ElectroCop is a third-person Adventure Game (!!!) with a Z Axis (!!!!!) on the portable game console Atari Lynx, released in 1989 (!!!!!!!!!) and was one of the games Atari continuously showed off to promote the power of the Atari Lynx, and indeed it did. But just how does this game stand out today? Let’s find out in the review:
The Game Starts with cutscenes (!!!) which explain that the presidents daughter has been kidnapped and it may have been the doing of a robotic monstrosity called Criminal Brain. You, ElectroCop, with your gadgets and weapons, will go and try to find her location and take out baddies along the way.
The game allows you to move left or right, as well as forward and backward among the foregrounds and backgrounds in a smooth scrolling transition that does a good job making it seem like you’re actually playing a 3D Game. You initially start the game with a standard laser blaster but can pick up more weapons and gadgets along the way to blast at baddies through computer terminals, which also contains minigames at points as well, such as a clone of asteroids.
The general idea is to blast enemies, unlock doors and find the exits to each stage. The game takes advantage of the Z Axis movement to give a new level of depth to level exploration, and to make the world as immersive as it can for a 1989 portable game.
Of course it’s not all fun in games, there is a time limit, you have 1 hour to complete this quest, but its enough for you to get your barring’s and come up with solutions without having to panic. Some weapons also have limited use adding to the strategy element overall.
The biggest weakness of this game is that there’s a lack of randomization. That kind of makes it lack a bit of replay value after you beat the game a second time, which would be after memorizing elements of your first playthrough. However, I can excuse this due to the time period this game came out along with being a launch title at that.
The graphics are meant to show what the Atari Lynx can do and boy is this a good introduction. From the visual cutscenes, to the high color count, to the seamless movement from the foreground to the backgrounds and vice versa, to the animations during movement, to just the standard art design, this game really does show that the Lynx as way ahead of the competition for portable gaming systems and even could compare to the new home console hardware coming out around the time of this games release. The scaling is especially impressive and gives you a model 7-like effect that would be standard with the release of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).
However, this being an early game on the Lynx shows. With a few flat colors here and there, and the pixels not being very smooth but not completely jagged like many other early attempts at advanced graphics.
The Lynx was claimed to be the new standard in sound when it released, and for the most part that was true. It blew away the competition in sound among portable game machines, blew out most then current home console systems, and wasn’t to shabby in comparison to recent new comers in the home market either, though it would start to quickly fall behind. The sound is able to create deep samples and produce tunes with high quality that sound much more in depth than beeps and boops.
Electro Cop, even for an early game and only a few tracks in the game itself, has a fantastic musical score that really immerses you into the futuristic world the game takes place in while simultaneously reminding you of the time limit to complete the stages and the dangers of the droids on the hunt for you.
Also of note is that music was not the only thing that benefitted from the hardware but so did the sound effects. Hearing an actual attempt at imitating the sound of real shooting or real explosions compared to dings and tings of yesteryear really helps bring the player to the world of ElectroCop
While there are obvious flaws given this being a launch title as well as being an early attempt and creating a full fledged third person action game (on portable game hardware no less) the game completely knocked it out the park and still holds up well today. The game is inspired by multiple Sci-fi movies and creates a world that can suck you into the action. Back then this was the first time where you heard realistic sound effects, a pseudo-3D gameplay style, and story seamlessly sewn together in the same game. Even today it is a stand out title that is good not only for a challenge, but to really see how far ahead of its time it was. While after two playthroughs you may take a break due to lack of randomly generated levels, and sometimes the ‘jump’ controls are a bit iffy, the game for the most part runs like a charm. Having minigames to play is also a nice surprise as well.