Bad Cat is a game released for various home computer platforms in 1987 by Rainbow Arts. You might recognise the name, because the cover art was doing the rounds on various websites a few months ago. This is hardly surprising - after all, the internet is nothing more than a tool for the rapid dissemination of cat pictures, especially if said cat looks like it's been dressed for an all-feline adaptation of The Warriors.

Yup, that's definitely a Bad Cat. His bandana, shades and spiked bracelet mark him out as a cat not to be messed with, and even the fact that he's eating a Milky Bar doesn't do much to detract from his overall aura of toughness.
There are three possible explanations for this cover. Either the artist was taking the piss, Bad Cat's cover was designed in some misguided attempt to appeal to some "hip" or "urban" youth market or whoever drew this honestly thought that a picture of a cat in a sleeveless vest and a bandana was just really cool. I pray it's the first option, because the latter two do not reflect well on humanity as a whole.
With a cover like that the game itself is sure to be a real treat, so without further ado let's dive into (the Commodore 64 version of) Bad Cat!

Does the loading screen count as "further ado"? Well, here it is and Bad Cat is looking even more disturbing than on the cover. He's weirdly human-looking, the cat equivalent of a middle-aged accountant called Colin who's living out his 80's-training-montage fantasies.
Once you've stared at that for a while and the image is forever scorched into your long-term memory, you can move onto the game proper.

Water is wet, gotcha. Also, grass is green, the sun rises in the east and this game should not be played by anyone. What we have here is a basic obstacle course for Bad Cat to navigate. The directions move you around and fire makes you jump, so it's a simple matter of hopping over the water and vaulting the walls in front of you, or at least it would be in the controls weren't so infuriatingly unresponsive - Bad Cat won't leap until well after you've pressed the button, and the slightest contact with the water or the walls results in instant death. Fortunately dying isn't the end of the game and you have unlimited lives. You're just sent back to a checkpoint to try again, and after a little practice you'll be hopping over obstacles like, well, a cat.
Then, about two minutes into the game, I ran up against a seemingly impassable trap: a wall with a beach ball behind it.

Yes, yes I do need some help. Psychological help, if my insistence on playing Bad Cat is anything to go by, but more urgently I need help getting over this wall. It seems simple enough: just jump over the wall and land on the ball... but that's not possible. Every time I jumped I hit the wall and evaporated in a puff of smoke, no matter the angle or speed of my take-off, even when I was certain I'd cleared it. Here's a video of my abject failure in getting a cat over a wall.

I had to consult the manual, something I never normally do. It informed me that I had to jump onto the wall. That's the wall identical to those which had previously destroyed me the instant I so much as brushed a whisker against them. And I couldn't even manage that! Every leap lead to death, until I figured out (through frustrated and random mashing of the buttons) that Bad Cat has two kinds of jump. Pressing up on the joystick performs a non-somersaulting jump that you can use to get onto the wall. You see, it all makes perfect sense!

I made it! I'm on the ball! The ball turns out to be a balancing, log-rolling type exercise where you have to alternate between back and forward on the stick to inch Bad Cat along. Go too far in either direction and you fall off the ball, which would be all well and good if the game gave you any kind of indication of when you're about to fall. Bad Cat doesn't wobble, doesn't emit a warning hiss, doesn't fail his arms about like someone about to fall from an uneven surface would: you just have to guess, and you will guess wrong. This tiny section is so wretchedly awful and badly implemented that I wouldn't be surprised if 95% of the people who played Bad Cat when it was first released simply gave up here. I wouldn't blame them. Nobody would blame them.

Somehow I made it past the Ball of Unending Torment, and the game rewards me for my efforts by bad-mouthing my mother. Fuck you, Rainbow Arts - I should be getting some kind of medal or large cash prize for defeating that ball, not vaguely weird insinuations about my mum's clothing.
From here on the game does calm down slightly and stops being quite so obtuse. There's a section where you have to waggle the joystick left and right to traverse some monkey bars, there's some trampolining, there a section where you have to launch off a swing to grab a key hanging from a lamppost. The key to what?

A motorbike, of course. Bad Cat leaps onto his hog and rides away, hopefully never to be seen again. It does raise some questions about Bad Cat's scale, though: is he a human-sized freak of cat, or is that a cat-sized motorbike optimised for use by creatures with no thumbs? I'm going with "blasphemous man-sized mutant," otherwise those phone booths in the background will be no use to anyone.
Sadly, this is not the end of Bad Cat. Oh no, not by a long shot.

Between stages you get this pointless city stage. You have to move Bad Cat, represented by the minute yellow cross I've circled in the screenshot, over to the stadium. That's it. Getting hit by the cars stuns you for a moment, so avoid those. You can collect beach balls for extra points, but after the last stage I'm never going near an inflatable toy again. It's dull, slow, meaningless and a punishingly loud "ambulance siren" sound effect plays the entire time. It's a pretty accurate distillation of the whole Bad Cat experience.

Here's the next event. That right, Bad Cat is part of the rarely-not-terrible "multi-event" genre, so instead of one badly-designed game with terrible controls you get several of them. Fantastic. Here Bad Cat find himself trapped in a swimming pool with two PS3 analogue sticks. Apparently the aim of this event is to leap between the two platforms and, while you're in mid-air, punch the shape that corresponds to the background display. I say apparently because I never managed it - I could barely get Bad Cat to jump across to the other analogue stick, never mind hitting the correct shape along the way. After several minutes of attempting the event with no success, followed by another minute or so of purposefully drowning Bad Cat out of spite, I just stopped playing and let the timer run down. That was the most enjoyable time I spent playing Bad Cat.
He really is a terrible cat-man hybrid. Instead of being a man with all the benefits of being a cat, like faster reflexes or the ability to enslave people's minds via YouTube, he's an abject failure with all the disadvantages of a cat: he's scared of water, threatened by dogs and he sure as hell won't listen to your commands.
After another interminable city scene, it's time for the next event.

Oh, I think we've been in the sewer for a while now.

The sewers are much like the first stage, a mix of general platforming and sphincter-clenchingly abysmal, constantly-changing controls. Water pours from pipes, bricks rain from the ceiling onto Bad Cat's head (and god speed to them) and there's another ball-rolling section. Then Bad Cat gets his ass kicked by some mice.

Those white things on the wall are mice - not even rats, just white mice - and they are fatal to Bad Cat if touched. I guess now we know why he's called "Bad Cat" and not "Above-average Cat" or even "Passable Cat". This was another area where I was completed stumped and had to refer to the manual, which told me that you can punch the mice. You can only do this when you're standing near the mice, though, and not at any other point in the game. This goes some way towards explaining why I didn't think of it, and even once I did know about Bad Cat's kung-fu moves I still kept dying because it turns out he's really shit at hitting things.

I eventually got past the mice, only to be eaten by a crocodile. I smiled, although I fear for the crocodile: eating Bad Cat is sure to bring on some truly vile stomach complaint.

There's one last joystick-waggling section where you need to outrun a dog. I do value my "live", although less so after having played this game, so I waggled with all my might and escaped straight back into another city stage. Sadly there was no option to return to the sewer and let myself be consumed by the creatures with.

Sweet Jesus, if only.

At long last, the final stage, and I guess that dog made it out of the sewer and chased me to the pub because he's here and he wants to engage me in a game of full-contact bowling. In a pub. A pub that has a magic bowling alley / deathmatch arena in the middle. While humans watch the entire event with detached amusement. I got nothing, sorry.
The goal here is to hit the dog six times before he hits you six times, and to hit him you have to grab a bowling ball, pick a lane and throw it. It's not quite that simple, because as the ball passes through those two lightning bolt symbols it somehow changes to a random lane when it comes out the other side. The whole thing seems to be entirely dependant on luck, because if there is a pattern to how the balls move when they pass through the machine I sure as hell couldn't figure it out. This is also the least agonisingly bad of all Bad Cat's events, mostly because it's the shortest but also because if you get hit you have to go to the bar and drink some beer.

Supposedly the more beer you drink, the harder it becomes to control Bad Cat, but because everything's so cumbersome in the first place I can't say I noticed much difference. Still, he seems to be enjoying himself.

I'm gonna need that booze more than you, sunshine.

That's it, Bad Cat is over and we can all get back to our everyday lives, our souls a little more tarnished for having experienced it. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this again, but this game should be avoided, forgotten, shunned, pushed to the back of the universe's junk drawer and left to decay in peace. The entire experience is a soggy wodge of arbitrary control changes, poorly-designed challenges and moments of pure, grinding frustration - and yet, in this foetid pile of compost a single flower blooms. That flower is the loading music, composed by C64 legend and SID maestro Chris Hülsbeck. It's really good.

It's sort of heartening that even a game as bad as this could result in something of worth after all. However, in final summation I'm going to abandon all attempts at good writing and go straight for the lowest common denominator, the obvious, the childish. Bad Cat? More like Bad Game.



As Euro 2012 is in full swing and the "lions" of England have somehow made it to the quarter-finals, (as well as the Dutch making an absolutely mockery of my predictions for the tournament by being somewhere between "woeful" and "like a North Korean over-60s side,") it seems like a good time for a quick article about a football game. That game is Taito's 1990 arcade they-think-it's-all-over-em-up Football Champ!

Football Champ was released in a few slightly tweaked and differently-named versions such as Hat Trick Hero and Euro Football Champ, so if it looks familiar but you can't quite place the name that's probably why. Whatever it's called it's an arcade soccer title where huge, colourful players hoof the ball around at supersonic speeds while the over-excitable and heavily-accented commentator shouts his limited stock of speech samples over and over again.

If you've read the Super Sidekicks 3 article you'll know what to expect, because it's very similar to Football Champ if slightly more refined than Taito's effort (plus you can play as such footballing colossi as Zambia and Vietnam). What that means in gameplay terms is that Football Champ is a very simple and not terribly realistic soccer sim, and if I'm honest it's a pretty refreshing change. The controls are necessarily basic: you've got two buttons, one each for low and high passes, and when you get close enough to shoot these buttons become low and high shots. If you're pointing towards a teammate and you press pass the ball will generally go towards them with some degree of homing ability - you're definitely passing more to the man than to a specific area.
When you're defending, one button puts in the ubiquitous sliding tackle while the other one... well, I'll get to that soon enough.

There are only eight teams to choose from, but they do represent the crème de la crème of the world’s footballing nations, plus England. As far I can tell there's no difference between the teams when you're controlling them, although they definitely have tiers when the computer is using them - Argentina and Germany, England's traditional football rivals / superiors, are the two best teams. At least it'll feel nice and familiar when they beat me in the semi-finals.

But hold on! Before you can stay playing you've got to pick a captain from four of your players. According to the arcade flyer, the captain is able to perform "special movements" to evade the opposition, but mostly it just means they're slightly faster and you get to see their face in the top-left of the screen whenever they have the ball. From this likely-looking bunch of oddly-coiffed superstars I chose the blonde with the blue eyes, partly because he plays as a striker but mostly because I was hoping it'd trigger a subplot where he reveals he's actually a young woman who has disguised herself as a man in order to show that she's just as good as these guys, goddamnit! His hair may look like a discarded banana peel, but at least he doesn't have the Richard Nixon nose of the guy on the left or the other redhead's gargantuan chin.

Captain chosen, that action begins with a match against France. For some reason England are wearing France's traditional dark blue colours, (possibly some attempted mind-games there,) so the French have had to borrow their silky lilac shirts from a group of passing jockeys.
This won't come as a surprise, but the action in Football Champ is very arcade-y. The pitch is tiny, so every move quickly becomes an attempt on goal - no intricate Barcelona-style passing play in the midfield here, and the flow of the matches feels a lot more like basketball than football. As with every arcade football game the goalkeepers are superhuman in their shot-stopping ability, which means you generally have to lure them out of position before knocking the ball to a hopefully unmarked teammate who can whack it into the open goal.

And whack it they do, with every shot sounding like a plastic flyaway ball being launched from an air cannon and every attempt on goal being acrobatic: you'll see more goals scored with overhead kicks and diving headers than in a Brazilian remake of Shaolin Soccer. For those of you who aren't fans of soccer, this is how we lovers of football see the beautiful game - not as tedious, low-scoring affairs played by donkeys whose only recourse is to lump the ball as far down the field as possible, (unless you're a Bolton supporter,) but free-flowing carnivals of class and skill where every touch is a masterpiece and every goal would make Lionel Messi weep with delight.
Of course, not everything about football is all sweetness and light. I mentioned there are two buttons for defending: one is for sliding tackles while the other is what I can only describe as the "Joey Barton button" because its sole purpose is to let you beat your opponents senseless.

That's not a conveniently-timed screenshot of a totally innocent moment: my player really is punching that Frenchman right in the face. Football Champ's fondness for a spot of the old ultra-violence garnered it a certain amount of notoriety and your ability to clobber your opponents with moves that'd make the Klitschkos wince seems to be what Football Champ is mostly remembered for. I'd normally say that that's kind of a shame, because this is a fun and frantic game even without the fisticuffs, but being able to halt your opponent's attacks with karate is so much fun that you can definitely understand why it became the game's focal point.
It's not just punches, either. If you get behind an opponent you can grab their shirt to stop them running, which doesn't sound like much fun but it is accompanied by an animation of the opposing player running on the spot like a cartoon character, unable to escape your steel grip. Oh, and you can use Sagat from Street Fighter's Tiger Knee.

The first time I did this, the opposition striker was running straight at goal with only one defender to beat. Said defender flew through the air, kneed the attacker in the face, continued his flight-path and hit another opposition player before calmly collecting the ball and passing it to his teammate while the two wounded players lay in a heap on the floor. I laughed so hard I forgot what I was doing, and another opposition player punched me to the ground. Yes indeed, Football Champ is a fun game.
But surely, I hear you cry, there's a referee around who can punish you for these... well, I was going to say "fouls" but that doesn't really cover it. Let's go with "assaults". Well, yes there is.

There he is, look. He's a waddling, overweight lump and hardly suited to the rigours of competitive refereeing, and he can't keep up with the play. This is how you get away with thumping anyone who comes near you: if the referee is off the screen when you commit the foul, you get away with it. If he's on-screen, he sees you and you get booked or sent off.

This is a pretty rare outcome. I spent the entire time attacking the opposing team like I was auditioning for a role in a Kickboxer remake, and I only managed to get sent off once. The two guys pictured at the bottom of the above screenshot are the managers, by the way, England on the left and Argentina on the right. Just look at how smug the Argentinean manager is, and it's not just him - smugness is the default facial expression of almost every person in this game. Here's the England manager when he's not holding his head in his hands:

Status: smug.
How about the Dutch manager?

Status: smug, also looks like a sex offender.
Even the referee is at it!

Status: doing the DreamWorks Face, for some reason.
The only face that escapes this smarm epidemic is the Brazil manager...

...and that's only because he looks like one of the aliens from They Live.
Just to go back to the referee for a moment, not only can you outrun him and commit your crimes with impunity but you can also take him out of the game entirely by knocking him over. You can do this a few different ways: the traditional flying knee to the chin is a good one, or you can kick the ball at him really hard, or sometimes he just trips himself up and falls flat on his face.

You know what this reminds me of? The WWE / WWF, whatever you want to call your sports wrestling entertainment brand. Football Champ features large, brightly-coloured men inflicting violence on each other while an ineffectual referee is either too incompetent or too devoid of consciousness to officiate the proceedings. Sounds like the WWE to me.

As fun as the presentation is, it doesn't mean much if the game isn't enjoyable to play but luckily Football Champ acquits itself pretty well in that department. It's a good example of a game in a genre that has essentially ceased to exist, and that's the non-serious football game. There's only really FIFA and Pro Evo worth bothering with these days, the balance of football games as a whole has shifted to realism and when combined with the decline of arcades it means games like Football Champ simply don't get made any more, games where you don't have time to learn the intricacies of a control system like FIFA's, you've only got two buttons at your disposal and the action is immediate and brief. It's a nice change to play one like this because the whole experience is geared towards pure fun.

Every movement and touch of the ball is designed to look exciting, the practical moves like trapping the ball and releasing a pass replaced with players dribbling by bouncing the ball on their thighs or leaping over tackles with a rainbow flick, every shot on target a contender for goal of the season, every tackle requiring immediate hospital treatment (or at least it would in the real world).
The game's most ridiculous moments come in the form of "Super Shoots", special moves that you captain can perform that unleash a shot so ferocious is blast the goalkeeper out of the back of the net and into the stands. The trouble is, it's almost impossible (and entirely reliant on good fortune) to pull one off and I never managed to perform one. Luckily, someone on YouTube has spent a lot longer than me playing Football Champ and has uploaded a video collection of these super shots in action.

Football Champ is a blast in two-player mode, too - as long as you play against someone who isn't going get to get upset when they're about to score and your goalkeeper knocks them unconscious. You can even play on the same team against the computer, which is a nice touch.

I will say that the game does get difficult towards the end, particularly against (surprise surprise) Germany and Argentina, and scoring goals against these two teams can become a matter of luck rather than skill. However, any issues I may have taken with the difficulty level were quickly wiped away after I beat the Germans 1 - 0 following a flukey own goal.

Beautiful, just beautiful. The manager has a right to look smug for once.
The difficulty level isn't that important, though, and winning this tournament shouldn't really be your goal - just go out there and have fun, as my high-school P.E. teacher never said to me. There's not much reward for completing the game anyway, although it is nice that someone recognises my frankly amazing contribution to humanity for once.

I really like Football Champ, you know. I like it for the simplicity, the sense of fun and the hyped-up level of action that's a world away from something like FIFA. It'll never replace FIFA, of course, but that doesn't mean you can't have it around for some quick pick-up-and-play action, especially when you're playing it with or against a friend.
That said, my favourite thing about Football Champ is probably the Dutch number 10. He's an... emotional chap.

In conclusion, Football Champ (or one of its many slight variations) is a cheerful little game that's definitely worth playing even if you don't like football all that much, and it's also an interesting relic of the arcade age and a type of game that has been consigned to the dustbin of history. Well done, Taito. All that's left for me to say is good luck to England on Sunday - unless you're reading this after the weekend, in which case well done Italy.



Film Noir: hard-boiled detectives with a nose for trouble, dames with longs legs and a gun in their purse, trenchcoat collars turned against the grimy rain that pounds the city streets. Jaleco took a look at the genre and said "well, yeah, it's alright, but it'd be better if it had pirates and robots and enough falling safes to give Wile E. Coyote a PTSD flashback". Thus was born their 1991 arcade beat-em-up 64th Street: A Detective Story.

That'll be "detective" as in "man who smacks criminals with a wrench," then.
Like all good noir stories, 64th Street starts with a mysterious client paying a visit to a private eye. Undoubtedly he's got a mysterious crime that only our heroes can solve, but what could it be? Gangster problems? Something about bird statues?

It's about a young girl who has been kidnapped. Of course it is. It doesn't really matter, because 64th Street is going to quickly become so preposterous that the abduction will seem trivial. These guys just need something to get them out of the office and someone's daughter getting kidnapped is as good a reason as any.
Their client didn't have any other information of his daughter's abductors, but luckily a clue comes in the following morning's newspapers.

In a piece of storytelling so wonderfully daft that I want to shake the writer by the hand, our hero spots a classified ad in the paper that uses the same sentence structure as the ransom note. This lets him know who the villains are and judging by that screenshot, yes he does think he's Sherlock Holmes. The Robert Downey Jr. facial-hair-and-fisticuffs version - this is a belt-scrolling brawler, after all - but a brilliant Holmesian mind none-the-less.
As you have probably guessed, this is all the detecting that gets detected in 64th Street. From now on it's just bloody-knuckled violence for our two protagonists. Let's meet them now!

Rick is a middle-aged private dick with a steely gaze and a moustache that means business. He must have got changed between this picture being taken and the start of the action, because his in-game attire is rather less... restrained than his grey suit and brown hat. Allen is Rick's protégé, a wild young punk who was rescued from a life of petty criminality and became the assistant to the world's foremost analyser of newspaper ads. Think of them as Haggar and Cody, if you like. Personally, I have trouble seeing the world in terms that don't directly relate to Final Fight. I am currently undergoing treatment.

We've encountered a crime already, and it's a crime against fashion. I think Rick may have been a circus clown before he realised that private detecting was his true vocation - he gave up a life under the Big Top but he just couldn't give up the trousers. I like that Rick called his detective agency "Rick's Detective Agency", a name that either shows a hard-boiled lack of interest in the niceties of the world or an almost Michael Bay-ian imagination deficit.

I'm sure we all know how the gameplay works - it's a two-button attack-and-jump system, with a standard punch combo triggered by repeatedly pressing attack and a health-draining special move that you activate by pressing jump and attack at the same time. You can also perform a handy back-attack, as well as a special power punch (for Rick) or dashing charge (for Allen) that I think are produced by double-tapping the stick forwards and then pressing attack, although I couldn't get them to happen with much regularity which is a shame because they're very useful. If you just keep punching and moving the stick towards the enemy you'll probably pull them off, though.

You can pick up weapons, including the traditional implement of street brawlers everywhere - the steel pipe. There's also fun to be had with the grappling, because in addition to the usual grab-n-punch combo and the horizontal throw, you also have the rarely-seen ability to throw your opponents into the background, hopefully against a wall. You can even damage the backgrounds by hurling goons into them, and sometimes items pop out so not only is it a nice graphical touch but it's actually useful, too.
For the first stage, you just have to make your way along 64th Street, a 1930s urban environment that's made up mostly of vintage cars parked on small squares of grass and pawnshops. Speaking of the shops, it'd be remiss of me to not mention this particular sign in one of the shop windows:

Adorable - possibly because I can't see that mouse as having anything other than a wide-open and extremely happy mouth - but I'm pretty sure that's not cheese. I don't think cheese should be that morbid shade of greyish-brown, although any cheese connoisseurs out there who want to prove me wrong should feel free to do so.
The first stage is good, simple fun, with bright graphics and pleasingly over-the-top sound effects. The enemies are a varied bunch, with my particular favourites so far being the hunchbacked boxers that you can see sneaking up behind Rick in the screenshot above. There's nothing that says film noir like a washed-up boxer, and he gets bonus points for reminding of Metal Slug's Marco Rossi.

Eventually you'll get tired of walking and hop on a bus, which turns out to be a bad decision because that's where the first boss is. 64th Street's grasp on the film noir theme is loose at best and is frequently abandoned completely, and the first boss is one of the staple bosses of the side-scrolling beat-em-up genre - the guy who looks like a rejected Fist of the North Star villain. Pointless armour (shinpads, in this case), mohawk, nine feet tall, someone stole most of his sleeves but left the cuffs behind? He's got all the usual elements, plus a giant hammer. He also has - and this is a touch I really appreciate - an equally punk-looking associate driving the bus. Jaleco could easily have just not bothered showing that, but they made the extra effort anyway. Good on them.
As for the Hammer Brother himself, he's pretty much what you'd expect from the first boss: much tougher than the usual goons but hardly invulnerable. His hammer does a sizable chunk of damage and he's not shy about swinging it around, but I managed to get him trapped in a pattern of repeated jump-kicks to the face and I defeated him quickly enough. Rick then presumably threatens the other punk into driving the bus where Rick wants to go (and into not stopping for old ladies waiting at the bus stop) and he soon arrives at stage two.

I've decided to play as Allen for a while. I wouldn't have guessed that the guy wearing the flat cap and the neon-pink waistcoat would be the more accurately-dressed of the two leads, but there you go. Allen seems a little easier to use than Rick, with faster punches and a more useful dashing attack. Yes, shockingly the barely-reformed street punk is a better hand-to-hand fighter than the middle-aged guy who wears suspenders. Honestly, though, there's not that much to chose between them.
It's not just Allen who seems to have been beamed into the Thirties from a different age: the enemies you'll be facing on the waterfront consist mostly of spiky-haired clubgoers right out of Jersey Shore and 80's B-Boy types. I'm sure I've said this before but the criminal gangs of the arcade beat-em-up genre must take some credit for their dedication to cultural diversity. Allen shows his appreciation for this rainbow coalition of crime by grabbing each member in turn and throwing them into the ocean. I guess Rick hasn't quite refined all of the delinquent out of young Allen yet.

His fists clenched with worry, the Ultimate Warrior looks on as Allen beats up his compatriots. That poor old man in the background - the one with the Wolverine claws and the eyepatch - is having a heart attack brought on by the stress of the whole encounter. Allen cares little for the damage his rampage is causing because he's got a young girl to rescue, at least according to that mysterious businessman. Businessmen never lie, so this whole thing should work out fine as long as I keep chucking people into walls / each other / the vast and violent sea.
You might have noticed we're on a ship now, and what do ships have?

If you said "liaisons between shipmates which are never discussed on dry land" then get your mind out of the gutter, because the real answer is pirates. Not desperate men who hijack ships and hold them to ransom, not bootleggers running hooch across the border on daring midnight raids, but the kind of campy, brightly-coloured, hook-and-peg-leg buccaneers who look like henchmen employed by a pirate-themed Batman villain. It's Peg-leg Percy, the Pirouetting Prince of Piratical Pricks! He's got one move, which is to spin around on his peg-leg like a pirate-themed waltzer. Luckily for him, it's really effective. It does loads of damage and he seems to be able to time it so that it hits you the instant you get up from the previous spinning hook. In all it's very cheap, very frustrating and has soured my mood a little after having thoroughly enjoyed the game up to this point. Hopefully it's just a temporary blip, and I can't put too much of the blame onto the boss - I mean, just look at his face:

He clearly has no idea what the fuck is going on. He just likes to spin, gawdblessim.
Right, that's buses and boats done. What's next, a train?

Well, sort of. It runs on rails, at least. It also gives me a chance to step back and really examine the character of the evil criminal syndicate that makes up 64th Street's antagonists. Here we are travelling on a small wheeled platform which I am forced to conclude was made by the bad guys. I say this because they put a plaque on it that says "Legacy of Curse" - possibly (almost certainly) the name of a Visual Kei band but more likely the name of the bad guys' organization. They attached teeny-tiny drills to the front and painted a sharp-toothed but ultimately cheerful face on the side. Try to imagine what they use this cart for in their normal, day-to-day criminal activities. What possible use could they have for those tiny drills? Are they expecting landslides as they travel through Liliput?
The best thing about this cart isn't the contraption itself but how it interacts with enemies. Enemies get onto the cart, where you must fight them: I'm sure this is what you were expecting. The enemies get onto the cart by standing on the track in front of it and letting it crash into them, propelling them up into the air and eventually having them land on the cart. They struggle to their feet and, in their groggy state caused by being run over by their own vehicle, they begin to fight our heroes. Our heroes promptly grab the bad guys and throw them straight back off the cart.

These jolly railroad japes can't last forever, and eventually you'll reach the twin bosses. I'm struggling with these guys, honestly. I don't think Sam Spade ever faced off against two gigantic Elvis lookalikes who are dressed like... like... oh wait, there's no comparison to make because no human has ever worn a two-legged, one-shoulder leotard accessorised with silver welder's gloves and spats. Spats, of all things! Jaleco's take on the film noir genre may not be in the traditional vein but by god is it ever unique.
As for the actual fight... meh, it's okay. Not as frustrating as the last one but nothing special, either. So far the boss battles haven't added much (besides the obvious targets of mockery) and they just break up the flow of the faster and much more enjoyable stages themselves.

Stage four is the Secret Factory, and what does this factory manufacture? Why, kung fu masters, of course. I say kung fu masters; for guys who have dedicated their whole lives to the mastery of deadly unarmed combat it sure is easy to pick them up and throw them into walls. Judo wins again, I guess?
Speaking of throwing things into walls, remember earlier when I said sometimes items pop out? Mostly they're pickups to increase your score, like fountain pens and pipes because apparently the game world is constructed from the desks of 1950's businessmen, but on this stage a familiar face appeared after a successful goon / wall interaction.

There he is, on the floor. Recognise him?

It's not an exact match, but I'm pretty sure this is meant to be the goofy ghost / brutally murdered young man from Jaleco's 1991 possess-em-up Avenging Spirit. 64th Street's version looks cheerful yet shy, as opposed to Avenging Spirit's ghost who looks (let's be honest) stoned as fuck, but I think they're the same guy. Spirit. Whatever.

No real reason for the inclusion of this screenshot other than to show the continuing ubiquity of oil drums in the beat-em-up genre and also because those bad guys look genuinely wary of Allen and his metal pipe. If I was the bald guy in front I'd be more worried about walking around a factory with no shoes on. That's just an accident waiting to happen.

When it isn't making martial arts dudes, the factory shifts its focus to producing steam-powered robo-men with extending hands. Much more practical than a kung fu master and an all-around impressive feat, which is why this guy gets to be a boss. There's a wrench lying around at the start of the battle, which you'd think would be the perfect weapon against a robot - but alas, this is not the case as Rick clobbers away at the steambot like a monkey smashing a tourist's stolen camera instead of using the wrench to loosen the bolts holding the robot together.
This fight is more fun than the previous ones purely because it feels less cheap, even with the robot's ability to punch you from twelve feet away. This just goes to show that the sooner humanity is replaced with a race of emotionless androids the better.

No vehicles in stage five, just Rick making his way through the enemy headquarters floor-by-floor and bashing anyone he finds. It's hardly original, but it's still quite good fun and 64th Street comfortably occupies the "pretty decent" bracket that Jaleco's games usually fall into.

That pirate's back. He's even more frustrating this time, because you're fighting him in a smaller area. Just look at that screenshot, though - that's an image that could spawn a thousand different stories. Most of them would involve the pirate's false appendages and Rick's prone body. None of them are pleasant.

At least Allen's having fun, smashing up the bad guys' hideout and prancing through the air without a care in the world. You can see where he's wrecked the background by throwing people at it. There were some items in there, including, bizarrely, a cat. Not even an agitated cat, as you'd expect a cat to be after being plastered up behind a wall only to be set free by the sudden appearance of a battered and bloody villain, but a perfectly calm cat that flies through the air in a seated pose and lands quietly on the floor, waiting for Allen to pick him up. I can only assume the cat was heavily sedated.

Oh look, a scene in a lift. I wondered how long it'd be. In a shocking twist on the usual beat-em-up formula, you don't actually fight any enemies in the lift! Well, not unless Rick has an ongoing feud with shipping crates and safes. The bellhop is a bad guy, but he's polite enough to wait until the elevator reaches the roof...

...before throwing off his uniform to reveal that he is, in fact, a kabuki actor. 64th Street: A Detective Story, folks - as far as I'm aware (and I sincerely hope I wrong on this) the only Depression-era American crime story to feature a practitioner of traditional Japanese theatre.
I've got to applaud Jaleco for going so far into left-field with this one, and it's hard to be too upset about the sudden battle between a private eye in bright orange trousers and Mr. Kabuki here, but the sad truth is that this fight is a real pain in the arse. The boss is much faster, much stronger and has a much wider area of attack than you do, and that's to be expected - he is a boss after all. The problem is that your characters fall over after being hit with any attack, and Sgt. Kabukiman here uses this to his advantage by standing over you and hitting you the instant you stand up. All the bosses in 64th Street do this to some extent, but this guy seems particularly dickish about it. It might just have been me being bad at videogames, but that doesn't make it any less irritating.
Several continues later, I managed to get enough of a hit-and-run tactic working to finally kick his ass. Time for the final stage!

Between the "robots" and the getaway zeppelin I'm stating to detect something of a Steampunk theme here. Also, let's take a moment and enjoy the villain's decision to use a blimp as their high-speed escape vehicle. Luckily for our heroes, the bad guys left the blimp's door open and a rope trailing out.

It's a very short stage, and Allen tries to get as much wrenching in as he can before the final confrontation. Look, he's unlikely to get an opportunity like this again so he might as well enjoy it.

The final boss, then. It's a bearded man in a waistcoat with a snooker cue. He's got two robots with him, but we've seen those before. This boss is kind of amazing, if you ask me - the whole game has been gradually getting more and more ridiculous, I've battled past giant punks, pirates and kabuki dancers... and the final boss is just some guy. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I think the setup is meant to suggest that the boss thought he'd got away with his evil plans, and as his blimp flies away triumphantly he decides to relax with a quick game of pool. Playing pool on a blimp doesn't sound like it'd be much fun unless there's definitely no wind at all and you've got a really good pilot, but he's still enjoying his "me" time after an evil plot well executed. Then Rick and Allen burst in, steal his snooker cue and batter him over the head with it.
Happily, this is the most enjoyable boss fight in a game littered with dull ones: it's got the right amount of challenge for a final encounter without being frustrating, plus you get the satisfaction of stealing the guy's weapon and using it against him. Once his robot bodyguards are taken care of, he doesn't put up that much of a fight and soon 64th Street is over.

Ha ha, what? Who or what is the deus ex machina here? I suppose from the kidnapped girl's perspective it’s Rick and Allen, two heroes who somehow appeared on an airborne blimp to punch some robots to death and save her. From Rick's perspective, the deus ex machina is the fact that the girl was right there the whole time - I mean, he must have walked past her to get to the boss battle - so now he doesn't have to go looking for her. Either way, I think Jaleco are being a little hard on themselves. A demigod from the machine, maybe.

Game over, then, and what can I say about 64th Street: A Detective Story? Well, I definitely enjoyed playing it even if that was due more to the absurdity of the whole enterprise than the sparkling gameplay. It does play well for what it is, which is a competent if unoriginal arcade beat-em-up. I love arcade beat-em-ups and hence I enjoyed 64th Street, but if you don't like the genre then this definitely isn't going to be the game to change your opinion. The only real problem I had with the gameplay is the underwhelming and occasionally frustrating boss fights, but the goofy, colourful world was more than enough reason for me to keep on playing.

On the scale of Jaleco games I've talked about in the past, 64th Street is much more fun than The Astyanax, but not quite as enjoyable or interesting as Avenging Spirit (a game which I assume was being worked on at the same time as 64th Street, due to the close release dates, similar graphical style and ghost cameo). In the end, it comes down to the same statement I make about many Japanese arcade games here at VGJunk: this game might not be the best in the world but by heck it's weird enough to be worth playing through.

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