Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Chapter XIV: Robocop

Back in second grade Robocop was THE shit. It was the hottest movie at the time, and luckily I had the game for the Spectrum, which was reason enough for me to be quite popular among my classmates. During those days, it was common for my friends to come with me after classes to my house where we would play the game. Among our group, besides my best friends Lil’John and Louie CF, another classmate was a regular of our play sessions. This kid shall be known from now on as “Crazy Charles”.

My mom was always quite protective of me and quite a bit judicious of what other kids I could hang out with. Crazy Charles had everything for not pass through her seal of approval, as he looked every bit of a thug. He was tall, thin, dark and had his face full of scars. As you can see it was quite a surprise for me that she was ok with me playing with him. Maybe she could see through her grown up eyes that deep inside he was a good boy. He really loved the game, and it was common to see him excited at the end of the day because he knew he was about to play the game.

Crazy Charles was always the leader of the class and had a deep sense of injustice. I remember clearly him getting ass kicked from the older bullies from fourth grade for standing up to protect us. Most of the time it was because we were about to be expelled from the best football field in the school even though we arrived there earlier. And by “best”, in the eighties that meant that it wasn’t full of mud and garbage. It was a just an open area of Portuguese pavement with no goals or lines to be seen. It was also a regular sight  watching Crazy Charles standing up against our teacher when he felt something wasn’t ok. Looking back in hindsight he was right. She was a bit of a cunt.

Selling crates is a big business in the videogame world
When we changed schools in fifth grade, Crazy Charles didn’t stayed in our class. For some reason he was grouped with some of the biggest troublemakers and older kids in the worst class. A year after that, he was already smoking joints with his new friends, and he really didn’t look the same. It’s true that he always looked older than us, so you can tell how menacing he would look while hanging out with the tougher crowd while smoking drugs.

I lost track of him after leaving that school in seventh grade. The only time I saw him again was in my early twenties, while I was driving and spotted him walking in the sidewalk. He looked ghoulish,  like he was into some heavy stuff, probably heroin. He sure didn’t look the same kid that loved Robocop with such unadulterated enthusiasm.

A leaping head butt doesn't seem the best strategy against a man made of steel
I don’t know what happened to him. I hope he’s alright but knowing how things went for him, that’s probably just wishful thinking. He was a man with a noble heart that was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. The kind of a man that we would follow to war if needed. Let’s toast to him.

When I got my Amiga, Robocop was one of the top priority games to get. Why shouldn’t it be? If the Spectrum version looked so great, how amazing would look the Amiga version with much better graphics and more colours on the screen. Well, I learned the hard way that there’s much more to a videogame that just the immediate appearance. And even then, the game didn’t look much better, but something else wasn’t right. Maybe I was spoiled by newer, shinier games, but I just didn’t have any fun with this “new” version of Robocop, and so the disks were shortly after shelved and forgotten. Luckily Crazy Charles never tried this one out, because I can picture him smashing the monitor in disdain. He was quite violent you know. Sorry for forgetting to tell that part.

Let’s try to check, after all these years, what is really wrong with the Amiga version of Robocop.


That’s what’s wrong. While the Spectrum version had some high production values, keeping in mind the limitations of the machine, the Amiga game looks almost like a PD game in every aspect. The graphics are very barebones and the colours used are very garish, making it a very unpleasant looking game. In contrast to the chunky character sprites of the speccy, here they look completely anaemic. Also, there’s an awful HUD which takes a significant part of the screen which serves no purpose whatsoever than to make the game even uglier.

"Down and then up to jump"? Cooperation indeed...
The game starts with a very silly digitized speech stating the mission principles of Robocop. Well, I doubt about the “Serving the public trust” part, since waging open war on the streets against thugs doesn’t seem the best way of doing it. I can only imagine the how much the owners of Foxy Lady pay for insurance.

Foxy Lady is going through a clearance sale before closure. This part of Detroit doesn't seem the best place for a fancy boutique.
Many of Amiga’s games, even the poorer ones, have the saving grace of having good music. But well, not this one. It sound amateurish and it’s completely unmemorable. So much that I don’t remember anything about it even though I heard it just a minute ago.

The gameplay is completely one-dimensional. It’s some kind of brain damaged child of Altered Beast, and we know how smart that game is. Just go right and punch and shoot every thug to death. I suppose it’s appropriate that Robocop moves like being overdosed on steroids, but that doesn’t make an enticing gaming experience when there’s no depth whatsoever to the gameplay. There’s also not much variety in foes, being the regular eighties culprits “walking goon”, “goon on a bike”, “goon with grenades” and “goon at the window” the main targets of our bullets.

Still, maybe it isn’t fair to outcry this whole lack of diversity when I didn’t even finished the first level. Well, it also isn’t fair that the game throws an ED-209 at me without giving me a chance to do much. I have no idea how to tackle this boss, but the mean machine just corners me at the left edge of the screen and kills me almost instantly. This awful boss fight was the cherry on top of an woeful game session.

I can't take it anymore
I had to take a look at the Spectrum version to make sure it wasn’t covered in rose taint. Well, it’s one of those games that didn’t age well and I don’t see much point in playing it nowadays, but it knew the machine’s strengths and limitations and delivered a much more satisfying experience for its time.

Really, fuck this game. Crazy Charles should have roundhouse kicked it into oblivion.


  1. I never played any other version of the game than the one for the Atari ST and actually liked it. It's just an average quality game but still fun to play (at least with trainer options turned on).

    For some behind the scene facts about the game you could read the interview with Peter Johnson (http://www.codetapper.com/amiga/interviews/peter-johnson/).

    1. Thanks! That was a very interesting read.

      Although i felt a bit bad while doing it after being so critical on his game:)

  2. The Amiga version of Robocop is actually a fairly faithful port of the Data East arcade game. Even the music is faithful to the arcade. All of the 8-bit versions of Robocop (C64, Spectrum, etc) were a different game that was only similar to the arcade game. The Amiga version is missing some things from the arcade version on the later levels, like flying enemies, but there's no doubt that it was modeled after the arcade game, not the 8-bit versions.

    As for how to get past ED-209 at the end of the first level; When you come to the store that says "Made the American Way", stop and fire the gun until the 3-way shots are used up. Once your weapon is back to the default, move right until ED-209 comes out. Press the spacebar to jump and press the fire button as fast as you can. Repeat until it's dead.

    Memorization is the key to this game. Once you memorize the levels and know where the enemies are going to come out, it becomes fairly easy.

    Between the levels are minigames that will restore your energy. The face matching is pretty easy. The thermal face matching is a little harder, but just look for a distinct pattern in whatever part you're matching. For the ones where you have to rescue a hostage by shooting a thug/Dick Jones, don't try to move the crosshairs back and forth to follow them, aim to one side of them and wait for them to move into your sights. If you try to follow them, you'll end up shooting the hostage. For the shooting gallery, try to predict which targets will come up next and move the crosshairs into position.

    Robocop on the Amiga is one of the few action games I could finish without cheating. :)