regardless, at the heart of it, Twin Cobra is boring from start to ego-humbling finish. I beat it fair and square and hated it. I cheated to win and wanted to roll my neck with disinterest. So don't cheat! Not because it's wrong, but because only the constant dying will keep at least the shooter sadists among us interested, for at least a short while. They'll keep playing if only to say something like: ''I can't believe those yellow bastards killed me again! WHY AM I SO SLOW? THEY'RE LIKE WASPS, SWARMING MEÖ JESUS CHRIST MORE BOXES CANíT AVOI -''
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 22, 2003)
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