Sinclair User18th May 1990
Published in Sinclair User #102
The time; the near future. The place; Mega-City One, hugest of the conurbations to survive the RadWars. The man; Judge Dredd, old big-chin himself. Fearless upholder of the law, symbol of justice and discipline, and the man who invented the phrase "No-one is innocent" Judge Dredd is the cult hero of the century, and this is his second outing in pixel form (the first being an un zargaz budget game a couple of years ago).
If you haven't heard of the Judge, you must have had your head in bucket since 1980. Star of the galaxy's best comic, 2000 AD, of Daily Star comic strips and a rumoured forthcoming film, the Judge is a 21st century combination of judge, jury and executioner whose Lawgiver gun and Law-master bike strike terror into the perpetrators of crime - Perps - of the massive Mega-city One. Unemployment, food shortages, technocrimes, berserk citizens and exotic vices make the Megacity a pretty hairy place to live so the Judge and his colleagues have their work cut out keeping things in order.
In the comic, the current Judge is an old and embittered warrior who has begun to question the totalitarianism of the system he works to uphold, but in this game we're back to the good old days where he shot first and filled in the charge-sheets afterwards.
The game kicks of with an MS-DOS style log-on sequence. Apart from reading the Judge's mail, getting background information on the game and orders for the day and setting your control options, you can also log on to two sub-games; a version of the classic Bomber from the year dot (you know, plane flies over buildings, drops bombs to knock them down) and a version of Snakes (guide snake around garden eating up food and avoiding obstacles). Why they're there I don't know.
Once you log into the actual game, you get a short introductory sequence explaining the mission for each level. The playing area takes up a small section of the middle of the screen, with various displays and readouts around the edges. There are six levels, each following a roughly similar platforms-and-ladders (or rather, platforms-and-ramps) format. In the first, the Judge has to fight of Fatties. These gargantuan over-eaters have gone berserk in a Food Riot, and Dredd's task is to shut off four food dispensers. These are located randomly around the large playing area.
The Fatties attack from all sides and plunge from walkways, and can be dispatched with a single shot from Dredd's Lawgiver. This keeps the Crime Rate down; if you don't keep shooting, the rate goes up and you risk being called to Justice HQ. You must be careful though not to shoot ordinary citizens, because this contributes to the crime rate too. Dredd's energy level is also displayed on a bar graph on the left; if this falls too low, he has to take a trip to hospital, with a nice cartoon-style graphic sequence.
The other main game feature is the Lawmaster bike. Call this up and you get a short sequence, then the bike appears; this allows you to zoom around the levels faster, but you can't shoot while you ride (a daft bit since in the comic the Lawmaster is equipped with enormous laser cannon).
Picking up the odd token marked with a H or L gives you heat-seeking or laser ammunition for a short time. If you disable all four food dispensers, you have to find an open doorway at the bottom of the playing area and pass through it into a sequence where you have to defend a food convoy. This is the format for most of the other levels; on one you have to fight off Sov agent and disable gas vents, on another fight mutants, then robots, and so on. There's another challenge at the end of each level too, but on the last, Level Six, your enemies are the Dark Judges, and your task is to collect Dimension Bombs to defeat them. If you complete this level, we're promised a spectacular end sequence, which we won't spoil the fun by describing...
Judge Dredd may not set any new standards for graphics, sound or gameplay, but it's full of authentic Dreddian detail which should appeal to fans. If the Judge is new to you (which I can hardly believe), get some 2000 AD's, or check out the Best of 2000 AD Monthly back issues, and give it a bash.
Label: Virgin Price: £9.95 Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
Authentically detailed Dredd arcade adventure that could've had so much more!