I watched this movie on tenterhooks, nervously wondering when the Russians would spot Sean Connery's Scottish accent underneath that rather crap Russian one he put on. Of course, they never did, so he got clean away with one of their massive nuclear submarines stuffed up his jumper. What a guy. (And he was the best James Bond as well! Ed)
Anyway, Grandslam, who I'm sure were sitting a couple of rows in front of me, throwing popcorn at other and giggling, were obviously impressed enough to go and write a computer game about it all. And here it is in all its glory.
The game is split into 5 levels which loosely follow the plot of the film. Level 1 sees you controlling a helicopter hovering over the surfaced Red October. Dangling down on a rope is a little American man who wants (for some reason) to jump onto the top of the sub. The rough sea and strong winds mean that you must juggle the copter's controls until the poor bloke's hanging over the conning tower, You then hit Fire to release him and watch as he tumbles to his death on the side of the sub. What's worse is that you've got one chance at this. Fail and it's Game Over. (There's a knack to doing this bit, and, until you learn it, you'll get very annoyed - it can really get on your nerves!)
RIGHT - WHAT'S NEXT?
Well, Level 2 is actually. And it's a horizontal right-to-left scrolling shoot-'em-up. You control the sub as it enter underwater caverns filled with enemy torpedoes, mines and subs, all of which are doing their best to spring leaks in your hull. Blast your way through, avoid the rocks and, er, that's it. Although simple and rather old-fashioned, this bit is actually very playable. It's fast, fairly slick and it's got that I-know-I-can-get-further feeling which keeps bringing you back to it just when you thought you were completely fed up, and just decided to go and watch the TV instead.
After that, you've got to dock a small minisub up to the hatch on the back of the Red October. It's pretty much the same idea as Level 1 really (whcih means it's just as frustrating). It all takes place on one screen. Easy, you might think. But the sea current ius wicked, the minisub is nearly uncontrollable and time is running out. It's tear you hair out time! (It makes you wonder whether people in the Navy have to go through this every day in real life.)
But eventually you'll get the hang of it. Or, if you don't, your grandchildren might. Then, tired and aching, you'll look forward to a nice rest. But what happens? A furious joystick-waggling sesh, that's what! Having docked the little sub, you've got to open an airlock with your bare hands. This simply means waggling the stick until your energy bar reads maximum. No skill involved and not much fun (unless you love waggling). Then the door creaks open and you get sucked through. Phew!
Now it's time to get out while the going's good. Once more in control of Red October, it's back to the horizontal blasting. More enemies, more missiles and smaller caverns more sweat), but the level is pretty much the same as before. Although I think that this is the best part of the game, it would have been nice to see a few added features the second time round. As far as I could tell, there was nothing new to be seen, just more of the same.
After all the effort you've put in, one of your crew decides he's going to muck everything up. He runs off through a small door marked 'Never, ever go in here, ever' which leads into the nuclear reactor room at the back of the sub. And, being a real idiot (and unaware of the dangers of radiation), you follow.
Inside, you see the reactors lined up and, every so often, the ship's cook (for it is he) peeps round one of them. You must shoot him with your trusty pistol, having first centred the cross-hairs (ideally on his bonce). If you miss, you'll get one of the reactors, as they contain enough radioactivity to melt the entire solar system into a hideous porridge, you'd better be pretty careful. It's a sort of mini Op Wolf-ish bit, so it's something you'll have seen before (but probably done ever-so-slightly better).
Anyway, with some impressive marksmanship, you'll hit the cook a few times and kill him, miss the reactors, sail to New York and get outrageously drunk on foul-smelling rum (like sailors are supposed to).
And there you have it. The Hunt For Red October is quite nicely done, but all its sections have been seen before in other forms. What's more, it's all rather bitty. And it's also got of a 'small-time' feel to it that makes it pale quite a lot next to bigger games from the likes of Ocean or US Gold. But it's not dire or unplayable, so you can have some fun with it. (Probably.)
Hmm. The bits don't hang together as well as they should. The shoot-'em-up parts are fun though.
Yikes! Better avoid the enemy mines and torpedoes on Level 2! (It's lucky you can move in 8 directions to avoid the really, isn't it?)
Who's that little chap falling onto the top of Red October then? Probably a singing telegram we'll be bound!
The minisub bobs around above the Red October. You have to dock the little bubble on its underside with the bump on the October's deck. (Or something like that anyway!)