08/12/2017

CRAZY BURGER (GAME BOY)

I won’t lie to you, there’s a very strong chance that I decided to write about today’s game because I was hungry while I was scrolling through the list of possible candidates. Mind you, that’s no less scientific than how I usually decide what to cover next. Here it is, then: Sachen’s 1991 Game Boy yo-yo-diet-em-up Crazy Burger!


At first glance, this burger does not seem to have earned the “crazy” moniker. It’s got buns, it’s got fillings, and while there is a small flag sticking out of it that makes this burger dangerous to eat near a golf course, it’s not like the burger is so crazy that it has cybernetic implants or is trying to convince you that the moon landings were faked. Then you look a big closer and you realise the burger is filled with what look like fat, white maggots. Well, guess I’m not hungry any more.


Bang, here’s the gameplay. Are you excited? You probably shouldn’t be, because this is an unlicensed Game Boy game from notorious garbage merchant Sachen, creators of such titles as Hell Fighter and Silent Assault. My hope is that the obvious simplicity of Crazy Burger, which seems to be a Pac-Man-esque maze chase, will prevent it from being too awful.


The basics, then: you play as the twig-limbed chap in the centre of the screenshot above. I rather like his simplistic design, you know. The reason for our hero’s very basic form will be revealed soon enough, but for now let’s figure out what’s going on. You can walk around, moving through the narrow corridors… and that’s where I got stuck. There are no obvious exits, no switches to flip, and I spent an embarrassingly long time just not getting it until I finally caved and went to look up what I was supposed to be doing.


Okay, now I’ve got it. Each stage contains a number of boxes. You have to collect all the boxes and then get rid of them by throwing them into the fire-pit pictured above. At the most basic level, this is all you do in Crazy Burger – you burn trash, presumably without a permit, amidst a labyrinth made from chairs, tables and small sections of brick wall with eggs perched delicately atop them. Forget the eggs, the eggs aren’t important. Focus on gathering the boxes, which is easier said than done: you can only carry up to three boxes at a time, and every box you’re carrying makes your character move more slowly. At first I had assumed the boxes were empty and you’re supposed to be tidying up, but having them slow you down means there must be something in them. My leading theory is that they contain damning evidence concerning our hero’s upcoming trial.
In my experience, it was best not to carry more than two boxes at once. Otherwise you become too slow to safely avoid… the food.


Oh god, there it is. While racing to collect that box at the bottom-left, our hero is trapped by a wandering soda cup and menacing french fries and man, those really sound like enemies from a Mother game. Anyway, the foods are a bit like Pac-Man’s ghosts, in that they wander around the maze trying to harm you. Unlike Pac-Man’s ghosts their movements are random, as far as I could tell, and you don’t die if you touch the food. Well, not right away.


What happens is that you start getting fat. This implies our hero ate the food, either because they can’t control their raging hunger or because the food forced itself down his throat. Neither scenario is all that pleasant to think about, but unfortunately I couldn’t avoid the food forever and now our hero is looking a little chunky. That’d be fine, but the bigger you are the slower you move, and it stacks with any boxes you’re carrying so a few poorly-chosen steps can mean that you immediately go from svelte and speedy to a lumbering lummox, dragging yourself through the stage  with agonisingly slowness. You can survive “eating” four times, gradually becoming slower and more rotund with each meal consumed, and eating a fifth morsel will cause your body to give out entirely and you’ll lose a life. When you do start packing on the pounds, my advice is this: drop any boxes you’re carrying, because you can leave them on the floor where you’re standing and come back for them later. Then make your way to the Exercise Cube.


Don’t worry, the evil foodstuffs cannot penetrate the walls of the Exercise Cube, so get in there and pump some iron. Tap the button to lift the weights, do it for long enough and our hero will shed those extra pounds and get back to a running speed that’ll allow you to collect the boxes without a seven-foot hot dog inserting itself directly into our hero’s arteries. I’m impressed our hero can even lift the weights with those noodly arms, but I suppose if his only other options are a catastrophic heart attack or a horrifying, unthinkable future where boxes remain unburned then he’ll find the strength from somewhere.


That’s about it for the gameplay. Once you’ve burned all the boxes, you move on to the next stage (or “Place,” as the game calls them) and do it all again with a different maze layout and more food to avoid.


One thing I did learn is that you have to be careful when exercising. If you mash the weightlifting button too fast, the exertion becomes too much for our hero and his heart explodes. He dies, which is bad, but if this screenshot is anything to go by he also turns into a genie, so clouds and silver linings and all that.


It turns out that making the player out of featureless shapes was a clever idea, because it’s a lot easier to turn a rectangle into a circle than it is to completely re-sprite an actual character into a series of fatter and fatter forms. I do like the character’s porkiest form, it’s pretty charming and the fact that sweat flies from its brow when it's “running” engenders a certain feeling of camaraderie.


Half the fun – okay, more like ninety percent – of Crazy Burger comes from trying to figure out what the hell the backgrounds are supposed to represent. They’re a strange mix of the obvious, like the chairs from earlier, and segments that are so abstract as to be unrecognisable. For instance, here we’ve got the fast food restaurant that the food spawns from, and that’s obviously what it’s supposed to be thanks to the famous Monochrome Arches sticking out of the top... but it’s set amidst a forest of indecipherable cylindrical lumps and I have no idea what those are supposed to be. Tree stumps? Extremely weathered litter bins? I don’t have a clue, and I don’t have time to investigate the matter because I’m being chased by a vicious boiled sweet that wants revenge for the thousands of mint humbugs I have consumed over the years. Joke’s on you, pal, my repeated trips to the dentist were penance enough.


“’Scale’? Who gives a crap about scale?! The hotel’s doors are as tall as the neighbouring bungalows where I live, are you saying I live in an incomprehensible nega-zone where the laws of physical reality hold no dominion? Look, if it bothers you that much I’ll throw in a few more walls with eggs on top, okay?”


What? The gameplay? Yeah, sure, Crazy Burger has some of that.
Oh, you wanted more information, VGJunk said to the non-existent person he’s talking to right now. Okay then. Crazy Burger’s gameplay is okay, I suppose. I didn’t hate it, although I did hate bits of it. The core concept of avoiding enemies in a maze is fine, and the gathering of boxes is also fine. The whole “eat and grow fat” part is more of a mixed bag. I do honestly like the concept of gaining and losing weight, and of having to visit the Exercise Cube. It’s a fun gimmick that you don’t see all that often (it kinda cropped up later in Data East’s Diet Go Go) and seeing your character gradually go from On The Waterfront Marlon Brando to Island of Dr. Moreau Marlon Brando is neat. There’s a surprising amount of character there, packed into something made from geometric shapes.


The weight gain is also one of Crazy Burger’s biggest failings, though, mostly because of the slowing down of your movement speed. Crazy Burger’s not exactly a fast-paced game to start with, and once you get past the early, easier stages you spend so much of your play time burdened by both boxes and girth that the slowness of your character stops being an inherent challenge of the gameplay and becomes, well, boring. It’s not much fun trying to avoid the deadly food when your character runs like me twenty minutes after my Christmas dinner, and repeatedly dragging yourself back to the Exercise Cube feels like watching a glacier getting out of bed on a Monday morning.


The killer foodstuffs themselves are another issue. Their movements are completely random, as far as I could tell. They might be slightly biased to moving towards the player, that could easily be me seeing things that aren’t there. This means that the food will often occupy the narrow corridors between you and the boxes, wandering around aimlessly and getting in your way without any means of luring them somewhere else. There is a drink bottle on each stage that acts like a Power Pellet and lets you eat the food with no weight-gain, but it doesn’t last long enough for you to clear out the stage and the food respawns anyway. Too much waiting around for a roaming chicken drumstick that may or may not decide to shift its calorific arse can bring the game to a screeching halt, and later stages especially can become tedious.


Speaking of screeching, would you be surprised to learn that every second of Crazy Burger’s gameplay is accompanied by a twenty-second loop of the same god-awful music over and over again, a brain-scrapingly painful tune composed by someone whose relationship to melody and tone could be described as “antagonistic and hateful?”
At least you don’t have to hear the music for that long even if you do decide to play through all of Crazy Burger, because there are only fifteen stages. Once they’re done, we can sit back and enjoy the rather confusing ending.


Here’s the text in full. Perhaps you can make more sense of it than I did.
For the sacrifice of great hamburger burger town finally returns to tranguil. Hamburger stores close down for lack of raw material. And now people can walk on the street fearlessly, they don’t have to worry about the attack of mad hamburgers. However, the fat are still fat. The only thing changed is that no one in burger town dares to eat fast food any more.


So… those weren’t metaphorical killer hamburgers, then? Deadly foods really were patrolling the streets and slaughtering anyone who opposed them. And I guess the boxes I was burning were full of… fast food ingredients? No wonder the food was so angry, I was essentially murdering their children. It feels like Sachen were trying to make a point about the rampant consumption of quick and easy but harmful foods, only their point was poorly thought out and doesn’t make much sense. You know, just like Sachen’s games.


It’s a little sad to be saying this, but I think Crazy Burger might be the “best” Sachen game I’ve played. It’s amazingly mediocre, split almost down the middle between its good ideas like the weight mechanic and weird setting and its bad ones, such as the music and the fact that game can get incredibly slow. For an unlicensed Game Boy title that I think might have only ever been released as part of a four-in-one multicart, though, it’s a goddamn masterpiece. Now, I’m off to find the menu for my local takeaway place and see if they can deliver me a burger the size of a small house.

06/12/2017

COMIC BOOK ARCADE FLYERS

Comic book superheroes, huh? They’re not just for kids and dorks any more! Okay, so maybe that’s a bit harsh, but superheroes are now one hundred percent mainstream, and as someone who spent a lot of their youth enjoying superhero fiction (although not necessarily comics) it’s an interesting time for the concept of costumed weirdos punching each other. There have been plenty of mis-steps – I knew Suicide Squad was going to be bad but I was definitely not prepared for just how bad – but there’s a lot of enjoyable live-action superhero stuff out there these days. It’s bizarre to me that I can be watching a superhero TV show and think to myself “oh cool, Captain Cold’s in this episode, nice,” but that’s the world we live in these days. It was all different when I was a kid, though. I didn’t have any comic book stores nearby or the financial resources to keep up with monthly series (except the Real Ghostbusters comic, thanks mum) so most of my superhero exposure came from movies, cartoons and, of course, videogames. This is all a roundabout way of saying here, let’s look at some arcade flyers from comic book videogames!

X-Men, Konami, 1992


(images from The Arcade Flyer Archive, click for bigger)

Let’s begin with a prime slab of comic book art that fuses the powerful nostalgia streams of nineties Marvel and arcade beat-em-ups with Konami’s much-loved X-Men. The game itself might not be quite as much fun to play these days as you remember, but that’s a minor consideration because hearing Magneto croak “Welcome to die!” could transform any game into a masterpiece. Just looking at this artwork means I’ll have “Here Comes the Hero” stuck in my head for hours to come. As for the artwork itself, there’s not much to say about it, honestly. It’s just a nice, large image of all your favourite X-Men characters, plus Dazzler. The most striking thing about it is that I don’t remember Wolverine wearing a huge red belt, but apparently his brown suit did indeed feature a huge red belt. Funny how memory works, huh? And what’s that belt supposed to be holding up, his skin-tight lycra suit? Wolverine’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does is promote the importance of adequate lumbar support.


The Japanese flyer feature the same heroic X-Men in a different pose, overshadowed by the leering face of Magneto. The Master of Magnet looks like he’s just seen someone drop a twenty pound note and he’s about to stand on it until they walk away and then pinch it. As for the rest of the characters, they look good and dynamic, although poor Nightcrawler has to suffer the indignity of having text obscuring his face. If you’re thinking that the art looks like an animation cell, that’s probably because X-Men: The Arcade Game was famously based on the semi-failed cartoon pilot Pryde of the X-Men.


There’s also this flyer, which really gets across the grandeur of the full six-player X-Men cabinet. “Play X-Men today at an arcade near you! No excuses!” it says, and yeah, sure, unless the arcade bought the six-player cabinet and then had to close down because the floor collapsed.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to enjoy the full six-player X-Men experience - sorry, "eXperience" -  please don’t tell me, because I’d just be jealous.

Spider-Man: The Videogame, Sega, 1991


It’s your friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler, and he’s got his own arcade videogame! That’s right, Spider-Man : The Videogame, the game all about Spider-Man starring Spider-Man and three other people Spider-Man knows. Let’s face it, neither Black Cat, Sub-Mariner nor Hawkeye are in the same league as Spider-Man, are they? I’m sure they all have their fans, and I bet Black Cat has plenty of fan “art,” but Spidey’s definitely the star here. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the artwork  on this flyer look a bit old-fashioned for a game released in 1991? That’s not a complaint, it’s a classic look for the characters featured here, even if Namor’s raw sexual magnetism is making me a little uncomfortable.
There’s some interesting text down there on the bottom-right. Describing the characters as “three heroes and a heroine” seems like an unnecessary distinction, but I do like Dr. Doom being called “an incarnation of evil.” An incarnation of good common sense and benevolent leadership who is forever being slandered by the accursed Reed Richards might be more accurate, but this description is much less cumbersome.


The US flyer goes with a daft pun, which makes sense to me because there are two things I associate with Spider-Man: radioactive spider blood and bad jokes. The pun is then re-used at the end of the blurb, because if a joke was lame in the first place it can only get better with repetition. In fact, you could say there’s so much value in that pun that it’s really got legs, oh no, I’ve fallen into some kind of meta void.
Speaking of voids, I spent far too long looking at the background thinking it was some kind of abstracted Spider-Man mask before realising the magenta part is the silhouette of an arcade cabinet and the blue bits are supposed to be the trails of the swooshing screenshots. I was looking for depth where there was only ugly graphic design.

Superman: The Video Game, Taito, 1988


The Man of Steel gets a pretty boring flyer for his eponymous arcade adventure, but then I suppose Superman is so iconic that all you need to sell the idea of a Superman game is an image of Superman bursting though a paper sheet like a winning contestant on Gladiators.


The European flyer is a bit more engaging. Superman hurls a meatball into the depths of space, which at least gets a flicker from the needle of the interesting-o-meter because now I’m thinking of the phrase “intergalactic bolognese.” He also breaks apart some chains with a smile on his face. You see, he’s happy because some villain was dumb enough to attack Superman with regular metal chains and not a kryptonite-powered death machine.

Batman, Data East, 1990


After Superman, logically the next superhero to check up on is Batman, and of course he also got his own arcade game. It’s not that great, from what I remember. As you can see, it’s based on Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie, which means this flyer contains little more than Michael Keaton doing a kissy face. Seriously, what is with that expression? Batman looks like he’s just seen the kid in front of him buy the last scoop of chocolate ice cream and while he’ll settle for raspberry ripple he’s not happy about it.

Batman Forever, Iguana Entertainment, 1996


The streets of Gotham City are paved with gold, plus cobblestones and fondant-coated cakes shaped like the Bat-Symbol that act as impromptu manhole covers. You know, if Gotham’s streets were paved with gold it’d explain why so many criminals are obsessed with the bloody place. As much as I like Batman, I was something of an over-analytical kid and it always bothered me that all these crimes took place in the city that’s home to the World’s Greatest Detective. Like, c’mon, man: Akron, Ohio has banks too.

Batman, Raw Thrills, 2013


Here’s a surprisingly modern Batman arcade game, a racing-combat title where you hare through the streets of Gotham – thankfully not paved in gold, because that’d play havoc with the Batmobile’s traction – and chase down some of Batman’s famous foes. I’ve seen this game in action, and the strange thing about it is that it still has the same feel as an arcade game from the late nineties / early two thousands. It’s something to do with the way the action is framed, punchy and hyper-kinetic in a manner that you don’t see in console games. Presumably it’s designed that way to grab the attention of potential customers, as though the enormous glowing Bat-Symbol wouldn’t do that on its own.
I’m especially interested in the claim that you can control “every Batmobile ever” in this game. Now, I know that’s not strictly true, but you can play as the Batmobiles from the sixties TV series and Batman: The Animated Series and frankly why would you want to drive any other Batmobiles? So, I’ll let them off.

Justice League Heroes United, Global VR, 2009


Now this one just feels like a cruel practical joke. An arcade beat-em-up starring the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman and the Joker with cel-shaded graphics, supposedly co-developed by Konami? In another universe this is my favourite videogame ever, but from what I’ve seen of the version we received on this Earth Justice League Heroes United is an incredibly simplistic and remarkably ugly brawler with poor hit detection and combat that’s got as much depth as two junior school kids having a thumb war. Just looking at this flyer is disappointing me and, in the case of the Joker’s face, kinda creeping me out. I know the Joker is supposed to be creepy, but in a “sinister and unhinged” way rather than a Tippexed corpse. Throw in Wonder Woman staring at her own hands with an expression of utter bemusement, and I think we can all be glad that this one never got a home release.

Captain America and The Avengers, Data East, 1991


Ah, that’s better, back to some artwork you might actually want to look at. Well, as long as you ignore Vision’s massive hand / tiny head combo. Other than that, it’s pretty good. Captain America takes centre stage, as well he might, with all the most famous features of his design on display: his mighty shield, his red-white-and-blue suit, the two small tufts of grey hair at his temples that remind you hey, Cap fought in World War Two, he’s an old man now.
These days, it’s kinda weird to see Iron Man shuffled into the background of a superhero team-up, huh? Just bide your time, Tony. One day you’ll be Robert Downey Junior and you’ll never have to lurk behind Hawkeye again. And hey, I could have sworn the Red Skull doesn’t usually have ears. Skulls don’t have ears. Then again, skulls don’t have eyes, either, so I suppose it’s down to artistic interpretation. At least if you draw him with ears you know his Nazi hat won’t keep slipping off his head.


The American flyer for Captain America and The Avengers is… less compelling. Ha ha, “super hero foursome.” Where was I? Oh yeah, you might think Cap’s climbing out of that arcade cabinet, but take a look at the way the monitor glass is broken around his leg. There’s no way his bulging, justice-packed torso would fit through that gap, so clearly he’s just kicked a hole in the cabinet’s screen to get your attention. Now that he has your attention, he can tell you some marvel-ous facts. Go on, read that speech bubble and then admit it, the voice inside your head sounded like a kid giving a class presentation on the exports of Slovakia or something. At least those facts are believable – over on the left there’s the claim that in some arcades, Avengers is out-earning Street Fighter II at a rate of two-to-one. I must conclude those arcades did not contain a Street Fighter II cabinet.

Avengers in Galactic Storm, Data East, 1995


Captain America once more takes the starring role in Avengers in Galactic Storm, and he’s really carrying the whole thing because the other playable characters are… well, they’re down the Marvel Comics pecking order, let’s put it that way. Apart from Cap we’ve got the medieval-themed Black Knight, the element-manipulating Crystal and kinda-Thor-but-not-really Thunderstrike. Crystal has already appeared in the Inhumans TV show, and I’m sure that by 2025 Black Knight and Thunderstrike will have their own movies, movies beamed directly into the population’s brains by the now-sentient Disney-Marvel-Fox Mandatory Entertainment Droids.
Until then, we’ll have to settle for looking at these CG graphics which have not aged well at all. Early low-poly PS1-type stuff can have a lot of charm, but this is a shiny, plasticky nightmare, action figures come to life in a horror-movie version of Toy Story. Cap’s bulbous, over-inflated pectorals are dominating my focus. I can’t look away from them, and I can’t stop imagining the sounds of a clown making a balloon animal when Cap throws his shield.


The US flyer looks a little better. Not good, but better. The nineties really were the heyday of the brown leather jacket, huh? He doesn’t have one in this image but even Thunderstrike wears a brown leather jacket in the comics. I just feel sorry for the baseball pitcher that’s just out of view in the image above, because Thunderstrike has clearly smashed a home run outta the park.

Spawn: In The Demon’s Hand, Capcom, 1999


Oh hey, it’s Spawn! I’d kinda forgotten Spawn was a thing, but here he is in all his gothic, flappy-capes, not-nearly-as-cool-as-Link-Soul-Calibur-guest-character glory. The flyer is a big ol’ picture of Spawn himself, and there’s not much you can say about that. However, the tagline “access the cool and dark mysterious world of SPAWN” is rather glorious, don’t you think? You can access this world, but you are a mere visitor, child: you can never be as cool and dark mysterious as Spawn, emissary of hell and compulsive spike polisher.”


Also, Spawn will strike here. Apparently. Not a believer in the element of surprise, that Spawn.

X-Men: Children of the Atom, Capcom, 1994


To finish, let’s have some palette cleansers with the flyers for Capcom’s Marvel fighting games. I’m not going to cover the “versus Capcom” crossovers in an effort to keep this article comic-book centric, but Children of the Atom is X-Men all the way down and so here it is. Wolverine’s grimacing harder than any Canadian has ever grimaced before, and as someone who was recently told that they grind their teeth in their sleep it’s making me uncomfortable thinking about what this is doing to his teeth. I know Wolverine’s healing factor means he can grow them back, but still, tooth trauma isn’t fun to think about. Luckily Storm’s nearby, and she can calm Wolverine down by electrocuting his hand.
Relatedly, I’m sure I had a Marvel trading card of some sort with this very artwork on it. In this case, I would be happy for the comments to tell me if that was a real thing or something my brain has made up to distract me from the mental image of Wolverine’s teeth shattering under the pressure of his relentless fury.


The Japanese flyer is cool. I have nothing much to add, it just looks really good. Classic X-Men artwork, a strong design, Magneto looking much more menacing than he did on Konami’s X-Men flyer. Good work all around.

Marvel Super Heroes, Capcom, 1995


Finally for today, it’s Marvel Super Heroes and in what has been a running theme, the American flyer is kinda okay but not nearly as interesting as its Japanese counterpart. You’ve got some famous heroes, the game’s title, what more do you really need? Sure, the lighting on Psylocke makes her look very yellow and thus easily mistaken for some kind of wasp monster, especially with her leg(?) looking like a stinger, but aside from that? Perfectly acceptable.


This flyer, though? Get it printed out and hang it on your wall. That way you can live your life under the baleful gaze of Shuma-Gorath, and who wouldn’t want that?

01/12/2017

LORNA (ZX SPECTRUM)

I’m not doing it on purpose, I swear, but it seems that VGJunk is turning into a repository of articles about old Spanish ZX Spectrum games. It just keeps happening! Maybe it’s coincidence, maybe it’s because Spain is just far enough away that these games are exotic enough to pique my interest. I am from the north of England, after all. As much as I like to think of myself as being somewhat learned, it’s part of my cultural DNA to consider anything that originates south of Watford a bit exotic. So, here’s another Spanish ZX Spectrum game: it’s Topo Soft’s 1990 sultry-em-up Lorna!


Say hello to Lorna, everyone. Hello, Lorna. It’s a good job I already knew this game was called Lorna because it took me several attempts to read the word “Lorna” on this screen. Haphazardly-piled letters carved from blue cheese don’t make for the most legible title screen.
Okay, so the focal point here is Lorna herself, a scantily-clad adventurer for whom the term “space vixen” could have been invented. Lorna’s the star of this game, but she wasn’t created for the game. No, this is a licensed tie-in, based on the Lorna comic by Spanish artist Alfonso Azpiri. Azpiri’s artwork appeared in places like Heavy Metal, as well as on the covers of (appropriately enough) many home computer games of the time, including the wonderfully-titled Abu Simbel Profanation. Azpiri also drew a limited edition cover for Dark Souls II, of all things. As for Lorna, she’s a star-hopping adventuress who travels the galaxy with her robot friends, getting into all manner of wacky situations. Are those situations erotic? Of course they are, it’s a European comic about a lady in a bikini.


Getting straight into it – well, once I’d redefined the keys, always welcome in a ZX Spectrum game – and we can see that Lorna is a side-scrolling, single-plane beat-em-up with some platforming thrown in there. Okay, fine, you can’t see the platforming in the above screenshot but trust me, it’s in there. Lorna must fight through this lemon-and-lime flavoured backdrop. For now, her goal is merely to reach the end of the stage without dying and also to look sensual and comely as she lounges across the game’s status bar. I’d say he looks more uncomfortable than seductive. She’s giving me a sympathetic twinge in my hip.


Prepare for thrilling action as Lorna is attacked by some kind of aardvark warrior carrying a sword and shield! Bored by the lack of excitement to be had hunting ants, the aardvark has moved on to larger prey, but Lorna’s more than ready to fight back. For close range encounters like these, she can clobber her enemies with the stock of the rifle she’s carrying, which is what’s happening above. This has the benefit of conserving Lorna’s extremely precious ammunition supply, and it also kept making me think of Harvey Keitel saying “take the butt of your gun and smash their nose in” from Reservoir Dogs. For an anteater, this is not a threat to be taken lightly.


Unfortunately Lorna’s melee attack isn’t the greatest technique to use in a fight. It’s very fiddly, that’s the problem, and not always in a consistent or predictable way – the distance you need to be standing from your opponent isn’t set in stone, and some attacks will result in nothing more than Lorna standing there and using a gun incorrectly, while on other occasions the exact same positioning will result in the bad guy taking damage. I think part of the problem is that the sprite doesn’t line up with the hitbox correctly, and you have to be a lot closer to the monster than you’d think.
Not a great start to the action, then, and when coupled with Lorna’ sluggish movement speed and the fact she turns around slower than a lorry full of granite slabs, it looks like we could be in for a quite a slog. On the “plus” side, every time Lorna jumps or attacks you get to see just how much care and attention was put into drawing her buttocks.


On the subject of lovingly-rendered rears, I can’t really fault Lorna on the graphics front. Not when there’s a small green demon that flies across the screen carrying a health-restoring chicken for our heroine to eat. It’s got to be more hygienic than finding your health-restoring chicken under a bin.
The graphics are the reason I’m playing the Spectrum version of Lorna, actually. The game was released on several different platforms, including DOS and the Amiga, and the Amiga version in particular has rather nice graphics – but then we all know the Amiga is capable of putting out really nice graphics. I was more interested in how those graphics would fare on the Spectrum, a system which (and I say this with fondness) was down at the bottom end of home computer graphics capability. The result is… surprisingly good! The colour clashing isn’t bad, the sprites are chunky, well defined and nicely if slowly animated. There’s even some parallax scrolling going on the background, and it’s amazing how far that goes to providing a feeling of quality.


But oh, isn’t it a shame about the gameplay. Once these long-armed crocodile creatures show up things get even worse, as they repeatedly spawn over and over right in front of you as you’re trying to negotiate the instant-death arrow traps that fire when you step on the pressure plates. On their own the arrow traps are no threat at all – just duck under or jump over the projectile – but when the monsters are thrown into the mix Lorna’s extreme slowness means you don’t have the time to dodge the creatures and the arrows until the game randomly decides to give you a break and lets you jump through a previously solid foe.
This all means that Lorna’s going to be dying a lot. In fact, playing through this game with a cheat for infinite lives is the only way to even slightly temper the feeling of it being a Sisyphean punishment formed from pixellated cheesecake. If you are – what’s a more polite word for “stupid?” - reckless enough to try playing Lorna as it was intended to be played, then at least be comforted by the fact that green demons will occasionally bring you extra lives. It’s hard to make out, but the extra lives are shaped like miniature versions of the reclining Lorna from the status bar. Even when battling warrior aardvarks on a distant planet, being given a small replica of yourself in a sexy pose must stand out as being pretty damn weird. “Is that what I look like? Yikes, maybe I should dial down my raw eroticism a touch.”


At the end of the stage is a spaceman with a gun. I know he has a gun because he shot me with it. There wasn’t much I could do about it, what with the spaceman firing his gun as soon as he appeared on the screen and Lorna being far too slow to offer any response but dying and then slowly sinking through the floor. Not to worry, I can give the spaceman a taste of his own medicine, because Lorna has a gun of her own, remember? The stock is covered in the clotted gore of a hundred pulverised aardvarks, but it’s still a gun and you can fire it by pressing down and attack. There are two problems with this: it’s very slow (what a shocker, right?) and ammo is extremely limited. It took me a while to realise, but those three blue things on the status bar are ammo magazines, and you’ll need to make every bullet count to reach the end of Lorna.
You can’t just shoot the spaceman when you see him, either. Lorna reacts too slowly, so you have to fire before you reach the spaceman and kill him while he’s off-screen. I hope you’re taking notes about where each and every enemy is located, folks.


Stage two now, and while it plays out very similarly to the first stage, the setting is now a forest of extra-large bamboo and the main enemies are animal barbarians that run up to Lorna and try to deliver a jumping club attack to her head. Take a good look at those creatures and you’ll realise that they’re actually ALF. You remember ALF, right? Extraterrestrial star of the eponymous eighties sitcom, likes eating cats, has a nose shaped like the penis of an ancient wizard? To paraphrase The Simpsons, he’s back, in barbarian form.


I must say, it is rather satisfying when you manage to clobber an ALF in mid-jump. It’s an important skill to master, too. Outside of, you know, learning exactly where every single enemy, collapsing walkway and instadeath booby trap on each stage are located, the amount of enjoyment (and progress) you’ll get out of Lorna seems heavily tied to how quickly you get handle on our star’s physical attacks.


Less threatening but equally infuriating are these yellow things that look like Koopa Troopas without their shells. Yep, naked, horny Koopa Troopas, that’s what these things are. They’ve got the hots for Lorna, and they’ll run over to you with love-hearts streaming behind them, clinging on to our heroine and momentarily paralysing her unless you do the sensible thing and shoot them the second they appear. I mean, you can wait until they get close and then hit them, but do you really want to risk one of these thing dry-humping your leg?


There’s a bit more platforming in this stage, and it’s okay. It’s nothing particularly interesting, but when taken in isolation the jumping works fine and Lorna’s leaps are predictable enough to make things relatively painless. This means nothing, however, because the game loves putting enemies just offscreen after a series of jumps…


...like here, where this prick was waiting, unseen, for me to jump into his sword. “Well, that’s a stroke of luck,” says the guard, “she jumped right onto my sword!” And then he tells the lads down at the Space Monster Arms about the epic battle that he and Lorna were engaged in until she finally succumbed to his superior swordsmanship.
The solution, as is so often the case in this game, is to shoot the sword-monster from off-screen.


Here’s a weird quirk: Lorna asks you if you want to go to stage three. You can say no, and do the previous stage again. There’s nothing important that you can miss in stage two, so I have to assume that Lorna really goes downhill from here and the programmers were trying to give the player an out. Well, not me, chaps. I’m here for the long haul, give me more poor quality side-scrolling trash!


Or a Space Harrier clone, that’s fine too. Yep, Lorna is a completely different game now. You fly into the screen, avoiding the trees that come at you using a decent approximation of Sega’s Super Scaler technology and not really shooting anything because while Lorna’s flying hoverboard does have guns there aren’t many enemies around to shoot. You know what, it’s probably quicker just to show you.


Visually, it’s not bad. The trees have a strange stretching effect on them, but for an 8-bit home computer it’s a good effort and feels convincingly 3D-ish. It certainly feels quite fast, which makes a nice chance for Lorna. Sadly, the stage is hampered by a very high difficulty level, mostly thanks to the trees often looking like they’re further apart when they first appear than they are when the actually reach you, plus Lorna’s rather wobbly controls. It all gets rather frustrating, which is a shame because I feel like it’s quite close to being pretty decent.


Stage four is more of the same, only with even more trees and a few other hoverboard users for you to shoot at. It can be hard to hit them, because Lorna’s sprite is so big that it obscures your view of your ship’s projectiles unless you’re firing from an extreme angle. At least you get chance to practise if you make it this far, because get this – Lorna has passwords! You don’t see that very often with Spectrum action games, and it’s going a long way towards redeeming Lorna in my eyes. It’s still not a good game, but at least you can try to learn how to overcome its bullshit without having to slog through every stage each time.


For the fifth and final stage, Lorna’s back on foot and hoofing it through an evil castle populated mostly by dragons that drift past at head-height. The dragons are invincible and will kill Lorna on contact, but they’re easily avoided by ducking so all the dragons accomplish is making a slow game even slower.


This stage has an objective besides simply reaching the exit, and it’s all about dismembered body parts. Okay, “body” parts is a bit much, you’re actually looking for the components needed to reassemble Lorna’s robot buddy Arnold. See that blue robot shape at the bottom-right of the status bar? That’s Arnold, and as you grab his bits (ahem) he’ll light up until he’s complete. I don’t know much about the Lorna comics, but looking around the internet has taught me that Arnold looks lawsuit-baitingly similar to C-3PO and he’s essentially a walking sex toy that Lorna keeps around for when she’s got some, erm, tension to work off. God knows what the ending of this game is going to involve, but I’m gonna make sure R2-D2 has his eyes covered when we get there.


Two things here, one great and one not great. The great thing is that hovering monk who floats across the screen. He’s a real pain to encounter because you can’t get rid of him and all he does is summon skeleton warriors for you to wade through, but just look at that sprite. It’s so wonderful, and I can’t help but imagine the floating wizard being summoned by his evil overlord and saying “c’mon man, it’s Saturday, it’s supposed to be my day off! Okay, fine, I’ll fight the space vixen but I’m not changing out of my dressing gown or standing up or anything.”
The not-great thing is the mechanical crane-looking apparatus above Lorna’s head. It’s a teleporter, and this final stage is not linear like the others. Arnold’s body parts are scattered across a variety of small areas and you have to use the teleporters to move between said areas with no indication where each teleporter is going to take you.


Man, I hate games with teleporter mazes. It always feels like a cop-out, a way to avoid having to design a level properly, and its especially egregious when all the teleporters are identical and aren’t labelled. Would it be too much effort to grab a marker and write “small platforms over roiling lava pits zone” or “floating wizard corridor” on them?


With only a couple of pieces of Arnold left to find – although Lorna’s already got his pelvis and it sounds like that’s all she really needs – I happened across an evil armadillo. No big story here, I just wanted to show you the armadillo warrior. What’s the point of even having a retro games blog if you can't show off armadillo warriors? Look, he’s got a little knife!



Lorna does have a final boss, of sorts. A graboid from Tremors, perhaps. Definitely a worm of some kind – the “perpetually trapped in the same spot” kind, even, and I hope you’ve saved up all your ammunition because really the only way to beat this thing is to stand outside its range and shoot your gun at it until it dies. That’s my pro tip for you, then. Hang on, that sounds awfully familiar…


Having reassembled Arnold, Lorna promptly slaps him on an altar and sacrifices him to the dark gods of hairspray and thongs. Or maybe not – the closest thing this game has to an ending is a screen telling you (in Spanish) that your mission is complete and you have rescued your robot. Right then, off you two go. I’ll give you some alone time.
After spending all that time writing about Mega Man 4, I’m going to try to give Lorna a much briefer conclusion. It’s bad. Some parts of it are okay, mostly the graphics, but it’s slow and awkward and relies far too heavily on memorising enemy locations and shooting them from off-screen. Could anything be done to make Lorna a better game? Give the gun unlimited ammo, for starters. It’s much more fun (and reliable) to use than your melee attacks, but it’s not so powerful that it would remove all the challenge from the game, mostly because Lorna is so slow. Speaking of, making Lorna turn around faster than a fully-laden ocean liner would be nice. Those things are never going to happen, though, so my advice is that you shouldn’t play Lorna – the Spectrum version, anyway – and if you‘re after lusty, busty adventures in space then I hear there was a Spanish guy who drew a bunch of comics about that kind of thing.

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