Mask 3: Venom Strikes Back
Miles Mayhem and the evil forces of VENOM continue their way of attrition against the MASK team by kidnapping Matt Trakker's son, Scott. Threatening to kill him unless Trakker leaves MASK, Mayhem believes that without their leader, MASK would provide little opposition towards VENOM and their aspirations of world domination.
Trakker immediately begins the hunt for his son by scanning for the homing transmitter hidden in his clothes. MASK's satellite system quickly finds the boy in a new VENOM base on the dark side of the moon, a location impossible to reach because MASK has no space vehicles. Trakker's only option is to infiltrate a VENOM installation and steal one of their spacecraft.
The player takes control of Trakker as he lands in the VENOM base. The screen is split horizontally, with the upper portion showing a horizontally scrolling view of the terrain upon which Trakker runs, jumps and crouches. The hazardous landscape holds wide gorges, disappearing bridges, mines and missile emplacements, and the MASKed man is also constantly beset by VENOM robot guards which descend from the sky, slowly depleting his stamina upon contact.
Trakker picks up and carries up to four masks, awarding him with special abilities, including extra weaponry, flight and a Healer mask which restores lost stamina.
At the end of each level lies a VENOM mega weapon which stands sentry over the exit. These are avoided or destroyed as necessary and increase in potency until VENOM's ultimate weapon is reached: a huge, automated and seemingly invincible Serpent.
I have to admit, after previous MASK games, I didn't have high hopes for VENOM Strikes Back, so it came as a nice surprise to find that the game isn't too bad at all.
The simplistic combination of platform and shoot-'em-up action is at first quite compelling, with large, colourful graphics creating a suitably knockabout cartoon atmosphere. The variety of abilities proferred by the extra masks is also pleasing - not just a faster weapon and speed-up for once.
Unfortunately, the game is not without its flaws and when they start to creep in, the interest begins to wane. The program is often unsure whether the player is on a platform or not, and a watery grave often rewards an apparently successful jump!
It's also a pity that the action doesn't vary between games, since after a few runs to level four, thrills prove to be thin on the ground.
The third in the MASK series is the best yet, but it still needs to go some way to achieve a high accolade. The graphics are typically Gremlin, owing much to Future Knight, just as the music is reminiscent of Rebounder; however, the result of this unoriginal mish-mash is a decent game.
Each level provides a fresh challenge - almost a puzzle - as you try to work out what to do with an oncoming missile or a spiky bouncing bomb, and each is characterised by its own kind of landscape.
The use of code words is a feature which stretches the lastability, since the first levels can be very frustrating. The major reason is the busy on-screen action; some missiles are simply impossible to avoid. However, if you're looking for a cartoon-quality conversion with a wide range of opponents, VENOM Strikes Back is a fair purchase.
With the MASK II disaster still fresh in my mind, I loaded VENOM Strikes Back expecting the worst. After a few goes I was pleasantly surprised to find a colourful and playable platform game.
The action is nicely graded, and the intelligent use of passwords means that, once you conquer the early levels, you're not forced to play them time and time again.
The graphics are very good, consisting of large, nicely-drawn sprites and colourful backdrops, and the sound is very suitable.
In fact, the only thing I find annoying is the ropey collision detection at the edge of some platforms - Matt occasionally slides off for no apparent reason. Otherwise, VENOM Strikes Back is a good-looking and thoughtfully put together program which should go down well with the MASK fans.
No high score table, but joystick/keyboard options and a codeword feature compensate to some extent.
Large, smooth and colourful.
Unsophisticated blasting and jumping action is very easy to get into.
It's challenging, but some of the appeal is lost because of the similarity between games.
The best MASK game so far, and a pretty good game in its own right.