RoboCop Review

RoboCop NES box art

Sub-par side-scrolling action game featuring the famed movie hero RoboCop.

Story

The government has seen crime levels rise in old Detroit for some time. Now, the police department has turned to seek help from O.C.P. – a private corporation that isn’t afraid to solve crimes and other problems in the society in unconventional ways.

A man named Clarence Boddicker is known as a notorious cop killer and is responsible for much of the crime that is happening in the city. But the mastermind behind it all is a man named Dick Jones. RoboCop – part man, part machine from the O.C.P. is sent to investigate and eliminate the threat.

The Game

The RoboCop video game for the NES is a side-scrolling action game based on the RoboCop arcade game that was released 1988. The story of the game does relate to the story in the blockbuster movie RoboCop, but the events that are portrayed in the game is not canon with the storyline seen in the movie.

In the game you play as RoboCop who is on the assignment to solve the crimes in the city that Dick Jones is responsible for. Your goal is to simply reach the end of each stage and defeat the bosses there. The game allows scrolling in both left and right directions, and there are some dead ends and optional rooms to explore as well. As such the level design is not strictly linear, even though it is limited.Robocop4

Controls

As RoboCop you can’t use ranged weapons when you want – instead you will find yourself engaging in fist fights until a serious threat emerges. RoboCop then automatically draws his gun, allowing you to fire shots with the A button. You can aim your fire downward or upward, but low targets requires you to duck while shooting. If you intend to duck and shoot, but press the shoot button too early you will shoot downward instead. In a stressed situation it’s very hard to do this correctly as the controls seem somewhat delayed. Thanks to the poor controls in the game you will have to withstand quite a few hits that normally would have been easy to avoid.

RoboCop can’t jump even though there are enemy bullets that could easily be avoided with a small hop. Walking up and down stairs is also annoyingly hard in a stressful situation because it doesn’t seem to register properly. There are stages where you must use a lift to travel between the floors and it is also an unpleasant experience because the lifts are so robotic and difficult to control – but thankfully you won’t be harassed by enemies while doing it.

By pressing the Select button you can block incoming attacks, but it is seldom useful and it drains your energy faster than normal – so if you intend to use it, make sure you have energy to go around.

Even though the controls are pretty stiff and unintuitive they are pretty easy to get used to after a while.

Content

There are six levels in the game and they are all rather short. If you know the game by heart you could probably beat the game in just ten minutes or so. You will be fighting thugs, snipers, robots, and dogs mainly. Other than thugs and gun men of the street you’ll also find yourself as the target of mounted cannons and huge fighting machines and attack drones. RoboCop needs energy to operate and it is used up just by walking around. Energy can be regained by picking up power-food cans or defeating a boss, and it can be a scarce resource occasionally.

You’ll quickly learn how to best defeat each enemy type but the difficulty lies in that the enemies keep swarming the screen, slowly draining your power. Once your energy or power bars are all emptied, it’s game over – but you can retry each stage two times before the game forces you to restart from the very beginning. While this is harsh it is also quite fair – but it is annoying that game does not tell you about this. Instead it simply freezes, as if your console crashed, when you have used up your retries. Obviously this makes it seem like an unfinished product.

RoboCop is armed with a powerful and custom built hand gun called Auto-9, but two other weapons can be found and used during the game: the Machine Gun and the Cobra Gun. The Machine Gun has very short range but does have a very fast fire rate. The Cobra Gun is very rare and very powerful – it can destroy almost anything with one single shot. You’ll lose all collected weapons if you die which does feel unnecessarily harsh – but the standard Auto-9 hand gun is probably the weapon of choice anyway thanks to its unlimited bullets and good range.Robocop8

The game also has a special display at the bottom of the screen. It shows four icons; Infrared Vision, Punch, Foe Detector and Energy/Power Alarm. These icons will blink to warn you about various things; when RoboCop sees something using his infrared vision or when an enemy must be defeated in close combat rather than ranged weapons. The Foe Detector is blinking faster when you get closer to the end of the stage where the boss is waiting and the energy icon will blink to warn you when you are running out of either energy or power. All in all, this part of the interface isn’t really needed and the help it offers is limited, at best.

The different stages take place in various environments such as old Detroit, the City Hall, a warehouse, O.C.P. Headquarters and a foundry. There are numerous enemies that will surprise you if you don’t know their locations from a previous play-through, so it’s important to memorize them if you want to beat the game. There are also numerous occasions when you get hit by something that doesn’t even look like it hit you – you simply need to learn the hard way how to avoid stuff.

Every now and then in between stages, you will get to engage in target practice sessions as a bonus stage. Here you are standing on a firing range steering a crosshair from a first person perspective. Your goal is simply to hit as many targets as possible before time runs out. While this is a nice change of pace to the side-scrolling stages, it doesn’t really add much value to the overall game.

Graphics

The graphics are pretty standard for a NES game. The backgrounds are colorful but there are platforms, props and details that look diffuse. The stages do have distinct atmospheres much thanks to the use of definable color schemes but occasionally they do also look sterile and uninspiring.

The animation is adequate for the most part. For example; you’ll see thugs fall down from windows when shot and biker’s bikes exploding. The huge bosses also look okay albeit the choppy animation.

There is some minor flickering of the sprites going on here and there, and some of the animation does look cheap, especially the dogs and karate thugs.

Sound

The background music mimics the original RoboCop theme heard in the movie and sadly it’s not a great rendition of the song. It also repeats itself a bit too much and inevitably becomes annoying after a while. The sound effects are brief and abrupt as if not to disturb the background music too much. The sounds do go pretty well with the music so it is tolerable for a while.

Summary

RoboCop on the NES is a very sub-par game. It doesn’t have any big thrills and it does have many small flaws that keep pestering you as you try to play it. Since the game is very short and the experience is pretty flat altogether there’s not much to keep you playing it. Even if you’re a big RoboCop fan, this game won’t have you hooked for very long because of its repetitive design and the lack of content.

But despite its flaws the game is, at least, pretty playable. Seeing RoboCop relentlessly fight crime is easily a treat and it does uplift the entertainment value of this game.

Developed By: Data East
Published By: Data East
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Entertainment System
Genre: Run ‘n Gun
Players: 1
Also Available On: Arcade, Atari ST, Gameboy, Amiga 500, Commodore 64, Apple II, PC DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, CPC
Released: 2009

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