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Crack Down

Genre: Action Developer: Hot B Publisher: Sage’s Creation Players: 1-2 Released: 1990

Nowadays, whenever someone mentions the name Crack Down in regards to a video game, people immediately tend to think of Realtime Associate’s Xbox 360 gem. That’s unfortunate, because there’s a great Genesis title out there that bears the same moniker. It may not have the massive 3D world and awesome visuals of the aforementioned hit, but it’s just as successful in providing a great time with compelling gameplay.

Based on Sega’s 1989 arcade game, Crack Down bears all the hallmarks of a home port of the era. The visuals and sound have been watered down, and there have been revisions to the presentation. That’s understandable, as Sega’s System 24 board is much more powerful than the Genesis, and given that this port was farmed out to Sage’s Creation, I’m actually surprised it turned out as well as it did.

Truth be told, Crack Down is a fun little game that has a simple premise. Two secret agents have been tasked with destroying a facility used for creating synthetic life forms used in a bid for world domination. You have a limited amount of time to place time bombs around each stage and get out before the level goes boom, and along the way you pick up power ups and kill everything in your way.

That’s my kind of game! What makes Crack Down so good in this aspect is that its simple gameplay is enhanced by the ability to play alongside a friend in split-screen mode. The two of you can work together to complete your bomb-laying mission, or you can split up to finish more quickly. There’s a convenient map at the top of the screen that marks where each bomb is located, and while it looks laughably bad compared to the arcade version, it still gets the job done. No one’s playing to admire a map, right?

The evil scientist Mr. K isn’t just going to let you waltz into his facility and blow it up, so he’s peppered each area with a slew of evil henchmen bent on your destruction. Some are the standard soldier type, others are airborne, and a few even have shields to protect them from your bullets. That’s where you’re forced to implement a bit of strategy. Sometimes you just can’t rush head first into a group of foes, and it’s better to find another way around them to reach your goal. You can also use of one your powerful weapons to take them out, but resources are limited, and you’ll need as much ammo for the next level as you can conserve. One cool move you have is the ability to press up against a wall, allowing enemy fire to pass you by. If there’s another foe right behind you, the bullet will even kill him! My only complaint with this is that enemies are often quicker on the draw than you are, and you aren’t able to dodge in time if you’re too close to them.

That’s why it’s important to find the right way to get to each bomb. You have a set number of lives and continues, and while these can both be increased in the options menu, the game is long enough to test even the highest count of either one. Dying in front of certain physical obstacles like moving or electrified floors means going back to their beginning, and all the while the clock keeps ticking. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself breezing through a level, only to use up all your remaining time trying to pass an obstacle right in front of the exit. The hit detection here can also be a bit iffy here at times, but it’s not really a major problem.

It’s a shame you can’t use your weapons on those obstacles, as you have some pretty good ones. There are only three, but they get the job done. Your stock machine gun is complimented by a cannon and a super bomb that wipes out everything around you. This is useful for when you’re low on bullets and need to dispatch a large number of foes between you and a bomb or the exit. Of course, if you’ve got a second player along, the added firepower makes all the difference.

That last point is perhaps the only real downside I can find to Crack Down. Playing with another person is a blast, but solo runs can tend to not only be harder but just… not as much fun. Player two’s half of the screen is covered in game information if you’re alone, and this means that the actual play field is only about 30% of the entire screen. I know, it’s that way for each player even when there are two people, but it just seems that much more noticeable when you’re by yourself.

What else is there to say? The presentation is weaker (I do miss that cool arcade intro!), and the visuals and sound aren’t the best. In fact, the sound is downright bad. The gameplay – what really matters – is rock solid, and playing with a buddy makes a massive difference. There’s some great fun to be had here friends, so find yourself a copy and get cracking!

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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