Who knows what a bull terrier looks like? That's right, they're those really ugly white dogs, built like bricks, with the piggy little eyes! And doncha just love 'em?! They're so cute!
In fact, if there's one thing that'd improve my life then i think that'd be it - a little 'bully' pup to came into the shed with me everyday, go shopping at Tesco's, hit a nightclub now and again, watch the footie. A mans best friend indeed! But seeing as how my landlord doesn't allow animals in the flat (even though James has managed creep in a couple of times) I'm simply going to have settle for second best - which means loading up Shadow Dancer and having some kind of white dog wolf thing trotting along behind my heels instead. Ho hum!
Not that that's too much of a rough option actually, because USGold's jolly-long-awaited Sega beat-'em-up is a tad far-fetched. Just like in Shinobi, its predecessor, you don't so much punch and kick your way through the levels as litter the place up with a million deadly shurikens.) Anyway, back to this dog.
He (or she) doesn't have a name, so for the sake of argument let's call him Doris. The game works like some sort of weirdo 1-player/2-player thing. As I said, Doris trots gaily behind as you spin out your pointy-edged disks to wreak havoc in all directions. The only trouble with all this is that sometimes (well, quite often, the truth be told) the baddies (or terrorists) can all get a bit much for you. They're positioned in such away that it's often incredibly hard to kill one guy and not get swiped by the yobbo behind him. But don't despair 'cos this is where Doris comes in. (Hurrah! Simply command her to jump in front of you and sacrifice herself on the sword (or bullet, or whatever it is that the first bloke's firing at you) while you quickly nab the bloke behind with one of your shurries. Peasy.
AND IT WORKS REALLY WELL!
Yes indeed. Its a gimmick to be sure, but a solid one. Of course, every gimmick needs same strong backing in the graphics and gameplay departments if it's to work, in Shadow they've come up trumps. It looks nice and crisp for a start. You've got no trouble making out your little man and his dog, who both trot along with great assurance. (As does the scrolling.)
This is helped by loads of detailed, but very clear, backgrounds. Shadow Dancer's only got 4 levels, but each of them is split up into 3 or so sub-levels, and there's often a bonus level tagged onto the end. Pretty gigantic and whopping, I'm sure you'll agree! (This really gets you hooked. Because it doesn't take as long to complete a section as it would a 'normal-length' level, there's a strong temptation to move quickly on and knock the next one on the head too.)
So, finally (and at completely the wrong end of the review), let's see what these levels are made up of...
Well, you kick off in an airport lounge, then a cargo hold, followed by what looks like a subway station - and that's just the first level ignoring the bonus section! Cor blimey! Other 'bits' include the roof of a speeding train, some sewers (with a few extremely unfriendly alligators in them) and the final level in which you've got to protect a US space shuttle. (The end-of-level baddies are equally various too - there's a big monster who throws out bouncing balls at you, a locomotive that shoots out some weird flaming rivets, and, ohh, loads more.)
So what's the verdict? Well, pretty blimming marvellous really. I don't usually go for these beat-'em-up things but this certainly kept me glued for a good couple of hours (and then some). There seems to be a lot to it (which is always nice to know when you've just forked out over £10) and it's pitched at just the right difficulty level. (And the dog stuff works well too.)
So, an impressive arcade conversion, which takes a simple idea, throws it onto a pretty ricketty old formula and comes up with something rather jolly good at the end of the day. It should appeal to a wider audience than these kinds of things usually do.
Strong beat/shoot-'em-up conversion with a good gimmick (a fighting dog). It works.
Ooh, I feel just like Bruce Willis in Die Harder (except he didn't have Fanny the Wonderdog following him everywhere!). Here we are at the airport (at the beginning of the game) where all sorts of wicked terrorists are, er, trying to shoot you basically. (Mind you, it helps to kill the boredom while you wait for you 16-hour delayed chartered plane to Malaga to turn up!)
Go fetch, Fido! Here we see your trusty hound jumping out in front of you to waste a weird-looking fish-thowing muscleman. Kill!
Now, come on, sunshine - drop the gun. (And how did you get it through customs in the first place, eh?)
And here's the end-of-level-baddie in Level 1. He throws balls at you, under the obvious misapprehension that for some reason you're Peter Shilton.
Hurrah! It's that old ninja magic! Hit the Enter key and you send out trillions of shurikens that lay waste to all nearby opposition.