RoboCop vs. The TerminatorLicensed games are nothing new to video games even in the 8 bit area. Have something gain an ounce of popularity and you can be sure that some company will pick up the rights to publish a game based on it, often for the worse. What is generally less common is a crossover title using such licenses. Therefore we come across this odd title. I'm not sure who's idea it was to mix Robocop and the Terminator, but it's certainly a strange concept.
The story of the game is... actually, I'm not entirely sure. I see something about cleaning the streets of the city of criminals, then we go to construction sites, OCR offices and then suddenly we're dropped into rebel hideouts and some stereotypical futuristic wastelands. Although there is an attempt to provide a backstory at first the game leaves it at that, so I'm not even sure why I was going here and there and I didn't have the slightest clue how I ended up in the future type areas or even why. Robocop is the playable character - I got that much - but the rest is never really explained in much detail ingame aside from the start. Even for a Master System game I'd like some explanation as to what the heck is going on.
Alright, so let's just ignore why we're doing this and just get on with things. RvtT is basically a side-on shooter platformer hybrid. Robocop is the character you control and anything that looks at you funny are enemies. Technically there are also friendly NPCs that you can rescue but since you can't accidentally kill them even when showering the area in weapon fire then it doesn't matter so much.
Robocop himself starts off with a basic handgun. A decent rate of fire but weak. It does have the advantage of being usable while our cop buddy hangs from stuff like ladders, and so he will resort to this in such circumstances regardless of the current weapon. New weapons can be found in the levels. There's a large beam gun, a thin beam gun and a rocket launcher. An annoying trait about these is that any weapon picked up will replace the previous weapon and since he picks these up by simply touching them then you can end up losing a favourite weapon. You will also lose a weapon and revert to the handgun if you die. There's no need to hold back with any of them as all guns have infinite ammo, which does allow you to be somewhat reckless.
Enemies are typically your basic grunt, and bosses aside this is pretty much the gist of the whole opposing force. Bad guys will try to shoot you with severely underwhelming guns and you get to destroy them with your own. Apparently arresting criminals is not a priority here so the chosen method of law enforcement is gunning down everything in sight. Bad guys explode in a shower of blood but ultimately it feels a little unsatisfying. I think it's because the approach never really changes and it was basic to begin with. Ripping terminators apart in the later stages is not that different from killing the thugs of the early levels. Oh sure, there's a little more endurance to deal with, but when the tactic always comes down to shoot until it's dead while dodging the equivalent of pop gun shots then it doesn't remain interesting throughout the levels.
Bosses tend to present a bigger and more varied threat. These beasts are the kind to tower over you and unleash more damaging firepower. It can be a little awkward to try and dodge damage here though, like when you have a huge mech walking towards you firing a stream of bullets there aren't a whole lot of places to move to. However, it's a nice change from the generic grunts and adds some welcome challenge to proceedings.
The levels are pretty impressive in their design. While the ultimate goal is often to go from one side of the level to the other that does not stop the structure from being complex. In the first level alone you can climb numerous heights and choose a multiple of routes to actually head to the right. Stick to the streets, leap across the rooftops or clamber across piping. This complexity also allows for items to be cleverly hidden here and there too. Later stages have even more branching routes and secret paths to find, which help the gameplay to stack up better.
Robocop can also jump around like any good platforming star, and he seems quite agile in this regard. That said the game doesn't really test jumping skills that often. The level design is always more about exploration so jumping is relegating to simply reaching other paths and not about timing button presses.
Bosses in the game can be quite tricky but otherwise I found the game relatively easy. The generics and level traps aren't that much of a threat really. The lifespan is a bit shorter than expected though, and while it might be worth replaying a bit to find alternative paths it still feels too short an experience.
As for controls we are talking about the Master System. It has an eight-way directional pad and two buttons. Unless the developers try to insert some messed up two pad scheme (like F16 Fighter failed at doing) then it's pretty hard to mess it up. As expected this game keeps things simple and clean. One button to fire and one button to jump about. The D-Pad can be used to move and aim, and while you end up moving and aiming when trying to hit anything at a diagonal direction it generally works out pretty well.
The graphics are pretty decent here. The devs have made good use of the MS hardware to product some fairly detailed images. The level and character designs are recognisable with some clear details and colours in use. The designs are also kept quite varied. You'll travel across cities, construction sites, police offices, rebel hideouts and factories. The enemies also change with the locations so you're never left staring at the same thing too long. The style does a pretty good job of getting the whole gritty realism feeling over... well, as good as you could expect from the 8 bit days anyway.
The audio soundtrack has some dark tones to it to convey the sense of futuristic despair the Terminator but it's not really the kind of music to stick in the mind. The quality seems about right for the 8 bit era though. Sound effects work nice enough to compliment the onscreen action but may end up underwhelming after a while.
Overall it's actually a pretty decent game. It makes little sense and combat is notably flawed but the level design actually works quite nicely. There are better games out there but RvtT does provide a level of mindless of fun that's accessible to pretty much anyone.