Sunday 5 July 2015

Gun Law (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: English Software
Publisher: Mastertronic
Released: 1986

Gun Law is a run 'n' gun game that takes inspiration from the Arcade hit Commando (1985).

The basic premise is that aliens (who look like soldiers!) have infested your town. Armed with a single gun it's up to you to wipe them out as you travel across five levels. It doesn't quite adopt a top-down approach and instead features a pseudo 3D angle. This looks cool but it causes problems with the gameplay mainly due to the dodgy collision detection. You'll frequently die from enemy bullets that look like they're well behind you or hit an electric fence when you thought you'd timed it perfectly. There's no consistency with any of this so whether you succeed is down to pure luck. The gameplay is incredibly tough for all the wrong reasons, partly because the developers decided not to include diagonal movement or fire. There's too many obstacles littered around the play area and it seems like you're always wrestling with the controls as you get stuck on yet another rock! If you lose a life you're sent right back to the last checkpoint and they're not particularly well spaced out so frustration quickly sets in. The most annoying part of the game is that even when you kill an enemy they can still fire for a brief moment; this leads to many lost lives and it just feels very cheap. Enemies are at least twice as fast as you so it's difficult to come up with an effective strategy against them. After a while you'll realise that it's pointless even trying to kill them as if you do another one will quickly take its place and you'll be overwhelmed by stray bullets again. As a result the best strategy is to simply run through the level and only fire when absolutely necessary. This obviously takes away the main point of the game but the poor coding leaves you with little choice.

Gun Law could have been a good run 'n' gun game but it has many technical issues to the point where it's almost unplayable. It's really not worth your time and if you want to see this genre done well on Atari 8-bit computers check out Los Angeles SWAT (1986) instead.

Random trivia: English Software only developed two other games for Atari 8-bit computers which were Linkword German (1983) and Linkword Italian (unknown).

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