Digital Bridges' Robocop is based on the popular '80s movie about a police officer who is half man, half machine. However, the inspiration for the game comes from the first game to bear the Robocop name, an arcade side-scroller from Data East. Digital Bridges' interpretation is a great-looking title, not to mention a fun game.
In Robocop, the cyborg officer is out to get revenge against the very organization that created him. His adventure takes him through the streets of Detroit, into abandoned steel mills, and eventually to police headquarters.
Robocop is easy to pick up. The 4 and 6 keys control horizontal movement, and the 7 and 9 keys make you jump. Crouching is done with the 8 key, and elevators are activated with the 0 key. Finally, shooting can be done diagonally left or right (1 or 3), overhead (2), or straight ahead (5). The game reacts fast, which is helpful when going against heavily armed street thugs.
The enemies are a bit more aggressive than in the average action title, making it important not to rush into any battles. The generic thug carries a machine gun, but other enemies throw grenades or, most impressively, carry flamethrowers. Bad guys do a good job of hiding behind boxes, peeking out of windows, and firing from hard-to-reach places. There is also the occasional robotic enemy, including a floating turret and a wall laser. Enemies usually require about three hits, and human enemies sometimes give up after a couple of shots--Robocop can then apprehend them for extra points instead of killing them.
Most missions last a few minutes and, aside from defeating an occasional boss character, the goal is to save all the (blonde, blue-eyed, busty) hostages. Enemies often stay close to them, but luckily hostages can't be hit by your bullets. Saving a hostage rewards you with baby food, which Robocop uses as fuel to refill his energy tank.
Aside from baby's apple sauce, several power-ups litter the Robocop landscape. You'll find shields that provide minor energy boosts, and fallen enemies will occasionally drop money, jewels, and other items that will award you points. Weapons are plentiful, varying from a three-bullet "spread" shotgun to a potent laser beam. Each special weapon has limited ammunition, and once it's spent you'll go back to your default pea shooter.
The game screen contributes to the arcade flavor of Robocop. Information is limited to the top of the screen, where you'll find info on your current weapon, ammunition, score, and energy. Storyline text is limited to level breaks featuring mock newscasts.
Graphically, Robocop is gorgeous. The shine on the hero's armor, the death animations of the enemies, and even the nearly flawless title screen compete with the original arcade game. The visual apex comes at the game's midpoint, when you battle ED-209, a rival law-enforcement robot. The beast takes up a good chunk of the screen and moves with a grace seldom seen in a handheld.
The sound is a notch below the graphics, but still impressive. The Robocop theme is intact, so much so that fans who forgot about the cyborg movie may find themselves humming along. There is no in-game music, which is a pity, but the sound effects are on point.
Robocop has a nice difficulty curve, though novice gamers may be fooled by the initial levels. You start off easily enough, picking off solitary perps and refueling on applesauce on every other screen. However, by level three, which takes place in a complex, multilevel factory, most players will probably be ready to use one of their four precious continues.
Robocop manages to avoid the repetitive nature of most arcade games by offering a hint of strategy. Crates can be destroyed to create new shot angles, and explosive drums can be shot to kill the surrounding enemies. A lot of thought was put into the level design, and it will probably take the average player an hour or so to beat Robocop, if not longer, simply because it usually takes a few tries to master a level.
Fans of arcade games, and especially of the original arcade title, will enjoy Robocop. It might not be the longest game on the platform, but its great graphics and gameplay make for a fun overall experience.