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Ocean Software Ltd
1990
Arcade: Action
£10.99
£3.99
English
ZX Spectrum 128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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25
Matt Bielby
Chris Bourne

Hmm, this NARC business. I really don't know - I'm not that big on it at all. I don't it's really Ocean's fault (it's more down to the original Williams arcade machine) but this is one of the most objectionable Speccy games I've seen in ages. It's very (very) violent, it's pretty repetitive, and the plot is utter nonsense (yes, I know the plots are utter nonsense in most coin-ops, but this one's particularly bad).

All that having been said, I'm sure it'll prove to be very popular indeed. It's packed with action, there's lots of it (about 12 levels at a guess) and every so often a neat little touch crops up that actually quite endears you to the whole thing. But I'm also sure that if I had any kids (I don't - well, none that I know about, ho ho) I wouldn't be massive on them playing it. It's not really the limbs, heads and bits of bodies bouncing around the screen when you blow people up that I object to (all that stuff's actually rather fun, and was fine in a fantasy sort of setting like Altered Beast). What I don't like is that it's all so heavily based on the war against drugs in the inner cities but it actually has nothing to do with them at all. I guess it's the trivialisation of important real-life problems, and the idea that you can solve it all by shooting lots of people, that I don't like, it's a theme that's cropped up in a lot of computer games, but never so blatantly as it does here.

But anyway, how does the game actually work? Well it's a monochrome, horizontally-scrolling two-player shoot-'em-up. There aren't any platforms or anything in it - it's just a case of walking in a straight line basically - but each level has a different sort of backdrop. Quite a few are street scenes, but tube stations, bridges, office buildings and drugs labs all crop up too. Here, apparently, is a city where every inhabitant (there are no civilians it seems, though you do meet a few prostitutes) is a potentially murderous drug fiend, where baddies throw hypodermic needles at you (to try and inject you with lethal and addictive drugs), where 'krak' is made just down the street from ganja greenhouses and where the inevitable Mr Big controls the whole operation from an office just over the road.

It's also a place where policemen (Max Force and, if you have a partner, Ice Man - there only seem to be the two of you in the whole city) wear serial-killer style hoods, carry giant machine guns, and arrest hardly anyone. All that the tramps and addicts of Krak Street seem to do is stumble around aimlessly - hardly threatening you'd think, but no, you'd be best to shoot them anyway the game seems to be saying. By the time you get to the Rambo types who guard the greenhouses the game actually forces you to kill people - if you don't you won't get the key to the next level, and be able to continue the game. I'm being a bit unfair here I suppose - arrests are possible - but I've yet to see anyone play the game who didn't shoot twice as many people as he booked.

But anyway. I'm not going to go on about this moral stuff any more - it's rather boring I know - but let me just say this. Any game that (for instance) thinks growing ganja is a similar sort of crime to making crack and deserves the same reward (ie death) has a screw loose somewhere and leaves a very unpleasant taste in the mouth.

So where does that leave us? Well, with a lot of levels (and you do get a lot of game for your money, as I said before) full of more or less the same type of action, but occasionally surprising you with a nice touch here and there. The dogs that attack you in one drug lab are quite neat, for instance, as is the parallax scrolling and the exploding baddies (their arms and legs zoom off in all directions). Also neat are the car you can leap into and drive off at one point, the drugs, money and ammo you collect zooming off-screen coin-op style, the baddies entering from behind tube train doors and so on.

What it doesn't have though is any real variety in the gameplay - our heroes have precious few moves and shuffle about rather slowly (some of the baddies actually look like they're moonwalking!). The graphics are monochrome to a man, and though usually clear can look a little sparce. And finally we come back to the question of whether we really want games where the cops shoot almost everybody who moves, where possession of all drugs (even the least dangerous ones) is a capital offense, where the (utterly ridiculous) suggestion is made that we can solve a very serious social problem by shooting lots of people. Even the advert (though very well painted) is scary and horrible. Nope, I know I'm turning into a right old fuddy duddy and Mary Whitehouse type but I think this whole thing is very dodgy and not my cup of tea at all. (What a relief then that it's not that good either.)

Violent, repetitive and morally dubious shoot-'em-up based on popular arcade game. A hit (sadly).

84%
76%
73%
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72%

Screenshot Text

Hmm. There don't seem to be all that many baddies around to shoot at the moment - better go for those innocent looking tramps instead, I guess. (And that's exactly what you do.)

Shoot those drug containers for extra points and ponder - just what is that thing in the background?

Alright, doggies, I want you all to go to heel behind me in a row...

...yep, just like that. Good boys! (You'll get some Smackos later.)

A-ha! The start of a mission - that chap looks pretty suspicious, doesn't he?