Retro Rated: Dangerous Streets

Factfile
Developed by: Micromania
Released: 1994
Format played: Amiga CD32

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Ruminations

What’s the worst game of all time?

Many would say ET on the Atari 2600, but I suspect part of that is that it has become the fashionable answer. In truth, how many of us have ever actually played it?

Custer’s Revenge perhaps, also on the Atari 2600. How about Rise of the Robots, Shaq Fu or the infamous Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing?

For the longest time, this was an easy question for me to answer. Cage Match on the Spectrum was the most lamentable piece of software I had ever encountered, the ‘gameplay’ consisting of attempting to run up the side of the cage before the deformed mutant on the other side of the ring did it first.

But I had erred. My mind had played a trick on me, hiding the truth from me for all these years. A truth that, once revealed, could never be untold.

Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the worst game ever made; Dangerous Streets.

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Background

Some context first of all.

It is 1994. The Amiga’s reign as the home computer of choice is coming to an end, superseded by those new-fangled consoles from Sega and Nintendo, the Megadrive and SNES showing up the old girl with their flash graphics, groovy sound and arcade perfect conversions.

But Commodore aren’t ready to lie down just yet. Coming out fighting they release the Amiga CD32, the world’s first 32-bit games console, doubling the processing power of its console rivals.

Despite some strong initial sales, take up of the new console is slow, the lack of first party titles a glaring omission, the nascent console seeming to offer little more than ports of existing Amiga games with only superficial graphical or aural improvements.

What the machine needed was a hero, an icon that owners could point to, a franchise to call their own. Sega had Sonic. Nintendo had Mario.

CD32 owners got Dangerous Streets.

Forget Street Fighter, in this one-on-one fighter from Flair, 8 ‘Mighty Challengers’ would do battle on streets so mean they’re Dangerous!

This was the headline game in the ‘Dangerous Streets’ CD32 bundle, so probably the first game that eager punters would play. Let’s dive in and see what unsuspecting gamers were in for if they pulled this off the shelf.

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Case For The Prosecution

There’s only one fair way to tackle this. Let’s start a new game and work our way through.

We start off with the title screen. Surely nothing to see here. What could possibly be wrong with a title screen? Closer inspection reveals some dubious looking artwork, the fallen foe at the bottom of the screen looking less like he’s been in a vicious fight and more like a dismembered body part from an episode of The Walking Dead. But we’ll let that slide. Instead, let’s enjoy the fact that a stab of the yellow button brings up the instructions, which helpfully tell us how to load the game, after we’ve already loaded it! And spare a thought for our more literal minded friends for this is likely all of the game they will ever see, the title screen offering no other option other than to press the now fabled yellow button. Being the adventurous spirit I am, I chance a press of the red button and we’re into the game.

Another title screen. This one tells me to ‘press fire’ for which I will assume they mean the red button, given that I have several to choose from. We also get our first taste of music as an intriguing piece plays in the background. And by intriguing, I mean in the sense that I thought my disc was faulty as an off key grumble sounded as if it was going to give out long before the main refrain kicked it. When it did, I was ‘treated’ to a lovely slice of generic electronic dance music.

On we go and now we get to choose our game type. I value my friendships and close relationships so this will be a single player affair, which is a bit of luck as the on screen graphic gives the impression that only one player can use the joypad, the other poor schmuck left to fend with a more traditional joystick. A one player tournament it is.

Now we’re into the good stuff as it’s time to pick our combatant. Our 8 luminaries are a swarthy looking bunch but brilliantly we get to find out their real world jobs. Choose from the blue haired guy who ‘works in a discoclub,’ a ‘teacher in a gymnasium,’ an ‘expert palmist,’ or even a ‘custodian in a old castle.’ Blimey, it’s near impossible to choose. The gym teacher looks nice, let’s give her a go.

Oh dear. A cat appears to have crawled into my speaker and died. No wait, my mistake, that’s actually an attempt at speech as a truly horrific voice blurts out the name of the fighters.

But wait, what’s this? It appears that I’m fighting myself. Yes, in a truly random selection process, my first fight is against exactly the same character as mine. And by exactly the same, I really mean exactly the same as both fighters are wearing identical outfits! Cue hilarity as you completely lose track of which fighter is yours resulting in you flailing wildly at the buttons.

Not that it seems to matter all that much. Control is awful, the fighters jerking around the screen horribly. As is standard for this type of fare, each combatant has a series of special moves. The gym lady seems to have two main specialisms. Firstly the ‘turn her bum cheeks round’ manoeuvre, topped by what I think has to be the absolute pinnacle of fighting moves, a move so devastating that it truly has to be seen to be believed.

A block.

No, I don’t mean she puts her arms up to defend herself. I mean she literally turns into a block. Look!

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Okay, maybe I was just unlucky, let’s choose someone else, the castle custodian perhaps. Let’s ignore for a second that he’s blue. I’ll even put aside the fact that he seems to have springs on his feet. What I can’t quite get past is that his special move appears to be to generate an octopus from his head. And things don’t get any less weird, my own particular favourite the truck driver with his deadly move of taking his hat off or opening up his stomach to send out a mini-me to attack!

There is some humour to be had here I suppose. You can’t help but laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all and the way the character faces on the scoreboard get more bashed up as your fighter takes punishment is quite amusing. But once that wears off, sober reality kicks in. Graphically this is an absolute mess. Backgrounds are C64-quality garish messes, characters are poorly drawn and horrifically animated. Sound is woeful, the attempt at speech enough to embarrass a Spectrum coder, in game effects sound like a passing breeze whilst the music is the sort of thing you’d expect to find in the lamest of platformers. But by far the biggest crime is how the thing controls. There is no weight to any of the characters, limbs flap around like they have a life of their own. I managed to win half of my fights by literally standing still and holding down a single button as my idiot of an opponent walked straight towards me. If you do conspire to lose there are no second chances, the game dumping you back to the title screen with little fanfare.

And let’s get something straight here; the CD32 might not have been the greatest games machine ever devised but this it was capable of far more than this. The Amiga was never particularly home to quality fighting games, the one button joystick limiting the player’s options, something the multi-button CD32 pad should have no issue with. That said, the conversion of Mortal Kombat on the humble A500 was a great success, as to a lesser extent was Body Blows, whilst the ageing IK+ showed what could be achieved. And on the CD32 itself Shadow Fighter would demonstrate that it was not the hardware to blame.

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Bottom Line

By some distance the worst ‘game’ I have ever had the misfortune to play.

This really is complete and utter dross from start to finish.

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