30 Games Of April – Day 8

Rise of the Robots
Factfile
Developed by: Mirage
Published by: Time Warner Interactive
Released: 1994
Format played: Amiga CD32



Picture the scene…

A Friday night in 1994. At 16 years old I am ensconced in my room, innocently flicking between Eurotrash and Fantasy Football League. As the adverts approach on Channel 4 I reach for the remote to flick back to Baddiel & Skinner but something catches my eye. As I sit slack jawed, a visual wonder unfolds before me. Robots hit the screen, slick looking graphics moving gracefully as the voiceover assails me with an aural assault of hyperbole. There is a videogame on the TV. A videogame! My little hobby that I thought only me and my mates were into. And here was a game that I had read about in Amiga Power, a game that looked incredible, graphics that seemed beyond the abilities of my humble machine.

As an early adopter of the CD32, I gleefully picked up Amiga CD32 Gamer magazine. Eagerly flicking through the glossy pages I land on the review of Rise of the Robots. As I try to take in the images before me my eyeline drifts towards the bottom the page to see the score. 90%. Wow. The game had matched the hype. I couldn’t wait to play!

But even at 16 I knew better than to trust the opinion of unknown writers (err, wait…). Having been on board since issue 11 I had built a loyalty to Amiga Power. Their review would be definitive, their opinion would help shape mine. And so as issue 45 dropped through the letterbox I raced to Jonathan Davies’ review. Here was a man who I trusted, a reviewer I respected. What had he given it, I wondered. 85%? 90%? Giddy with excitement I reached the 2 page spread, looked at the score and…5%. Oh dear.

So is it really that bad? Can it truly be one of the most abysmal pieces of software ever unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. A game so bad it directly led to the closure of its developer? Wish me luck, I’m going in.

We start with a rather spiffing looking intro sequence. Ooh. It’s clear to see where the budget went. If this was a PS4 game I wouldn’t bat an eyelid but for an Amiga game, this type of graphical prowess less makes me excited and more makes me think, ‘crumbs, I hope they didn’t use all the disc capacity on this.’ The intro is intended to outline the plot. Yes, plot. For a beat ’em up. Believe it or not there was a Rise novel as well as a film adaption planned. Now I don’t know about you but when I’m thwacking someone about the chops I don’t give two hoots what their back story is. They’re going to get a solid dose of what’s coming to them and no questions answered so this is all just extraneous guff.

Still, open mind and all that. Intro over and it’s onto the game itself. This is more like it. I control some blue dude and my opponents are hulking great lumps of metal. I can’t wait to get started…but unfortunately I have to as some annoying text insists on searing itself onto my screen one letter at a time. Finally this nonsense is complete and we can start swinging and that’s when the problems really begin. Harking back to that Amiga Power review, I thought they were exaggerating when they said they completed the game with one move. But switching the game to easy, I quite literally beat every opponent with one move WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AT THE SCREEN. The second robot in particular was a craven wretch, sinking into a ball in the corner to passively take his medicine as I bashed him relentlessly with my devastating robo-karate kick. This single move took me all the way through the game, right up to the final boss where a change of tactics was finally required.

But then who plays a game on easy? Switching to medium I unleashed my now legendary flying kick and promptly dispatched the first two robots without having to change tack once. By the third round, my limited move set had finally been rumbled and I was forced to explore other attacking options. The gasps could be heard from nowhere as I strung together a devastating combo of punch, sweep kick and jumping about a bit. You can vary your attacks by adding extra juice to them. Holding the fire button down allows you to build power and unleash a deadly blow. At least that’s the theory, however in practice any contact with your opponent resets your meter and thus limits your ability to use it strategically. And what’s with lumping all the moves onto a single fire button anyway? The CD32 had a multi-button pad, surely one of the benefits of porting to the machine was to take advantage of the extra controller configuration?

Let’s try to give some context here. In 1994 this would have been graphically groundbreaking and, in its own way, still looks reasonably decent today. But in 1994, Rise was competing with Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat and on the Amiga, the limited but competent Body Blows and compared to those titles, it is a badly beaten loser. The focus on graphics and realistic movement makes the robots sluggish. It takes an age for your droid to complete each move cycle, losing the fluency and combo ability that is so key to one-on-one brawlers. Plus it doesn’t even work. Whilst some movement is meticulously drawn, our aforementioned flying kick sees our robot float in the air, limited by the size of the screen and unrealistically falling unchallenged to a position where he can take his feet as intended by the programmers.

Yeah, that screen. Backgrounds are static but worse than that, span only one screen’s width. There is no lateral movement meaning that the playing area is just that single screen. No wait, worse than even that, the robots can’t jump over each other, meaning that they must always artificially face in a single direction and when stuck in a corner crying for mummy robot can’t leap out of the way to escape.

No wait, even worse than that even worse thing, you only get to control the boring blue robot. This is a game that does a pretty decent job at creating mean looking robots to fight, givng them strength, speed and threat ratings and then doesn’t let you play with any of them. And they’re not even satisfying to beat up. Where are the sparks of metal on metal? Where are the hewn limbs as steel crashes on steel? Where are the puddles of spurting oil as you rip out circuits and hold them above the twitching corpse of your fallen adversary? Plus it’s ridiculously short, the 5 robots you beat en-route to the Supervisor staging a Lazarus like recovery and needing to be dispatched again before you face the final battle. It is cheap and irritating. And as for the music. On release it was touted that Queen legend Brian May had scored the soundtrack but his contribution amounts to little more than a repetitive ‘kerrang’ of guitars.

Legend has perhaps distorted quite how bad Rise is. The 5% ‘awarded’ by Amiga Power is arguably more a point of principle than a true reflection of the quality of the game, given that this would have set gamers of the day back about £35-40. It is essentially playable, it looks good and it makes an attempt to add some meat on the bones of a traditionally lean genre. It is just frightfully dull, repetitive and annoying.

Hmm, maybe 5% was generous after all.

 

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