Guide a lumbering Robocop

User Rating: 5.1 | RoboCop NES
There are some games that really shouldn’t be geared towards kids, especially when those games are based off of bloody and violent R rated movies. Yet that never seemed to stop the folks at Ocean and Data East from releasing Robocop in December 1989 to the delight of children everywhere who owned Nintendo systems. Of course, this opened a veritable Pandora’s Box as the way was seemingly paved for an even worse game (aka Total Recall) to come around a year later.

If you’ve never heard of Robocop, prepare for a crash course. Robocop was created as an unstoppable machine to bring the crime ridden streets of Old Detroit to justice. OCP, the makers of Robocop, used the remnants of Officer Alex Murphy (a cop who was killed in the line of duty) to serve as the gooey center of the cold mechanical shell. Robocop then set out on a crusade of vengeance to bring his killers to justice. In the movie, he was portrayed as an unstoppable machine where the forces of evil had to go to great lengths just to slow him down. He was pretty much a walking tank. A walking tank that ate baby food. Here’s why: the movies touted Robocop as an indestructable machine who was bulletproof as well as flameproof. Remember that part in the movie where the gas station blew up and Robocop came out unscathed? That was sooo cool! Or the part where he waltzed into the drug plant and shot everyone there despite the fact that about 50 people were constantly firing at him? That was my favorite part.

But I dare beg the question…why is it that in the game Robocop can be mauled by dogs? Not just dogs, mind you, but also goons brandishing switchblades and baddies that run and jump kick you as well. Robocop’s heatproof armor will let him withstand an explosion, yet a guy with a flamethrower can make Robocop cry like a little girl when fire touches him. I hope I’ve made my point, so I’ll move on now.

The gameplay follows the events of the movie starting with on the streets of Old Detroit fighting petty thugs, through the aforementioned narcotics lab, and eventually to the junkyard and OCP headquarters itself. Gameplay mechanics follow the usual 2D standard as an overly stiff and lumbering Robocop is pitted against hordes of enemies that can move and attack faster than him.

There are a couple of weapons available for Robocop to use. By default, he’s equipped with his trusty Auto 9 which does a decent job of mowing down any of the super fast enemies in front of him and in later levels, he’ll also get his hands on the super powerful Cobra Cannon in later stages. One confusing element of the game is that Robocop will periodically put away his gun and punch his way through parts of stages which increases the difficulty tenfold. While most enemies can be taken down with a punch to the face, they all move so fast that you’re guaranteed to take some damage at some point. Robocop is especially screwed when he’s attacked from both sides since it takes a little bit to punch whatever is in front of him, then turn him around to hit whoever is sticking a switchblade in his bulletproof back. Stairs are also an obstacle and are really hard to climb unless Robocop’s foot is placed just right in front of the first stair.

Another obstacle in Robocop’s way is that he has two gauges that you have to keep an eye on since they’re constantly depleting over time in addition to damage from the goon swarms. One gauge measures time and the other measures overall health. You can pick up batteries to increase your time and jars of baby food to increase power. Trust me, you’ll need them.

All of the standard boss battles are here, most are against characters that aren’t seen in the movie, like the first level boss, while others are against such franchise icons like ED-209 and Clarence Boddicker. Most bosses just take basic pattern memorization to beat while others take a stroke of luck, like the first level boss for instance. He’ll immediately charge at you with fists flying and a reach that puts you at an obvious disadvantage. You’ll have to keep punching while moving forward until he comes at you again. Once you start hitting him, just repeatedly tap the punch button to take him out.

Levels are broken up by cutscenes that further the story as well as a target shooting mini game which can earn you extra health and bonus points. If the target shooting took up more of the game it would have scored higher.

The visuals are a tad above average in terms of backgrounds and environments. Robocop himself looks a little too skinny which brings me to a theory I’ve always had. Robocop has to be the hardest character to draw in 2D because he’s either too tall and skinny like we see here, or he’s entirely too small and squatty, as seen in Robocop 2 and 3. Where’s the happy medium? Aside from the tin man himself, random goons and even key characters lack any real detail outside of their respective cutscenes with the only exception being the ED-209 which will always look bad ass. There are also some neat little graphical effects like snipers falling out of windows when shot and things like that. The cutscenes also look pretty good, though Robocop has a mouth like Beaker the Muppet – meaning that only his bottom lip moves when he talks which looks a little weird.

Sound is decent enough for the NES. The soundtrack consists of the Robocop theme on constant loop and different music during cutscenes to break things up. The random goons don’t make any noise aside from a sound that I believe is supposed to resemble a grunt when they die. Dogs make woofing noises and squeal when killed, not that it’s a good thing, but a small touch.

I remember getting this game for my tenth birthday and feeling a little disappointed because all of my other friends got a Power Glove just a month prior for Christmas. This game hasn’t survived the years well, but it most assuredly survived better than the Power Glove. Looks like I got the last laugh on that one. Either way, Robocop is the lesser of the two evils and by no means the best movie game on the NES or for the franchise for that matter. If you want a true Robocop experience, play the original arcade game, which this one attempts to imitate and falls flat on its face. Do what Robocop says and “stay out of trouble” this game is a waste of time and patience. Thank you for your cooperation.