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Ocean Software Ltd
1988
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£9.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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59
Andy Milton
Chris Bourne

Ocean's rumble in the jungle.

Vietnam's grip on modern American cinema is hardly surprising, but UK software spin-offs are rather tougher to figure out. Ocean's earlier foray into South East Asian celluloid - the brainlessly violent Rambo - was no better than the original film deserved, but Platoon is a different kettle of fish. How can anyone cram a movie that centres round the struggle of good versus evil within the US Army into an arcade game?

As you might have guessed, Ocean haven't really tried to: what they've turned out instead is a multiload jungles-and-tunnels slugfest not a million miles away from Gryzor, with the Viet Cong obligingly standing in for those nasty aliens. As you work your way through the differing perspectives and control methods of the game's six stages, you're faced with search and destroy tasks based on sections of the film plot.

In the jungle maze of the first stage you have to find a box of explosives and dynamite a bridge, while fending off VCs and dodging their booby-traps. By ducking, jumping and firing you can avoid enemy bullets while hitting home with your own - if you've got sharp reflexes and good timing, that is. Jumping can also get you over tripwires and spider-hole snipers, but a hand grenade will get the job done here if you can spare one.

Once you've found and used the explosives it's on to a very brief stage two where, still in that flattened perspective, you have to search a VC-sympathetic village for vital equipment, namely a map of the tunnel complex under the village and a torch to explore it by. VC attackers are interspersed with innocent villagers, the former thoughtfully wearing battledress so as to stand out nicely. Shooting villagers carries stiff penalties so there's something of a "Hogan's Alley" side to the action here, but mostly it's a matter of learning where the equipment is and getting to it. Once you've found the map, torch and the trap door into the tunnel system, stages three and four load in.

As you explore the flooded tunnels searching for VC weapons caches, attackers spring from the water wielding knives. Survival depends on reflexes alone: quick, accurate shooting is essential if you want to come through alive. The soldier's-eye view here heightens the tension but, as in the bunker defence sequence of stage four, the action is little more than target shooting and careful use of ammo.

Stages five and six are the last to load, offering another jungle sequence followed by grenade throwing. The scenario here has you blasting your own (very nasty) sergeant out of a foxhole so you can shelter there, but as elsewhere in the game the moral problems this involves don't get any further than the instructions: it's all just action once you're playing.

Film tie-ins tend to be a pretty miserable breed, but despite some gameplay grumbles Platoon does hang together pretty well even if it misses the point somewhat. The lives structure is interesting - for much of the game you switch between five different men each with his own health level to maintain. This helps add depth to some hectic arcade-ish gameplay, while there is a real sense of the plot advancing. But the game does trivialise a serious subject, and you may find some aspects of it stick in the throat: the Viet Cong weren't Martians or robots to be shot out of hand, and it's disturbing that they should be treated as such. Who's next? The Contras? The French resistance?

Reviewer: Andy Milton

RELEASE BOX
C64/128, £9.95cs, £14.95dk, Out Now
Spec, £9.95cs, £14.95dk, Out Now
Amstrad, £9.95cs, £14.95dk, Imminent

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 40/100
1 hour: 50/100
1 day: 50/100
1 week: 45/100
1 month: 30/100
1 year: 5/100

Graphics make an initial difference, but it's playability that really separates the versions.

4/10
2/10
4/10
3/10
530/1000

Banner Text

SPECTRUM VERSION

Sluggish control responses and scrolling ruin the game's playability, while the garishly clashy display makes it unappealing stuff to look at. On 128K machines the game loads in one go, but multi-load was the least of the 48K game's troubles anyway.

C64 VERSION

Though graphically impressive and very playable, this version's marred by a few nasty little bogs and some sloppy gameplay. Firing routine glitches mean your gun doesn't work when you're at the edge of a clearing, and changing personnel on stage two can accidentally kill villagers. Inevitable deaths add to the frustration too, so mind the blood pressure!

Graphics: 8/10

Audio: 7/10

IQ Factor: 4/10

Fun Factor: 7/10

Ace Rating: 801/1000

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 70/100

1 hour: 85/100

1 day: 75/100

1 week: 50/100

1 month: 10/100

1 year: /100

Screenshot Text

Spectrum: In the jungle on Level 1, and it's not just the situation that looks ugly.

C64: Searching a hut in level 2 village watch out for booby traps!