|Developed by:||Ocean / Imagine Software|
Developed by Ocean and released under the ‘Imagine’ label, Target: Renegade is a follow up to the arcade hit Renegade. It was a home computer exclusive, appearing across the various 8-bit machines of the time. A further home exclusive sequel, Renegade 3, would follow a year later.
You (and a buddy if you have one) set out to clean up the mean streets of some grotty back water and avenge the death of someone by some other guy.
Let’s face it, you know the drill by know. It is a side-scrolling fighter in the mould of Double Dragon, Final Fight, Streets of Rage et al. The plot is irrelevant, just an excuse to punch a lot of people in the face.
Cover art is often superfluous but sometimes you come across something that just instantly transports you back to a simpler time.
The box and loading screen feature the ‘Renegade’ of the title, a Bruce Lee-alike complete with shirtless top half and a window smashing flying kick.
Which is funny, because your character looks nothing like that. In truth he looks more like a Double Dragon character, not surprising perhaps given the similar lineage of the two titles.
As a Spectrum game, one approaches this with lowered expectations, which are thoroughly met. Characters are crudely drawn outlines, colours a garish mix of primary shades with that wonderful Spectrum proclivity to mesh together so that when your Renegade approaches a background feature, his translucent skin takes on the appearance of, say, the yellow wall.
The game is an equal opportunity face smasher though with a decent range of enemies. Punks with mohawks, axe wielding thugs, motorcycle maniacs, gun-toting villains, mean sisters wielding what appears to a particularly aggressive wand but I assume is meant to be a spiked bat of some kind. And not forgetting the dogs that leap at your face, jaws snapping.
The game is one or two player, the addition of a mate doubling up the number of enemies.
There are five levels to work your way through as you emerge in a car park before fighting your way through the city.
Your Renegade has a fairly decent move set for a single fire button affair. Stand still and you unleash a torrent of punches, whilst if you are close enough, you can grab hold of your assailant and knee him (or her) in their special area until they drop. You might find one of his mates has snuck up from behind so a shove of the stick in that direction lets you send out a reverse thrust kick to give him something to think about.
Motorcycle enemies are impervious to these attacks though, instead just ploughing through you. Luckily you have another move in your arsenal, a devastating flying kick that smashes the rider out of his seat to the floor. And it is the move you will come back to more than any other. Punches and groin smashes are fine but you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed as a thug grabs you from behind and you are powerless to prevent one of the other goons from rearranging your face. The flying kick on the other hand gives you decent coverage, enabling you to drop a number of enemies in one go. It Is not impervious though. Some brutes will simply punch you out of the air whilst on later levels, particular goons have smartened up and drop to their knees to avoid the incoming assault.
A selection of weapons are also available to keep things interesting, either found lying around the street or dropped by a felled enemy. They offer a nice change of attack but their use is limited, Renegade prone to the same enemy swamping as he is when throwing a punch. And with no discernible difference in the damage meted out, the risk / reward ratio of using them is debatable. Once picked up, the weapon stays with you until you are knocked down or leave the stage but fortunately they do not hamper you from executing other attacks.
Control generally is fine. It isn’t especially quick but your sprite moves nimbly enough. There are some adjustments to make though. You can only move or attack, not both at the same time. So if you wade in, hoping to swing your fists on the way, you are just as likely to find yourself hemmed in and taking a kicking. If you are caught, it can become difficult to disentangle yourself and if you are floored it seems to take an age to get back up again. On the plus side the flying kick seems to defy the laws of gravity, knocking over anyone who gets within whistling distance of your foot.
There are only five levels but they are packed with grunts to dispatch. You start with 2 lives and a health bar, which reduces as you get hit. The start of each level refreshes your health bar whilst reaching 50,000 points rewards you with an extra life. Enemies seem to take and dish out the same amount of punishment throughout, there are no nasty end of level surprises. Although watch out for the guy with the gun, a single shot enough to wipe out one of your lives.
There is no real variety here, outside of the occasional graphical change or minor variation in enemy. But it’s certainly a tough, satisfying fighter nonetheless and the level of challenge will keep you coming back for more.
The title tune is a weird piece that I’m sure I heard during a TV advert the other day. A variation to it plays throughout the game, although you can turn it off if preferred. Either way, the accompanying sound effects are limited, a punch or kick sounding little more deadly than rustling a crisp packet.
Still, a little tinkle plays whenever a character loses a life, either you or one of the goons. This is actually a great help as it allows you to focus your attention on the next guy without worrying whether the first grunt is going to pop back up again.
And when all lives are lost, a dispiriting jingle plays you out and back to the high score table.
It has been superseded by any number of scrolling fighters since of course but this remains a fun game to revisit. Short but tough, it will hold your attention and keep you coming back until you see the end credits.