Wednesday, April 29, 2009



Turrican seems so promising on paper. Its levels are huge, allowing for Metroid-fashion exploration; it features Contra-esque run-and-gun action; and it provides you with a decent assortment of weapons and attack-types, including a spread gun, a laser whip, and an alternative spinning-razor form. Unfortunately, the gameplay bypasses "challenging" and heads straight for "cheap," mucking up the chip's potential for greatness (and even goodness).

Fast, agile enemies zip about the screen; spreading bullets come from every which way; blind-leap spots make frequent unfair nuisances of themselves; and trash, boulders, lightning, and lava-drops strike you from above.

Perhaps most irritating is the fact that the game doesn't make it obvious when you're taking damage; you must peek at your rapidly dwindling vitality gauge to measure the extent of the beating you're receiving (and during the split second it takes your eyes to make that trip, you'll probably be obliterated). On top of all that, the areas themselves are ugly. And the designers stupidly decided to implement time limits, as they obviously wouldn't want you to spend much time on the one part of the whole mess that's truly fun--exploring the levels to locate secret stuff. Indeed, there's a hell of a lot of secret stuff to find, especially early in the game, with copious "hidden goodie boxes" to uncover and 1-up icons strewn everywhere.

Heck, there are places where extra lives literally rain down upon you. On the one hand, it's cool that there are so many "sweet spots" to locate. On the other, it becomes glaringly obvious that the designers knew they were serving up a monster of a game that would demolish players over and over again.

I could deliver the usual spiel about how you need to memorize the levels, come up with strategies for the boss battles, figure out how to best use your weapons, and have a decent amount of skill to begin with in order to do well in this game. And yeah, that stuff does apply if you hope to make it out of even the first set of stages alive. But the affair degenerates into a nasty battle of attrition regardless. Collect dozens of extra men early on, and hope against hope when the challenges turn downright brutal.

The switch to brutality takes place when you hit Stage 3-2, where emphasis is no longer placed on exploration for the fun and benefit of powering up but on mere survival (and on finding some devilishly out-of-the-way exit spots). And whatever low level of enjoyability the game offered prior to the change in focus predictably plummets towards darker depths during the final stretch. The developers couldn't even be bothered to include music for the third world, while the fourth and final board forces you to endure a nightmarish strip of vertical platforming and some ridiculously boring ice-block busting.

Combine this crappy "climax" with a lame ending that's all too anxious to take you right back to the title screen, and you're left with criminally little reward for all the effort the mission demands.

1 comment :

Ai Cho Alexei said...

I've always felt a bit of trepidation about actually trying to play through this game because of it's horrid reputation, but this review (coupled with the godAWFUL graphics) have pushed this game so far down my playthrough list that it's safe to say I'll never get around to it. I actually laughed out loud at the screenshot of the "ice" busting; it looks like a CGA MS-DOS game from 1984. Did Accolade ever produce anything worthwhile, ever?

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