Altered Beast (Arcade) review
"[Man, those guys that were just playin' this game sure were acting a little weird...] "
[Man, those guys that were just playin' this game sure were acting a little weird...]
Right when I first stepped up to Altered Beast, I knew there was something amiss. I plunked a couple of quarters into the slot and took my place on the left-side stick, staring at the screen with curiosity. "What was an 'Altered Beast'?" I thought to myself. This title probably had some sort of double meaning, I'm sure; games are not simply named by the special abilities of their protagonists, or else we would have seen such popular titles as "Chubby Plumber That Throws Fire From His Gloves" or "Spikey Mammal That Rolls Very Quickly". Thus, I sought to find the hidden agenda of the programmers', and discover what they put in the game that would give cause for such a title.
"Wise fwom youh gwave!"
[Uh oh...what the heck is with THAT guy?] The game starts off with a wizened old man, talking with a particularly funny-sounding voice [Is that a lisp?], bidding you to arise from your eternal rest. Bursting forth from their graves, Player One and Player Two - clad in reddish-purple and baby blue - thusly begin their trek. What is the purpose of their unceremonious revival through apparent necromantic activities? Judging by the pictures that appear in-between stages, there is a strange looking bald man that is torturing a young woman. Apparently, Uncle Fester has grabbed a poor lass, and is now taking advantage of the Addams Family torture room. These two swanky pals are up to the challenge of stopping him, as bidden to them by their elder benefactor.
But there seems to be something more to these guys, something deeper. This becomes very apparent when you see the two in action. They move along their set horizontal paths, occasionally deviating to a higher platform or on top of obstacles (such as tombstones), punching and kicking their undead adversaries. [Punching and kicking? The undead?] Unfortunately, their form isn't too precise on their attacking, almost as if they don't have much experience in fighting. Therefore, the old man - with the odd lisp - picked these guys for personal reasons, not because of their ability to get the job done.
Let's examine this duo further. They traverse the landscape, doling out physical beat-downs on freshly-created zombies, skeletons, and demons. One such demon is a strange, 2-headed dog-like creature, that releases blue orbs when pummeled. If one of our two heroes grabs such an orb, they spontaneously get bigger in size, ripping off previous articles of clothing so as to better accommodate their larger, more muscular bulk. Getting a 2nd orb will increase their size further, as well as giving an increase in range to their appendages. Finally, a 3rd orb awards you with a brief cutscene, wherein your character shrieks and transforms into a half-man, half-animal creature. [A ha, an 'Altered Beast! ...but where is the double meaning?] This creature, which is stage-specific as to what transformation occurs, has new abilities that allow it to manhandle enemies even better. Unfortunately, it is required for you to become this beast just to face off against the boss of each stage, Uncle Fester transforming himself into a nefarious creature of his own design; thus, it is mandatory that you undertake such trialing efforts, lest you wish to fail.
[Now...something is DEFINITELY amiss here.] The further along you progress in each stage, you are expected to defeat certain enemies and upgrade yourself - or, more appropriately, reveal yourself further - by grabbing the blue orbs. You become more comfortable with your surroundings and dealing with the people around you, and thus you have no problems revealing more of yourself to your peers. One might even argue that becoming the 'Altered Beast' is not transforming from a previous state to a newer one, but simply removing the mask to reveal the truth. After all, these two characters were recently risen from the dead, so it would be reasonable to state that their starting physicalities - that of smaller, weaker-bodied fellows - would be a changed state, and they slowly revert to their more natural form as the stages progress.
Upon beating down one of Festers' oversized bosses, however, he then sucks the orbs from both characters, forcing them to revert back to their less able status. This is followed by their subsequent placement in a new stage, with new enemies that they must grow accustomed to before stripping down and converting themselves back to a more natural, more brutally effective appearance.
Hmm...the lisp, the duel-male stripping as they power up, the change of attire to accommodate their surroundings, the revealing of their true selves despite what stereotypes they are assigned by "the man" (aka, Fester), the slightly "odd" way our protagonists attack and move about...I think I've figured out the double meaning behind Altered Beast. There are people out there that feel they are being repressed from who they are, and shackle themselves with a different image so as to pass through life without scrutiny. In order to become who they prefer to be, they must hide in the shadows, away from the prying eye of the majority, for they are a cruel kind that does not show a favorable opinion to such a group. Still, these fellows are not daunted by their task, and even seek to do good in the world by halting those who would willingly hurt others (i.e., Fester to the kidnapped girl). So do not oppress these characters, though they may hail from "The Afterlife" (sounds like a popular club of a specific entertainment category) and exhibit nuances that might seem a little...off. They are good people, they simply have a few quirks that set themselves apart from others. And in the end, is that so wrong? Just because someone may adhere to a few stereotypes does not mean they fit into the mold; however, we seem to have another meaning attached to the superficial evidence, which I feel makes the case conclusive.
[Uh...so I guess I know what was so strange about that pair of guys that were just playing this game. So THAT'S why they were holding hands while walking away!]
All right, so the game itself is actually...not that great. Maybe it's the ridiculous play control, maybe it's the unfair advantage your enemies carry over you, and maybe it's the giant bosses that are deceptively difficult to tackle...but you have to give the game props for breaking down doors. Eh? Yes?
Community review by reverend (September 12, 2004)
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