Monday, 19 November 2012

Lynx Games #1

Electrocop (1989)
By: Epyx / Atari Genre: Maze / Run 'n' Gun Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari Lynx First Day Score: 15,475
Also Available For: Nothing

Atari's mighty Lynx was a funny machine. It was a 'handheld' which was rather too big to be comfortably used as one for starters, but it was a powerful piece of kit for sure. It soon gained a glowing reputation for the surprisingly faithful arcade conversions which formed the bulk of its software library, but there were a few original releases too. Many of them were by Epyx, the co-developer of the Lynx itself, and most of these appeared at or soon after the machine's launch - presumably they were developed especially for the occasion to give the system a slightly more varied line-up. One of these was Electrocop. It gained a decent reputation at the time but it never seems to get mentioned these days any time the Lynx is mentioned. Has it dated that badly or has it been unfairly neglected in the intervening years?

That yellow droid is the weakest kind...
It's certainly quite an unusual game. It's set in 2089 and casts you in the titular role which I guess makes you a robot and we all know what temperamental oafs they can be. This one will need his (or its?) wits about him, however, as he's up against the formidable (and somewhat conspicuous-sounding) Criminal Brain. This is presumably also a robot, or perhaps a computer-based artificial intelligence like Skynet. Hmmm, well, whatever form it takes, it apparently has influence over the physical world as it's kidnapped the President's daughter - oh nooo! In order to retrieve her safe and sound, you must penetrate the 'technoid stronghold' know as the 'Stell Complex' in which the Criminal Brain is hiding, and you've only got an hour to do it.

Yep, it's Breakout, Electrocop stylee!
Although not constructed in an especially unique way, it's how the game presents your exploration of this complex that makes Electrcop unusual. The action, you see, is viewed from a third-person perspective with each of the complex's twelve maze-like levels consisting of a series of corridors linked by doorways, some of which are blocked by locked doors which require a code. Mr. Electrocop can run left and right along the corridors freely and can pass through doorways by moving into or out of the screen at the appropriate locations which sees the game scale your view back or forth accordingly. Each (or at least, most) corridors are patrolled by enemy droids called 'Walkers' of which there are four kinds - the Yellow Jacket, Blue Bird, Viper, and Red Disruptor, which all vary with regards to their speed, armour, and weapon power.

A tooled-up Electrocop wreaks havoc...
In addition to these, the heinous Criminal Brain has also installed a few other surprises throughout his complex including sections of electrified floors, mines, and other weapons such as wall-mounted cannons and concealed mortar-launchers. All of these deplete our blue automaton's energy reserves. Fortunately, he comes equipped with a default laser of his own and there are a few other weapons available, including more powerful lasers and disruptors. All of them can be used freely, some even simultaneously, but can get damaged during combat if you're not careful, and they all have a limited 'charge' which determines how frequently you can use them. The more powerful a weapon is, the more charge it will use per shot. All weapons recharge automatically but trigger-happy players should probably save the more powerful weapons for times of crisis!

A whole row of malfunctioning doors...
These weapons can be acquired from special panels located here and there on the walls and similarly there are also computer terminals which offer many things including the ability to run several programs. Probably the most important of these is the 'Ice Breaker' which is essential for cracking the door codes but others include 'Stasis', which can temporarily disable all the droids, as well as ones to repair damaged weapons or refill your energy-meter. Surprisingly, there are even some mini-games available to play via the terminals too including Meteors, Out Break, and Letter Puzzle which are simple clones of Asteroids, Breakout, and one of those slidey tile games. Their inclusion might seem strange but the Ice Breaker program often takes a while to 'crack' the door codes so the games merely offer a convenient way to pass the time. Very considerate.

The very helpful computer terminal...
A different way to kill a few minutes that's probably not so advisable is to further explore the levels, perhaps looking for more weapons or something. This is something that's only recommended if you've taken the time to make maps, lest you get lost and not even be able to find the door whose code you've just cracked! Indeed, there are over thirty doors through the whole game, although the amount per stage varies from one to the next, so there are lots of very similar-looking corridors to run up and down. Obviously, the further into the game you get, the more complicated and therefore difficult the levels get but your objective is always the same - look for the door (or one of them), crack the code, and get out! It can get pretty repetitive too, but that's not the game's biggest problem.

Facing an annoying hippety-hoppety droid...
It's quite clear that Electrocop was always intended as a launch game - technically it's mighty impressive and shows off the Lynx's talents well. The music is unmistakably Lynx-ish but the various tunes are terrific, and the graphics aren't half bad either. The circuit-board and metallic backgrounds on each level are decent, although there's very little variation, but it scales the stages back and forth very nicely, even altering the colour of the droids according to the 'plane' they're on compared to you. The main character is pretty big though, and moves fairly quickly too, which means you've often walked into danger before you've even seen it, whether one of the many droids or an increasingly common (and annoying) section of electrified floor. The easiest solution to this is to just run along permanently shooting. That kinda takes the enjoyment out of it somewhat, but it's that or get angry, and often.

The light-grey stuff is the wall closest to the 'camera'...
One thing that could've really ruined this game is regenerating enemies so I was very pleased to find that the metallic cretins here explode when shot, and with their constituent atoms remaining scattered for good! Even with this bonus though, it's unfortunately far from perfect. Playing it either takes the form of a repetitive run 'n' gunner or a frustrating arcade adventure depending on how you play it. It was originally intended as a 3D sequel to Impossible Mission and it's quite clear why, but it's also clear why Epyx ultimately decided to dissociate Electrocop from their legendary franchise as well. There are some good ideas here and its technical wizardry must've made people eager to see more of the Lynx when viewed at trade shows and such, but as a full game warranting hours of solid play, sadly it falls some way short of the mark.

RKS Score: 6/10


  1. Think I'll have to pick up a Lynx on ebay. Definitely a future collectors item :)

  2. Hello again sir! You could be right there, some games are already worth a lot and the prices are only going to go up, especially for complete games with good condition (cardboard) boxes (>_<)