RoboCop

Drawing from the movie’s memorable villains and characters, RoboCop for the NES could have been one of the better action games of its time. Unfortunately, some very poor design choices prevent this game from being as successful as the arcade port and condemn it to be just another average NES title.

In 1987, Orion Pictures released RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven’s dystopic masterpiece that weaves in strong themes of individual worth and identity. Of course, at the time of the movie’s release, much of this was lost on me. I was thirteen, and I wanted to see the movie because it had a cool-looking cyborg. Yeah, I was all about the cyborgs. Now, I am able to appreciate all that Paul Verhoeven was attempting to capture in that movie, and I count it among my top ten movies of all time.

Data East soon released an arcade game based on RoboCop, and the few times I came across the machine, I plunked all the quarters I had into it. I never progressed very far (I swear, that game was made to siphon all your change from you), but I reveled in the ability to be RoboCop, if just for a few minutes. Once I found out that RoboCop was going to come to the NES, I was thrilled. It was a game I had to own, and I anxiously waited for its release.

And so I waited. And I waited. And I waited. For some reason, Data East kept delaying the release of this game. But, if they were taking all this extra time to tweak it, the end product had to be . . . well, awesome, right?

I believe I got the game soon after it was released, and . . . I was underwhelmed. For one, the RoboCop sprite looked OK in the game, but why was he green? They used blue in the intro and they used blue for his indicators, so why is the actual sprite green? That may seem like a minor gripe, but it just scratches the surface of how poorly this game captured the movie. For example, most of the enemies in the game have nothing to do with the movie. Robocop is attacked by dogs, guys on motorcycles, guys in purple who like to jump kick . . . the list goes on. Why they didn’t choose more of the actual enemies from the movie (how about Nash and Emil?) is beyond me. Sure, the arcade game had some of these same enemies, so if I enjoyed it, how can I pan this game for doing some of the same things? Well, the arcade game got some things right, such as RoboCop’s look and a good rendition of the theme composed by Basil Poledouris. One of the big things the arcade game didn’t have was a power indicator. Since RoboCop has an energy gauge, there was no need to introduce another gauge in the NES version that depletes as time passes. It was an ill-conceived notion that makes the last level, in particular, quite a chore to play through.

Drawing from the movie’s memorable villains and characters, RoboCop for the NES could have been one of the better action games of its time. Unfortunately, some very poor design choices prevent this game from being as successful as the arcade port and condemn it to be just another average NES title.

Not recommended

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Joe & Mac

Overall, I would say that while Joe & Mac is not without flaws, it is worth playing and possibly buying . . . after you’ve already collected the better titles the SNES has to offer.

One of the later bosses in Joe & MacSometimes, I find it difficult to decide whether or not to recommend a game. I may find myself very much enjoying the game, but then I get tripped up by a few problems that tarnish an otherwise pleasant experience. This was the case with Joe & Mac, a game that was released early into the life of the Super Nintendo.

I remember thinking how impressive this game was visually when it was first released. The characters and backgrounds are colorful and well defined. Boss enemies are often huge and are, for the most part, appropriate for the stone age setting (I wasn’t really sold on the bees—always an annoyance when they appear in video games—and the final boss seemed very much out of place). Some of the bosses repeat, such as the dinosaur from the first level and the pterodactyl, though their attacks vary enough to differentiate the battles.

The levels in Joe & Mac seem very short, and you may be surprised at how quickly you encounter a boss after beginning a level. The levels themselves are chosen from an overhead map similar to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, but the path to the end is very linear. Sometimes during a level, you will crack open a dinosaur egg (generally the means of acquiring items), and a pink pterodactyl will hatch and take you to a bonus area. In the bonus areas, you can collect meat to replenish health, weapons, extra lives, and keys to unlock special areas which branch off the main path on the overhead map. You will have to decide where you want to use your keys, and the payoff can be as good as giving you extra lives, or it can be as lame as giving you an enemy to fight.

For the most part, Joe & Mac is not a difficult game. The enemies are generally easy to defeat, and you will likely find yourself losing more lives because you fell into a pit than you do from being attacked by foes. This can get very frustrating, especially in later stages when precise jumps are stopped short by enemies appearing suddenly from offscreen.

One of my major complaints is that the game’s difficulty is unbalanced, and you may find yourself breezing through the game until you near the end, where suddenly a combination of cheap hits from enemies, missed jumps, and harder bosses deplete the stock of lives you built up. Obviously, the game should be more difficult near the end, but it really doesn’t feel like there is a progression in Joe & Mac. The last couple of levels seem to bombard you suddenly with perilous jumps and unavoidable hits.

So, now the now comes the important question—do I recommend Joe & Mac? On the one hand, the game is nice to look at and fun to play. On the other hand, the short levels and the cheapness of later levels make the experience less than exemplary. Overall, I would say that while Joe & Mac is not without flaws, it is worth playing and possibly buying . . . after you’ve already collected the better titles the SNES has to offer.

Recommended (with some reservations)