Genre: Action Developer: Alexandria Inc. Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1 Released: 1995
“Send a maniac to catch one.”
Despite my love of run-n’-guns, licensed games weren’t always the safest bet, and Acclaim’s name on the box didn’t often inspire great faith, either… I still have scars from Separation Anxiety. Even so, Demolition Man on Sega CD, despite its somewhat late release, is both surprising and solid it its delivery.
The first few steps off the chopper gave me the impression this would be a straightforward shooter, perhaps not so much as Rolling Thunder, but more Robocop vs. Terminator. The game quickly dashes this and has you zip-lining and leaping about (sometimes blindly!), constantly under enemy fire but typically given enough guns/ammo/anvil-like explosives to manage this. Still, you’re platforming & airborne far more than you’d have expected, looking at the back of the box.
Following a brief cinematic (edited down rather well to catch you up to speed, if you somehow missed this classic film), stage two likely seeks to break the monotony of horizontal shooting by tossing you in an overhead maze of a museum. I often see this compared to Contra III, but this feels far more competent than a Mode 7 demo… think Gauntlet or Smash TV here, with waves of enemies coming from all angles as you attempt to rescue hostages. Your first fight with Phoenix is a bit troubling, as you stumble to sort out what you’re intended to do here (ProTip: shoot Snipes a lot).
The gameplay continues like this, seeing your next level start off smoothly for a few feet, before realizing that in addition to mass murder, you need to be moving both vertically & horizontally to advance the stage. Later areas include a plant, a really cool monorail fight, more overhead stages and a ton more zip-lining. It’s not quite a kitchen sink approach, but the developers clearly didn’t want the player feeling bored.
I recall reviewers in the era not being overly-fond of simple Genesis ports with a few additions, but I personally love seeing a definitive edition of an enjoyable title, and we get just that here: while the Genesis’ soundtrack (brought to you by Tallarico, as cited in that game’s review here) tears it up, it’s a great deal smoother here. Loading times are on the shorter end, and grainy though they may be, the cut scenes are a cool addition too, as they’re worked in to fit the stage you’re going to next (or just completed), and again, what’s not to love about the source film?
However, some of the problems of the Genesis game are still here. John’s speed/jumps feel like they range from classic Prince of Persia hops to manically diving into a chasm, and the more open approach to stages sometimes leaves you wondering exactly where you’re to go. It’s not a brutal or necessarily unfair game for the most part, but you’re definitely going to need to enhance your calm.
Despite its flaws, the Sega CD port of Demolition Man is far better than the SNES version. It’s also a solid alternative to the Genesis cart. It holds up well in a dystopian future where fortunately, not all restaurants are Taco Bell.