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STRIDER 2 REVIEW - January 1993

Striii-Deeerrr 2, 2, 2, push pineapple, shake the - no, hang on, that's not right. Whatever happened to Black Lace anyway? I wonder if Stuart Campbell knows?

Swipe me! A platform game! Haven't seen one of those in, ooh, 20 minutes at least. But hey, this isn't just any old platform game, oh no. This is a sequel to Strider, a platform game which was different to every other platform game out when it appeared in the arcades a few years ago. Why? Well, er, because it had somersaults in it, basically. Oh sure, there was a bit more to it than that, there was the breathtaking scenery (who could ever forget the running-down-the-side- of-the-mountain sequence?), and the fab way Hiryu (the hero) climbed up sheer cliff faces and dangled from platforms before executing superb acrobatic leaps into the faces of surprised enemy soldiers, and some other little bits and bobs, but mostly it was the somersaults that made it stand out. Pressing 'jump' made Hiryu spin across the screen in a bizarre and unpredictable jumping movement that gave the game an entirely different feel to any other platformer, and that different feel was earned Strider a special place in the hearts of game fans. When it eventually arrived on the Master System a couple of years later, it wasn't quite so amazing to look at, but that 'different' feel was still there, and it's been in a little separate class of its own ever since. Until now, that is.

Strider 2 differs from Strider 1 in that it doesn't originate in an arcade. Strider 2 was an original Amiga and ST game from US Gold about two years back, which is just now being converted to the consoles. It didn't do particularly well on the computer formats, partly because it didn't have the glamour associated with the first game, partly because it was forbiddingly difficult, and partly because it just wasn't all that good. Oh yeah, it looked lovely, and Hiryu was still the same old rubber-limbed athletic superhero he always was, but there just wasn't a spark of life there. For all its groovy features, Strider wasn't actually a very well-designed game, and in rewriting it without the innovativeness of the original and without smartening up the gameplay a bit, the programmers revealed just how unsatisfying to play the basic formula was.

So why am I wibbling on about the original Strider and the Amiga and ST Strider 2 instead of getting on with this Master System review, then? Well partly it's because I thought a bit of background might be interesting, partly it's because I'm so old that I remember all this stuff and you're bloody well going to get the benefit of my vast experience whether you like it or not, and partly it's because the Master System game is in every meaningful way exactly the same as the Amiga and ST ones. There are superficial differences, like the deathslides replacing the overhead walkways on level two and some different arrangements of platforms, but as far as I can see it looks (within the limitations of the Master System, obviously), feels and plays just the same. There's lots of platforms, a loose scattering of baddies appearing out of nowhere every now and again, and lots and lots of bits where you can't see the platforms that you're supposed to be jumping onto and hence have to leap off into thin air and hope for the best.

This is, of course, extremely annoying, and it gets really quite fantastically annoying when seemingly limitless numbers of baddies keep materialising in the air just at the point you're aiming for and hit you in mid-jump (which it manages because the control response is so sluggish and unreliable that at least half the time you won't be able to take it out with your plasma sword first no matter how much you thrash at the fire button), sending you flying backwards and, more often than not, plummetting off the bottom of the screen to your death. And there's another thing - like Batman Returns on the Mega Drive, the bottom of the screen seems to be decided completely arbitrarily. You'll be walking through a forest or something, when suddenly, for absolutely no sensible reason whatsoever, there'll be a bit where the forest doesn't have a floor and you can just fall into infinity from a branch of a tree which seems to be no more than four feet from the ground.

Strider 2 also suffers from an extremely uneven difficulty level - for about 70% of the time (in the early levels at least) you can be strolling along quite happily in no danger whatsoever, when suddenly the scrolling will stop and you'll be faced by a mid-section boss who can kill you with a single jet of flame. In fact, after a while you begin to wonder why the programmers bothered putting the bits between the bosses in at all - when you die, any baddies that were in the way don't get regenerated, so it's just a question of trekking back to the boss and having another go, which gets tedious very quickly. Still, the bosses are quite mean, which makes for some pretty good short-term addictiveness, and there's just about enough reward in the pretty and changing scenery of the five levels to make you want to get to the next bit. Make no mistake, though. There's so little actual fun to be had in playing this game that once you've seen everything it's got to offer, it'll be despatched to the back of the software cupboard for all eternity.


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Spiffing graphics

A decent challenge for once

Some nice athletics

Mmm, those graphics are good

Varied scenery

Um, really great graphics


Very imprecise control

Lots of jumping into thin air and hoping

Really annoying enemies

No passwords


It looks fabulous, but Strider 2 is so irritating and unforgiving to play that you'll probably give up well before the end.