Sunday, November 14, 2010

Heavy Unit

Inter State/Kaneko / Taito

This tough sidescrolling shooter has a pretty bad reputation, mainly because there are lots of players out there who believe it's not merely unforgiving with its level of difficulty but utterly unfair. Indeed, Heavy Unit does seem to enjoy having large, robust enemies barreling around its playfield; and piloting a ship that constantly seems under-equipped doesn't lend to good times. The inoffensive but forgettable soundtrack won't compel anyone to continue getting bludgeoned, nor will the bland, flat-looking backdrops.

The gimmick that Kaneko placed their faith in is a ship that transforms into a robot when a certain icon is nabbed. Generally speaking, the standard vessel has an easier time blasting things and avoiding counterattacks thanks to its spread-shot weaponry and slim shape while the robot can take enemies out more quickly with its concentrated firepower and homing projectiles. Both weapon sets will seem lame and inadequate when players first start using them, and the aforementioned icon doesn't appear very often, meaning there aren't many "deliberation time" moments. Still, choosing wisely at specific junctures can make some level sections and boss fights much easier.

The transformation gimmick clearly wasn't implemented as well as it might've been, but there's another area in which Heavy Unit occasionally gets ambitious: enemy design. Its pink blobs and carrot shooters won't impress anyone, but some of their larger cohorts just might.

I know as I prepare to deliver my not-so-negative verdict on Heavy Unit that some readers will believe I'm letting a bad game off the hook just because it makes for a good challenge. Most folks give up on HU immediately, and I can't blame them; I never hesitate to warn players that they aren't likely to get much enjoyment out of it. I hated it right off the bat myself, and I don't consider it any sort of "favorite" even now. But there is a certain sense of satisfaction to be felt from discovering the best methods to use to dispatch your stout foes. In other words, the game does have a shot at winning people over in the end.

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