Amstrad Action1st January 1990
Published in Amstrad Action #52
Michael Jacksons never die, they simply fade away. Or that's what US Gold would have us believe. In Moonwalker you play the part of the world's most public recluse on a crusade against drugs. There's little violence and, when you are caught by the enemy, you fade away in shower of dust, losing hit records instead of lives.
Following the film (if that's humanly possible), Level One takes you to the studios where MJ has just finished his Bad video. On the lot he's confronted by a herd of mad autograph hunters and gangsters. Being such a shy, retiring soul Mikey decides to leg it.
His escape plan is from the Baldrick book of Cunning (Vol II) - he'll disguise himself as a giant rabbit! The pieces of the suit are scattered throughout the studio and Jacko has to collect them. Using a radar at the bottom of the screen you find the disguise, avoid baddies and make good your escape. As each bit of the costume is collected, your piccy of Mike changes from that lovable weirdo into a giant rodent with big buck teeth and huge floppy ears [Wrong film! - Ed].
Once you've got the motorbike that takes you to the next level, the game changes gear. The chase is on as drug-dealing heavies and motorised groupies pursue you around the set. The thugs have set up road blocks, and you need to get past them. In the movie, MJ looks up, sees his lucky star, and bingo he's a car! There's nowt that easy here! The star's been split into ten orbs that must be collected before transformation.
The bike is fast and ultra manoeuvreable, which is just as well as you weave in and out of side streets and between heavies. Using the radar, you track the orbs but leave the one nearest the road block till last. You can only stay as a car for ten seconds and it moves much slower than the bike. You also appreciate why young Mike has twenty disks to work through, as there are five stages to complete before this high-speed game of 'catch' is over.
Level Three is the video Smooth Criminal, and here Mr. Nice Guy shows his true colours and starts shooting. He's back in human form to rescue friends from the evil druggies. In Club 30's, machine-toting bad guys pop up at the windows and start firing. Michael has to find a machine gun and ammunition, then trade shots. He runs and jumps out of the way of bullets, leaping onto the tables or up stairs to save his ever diminishing supply of disks, while trying to take out 30 villains.
The dealers don't hang around, so quick, accurate shooting is necessary, especially as ammunition is in short supply. Moving the stick moves MJ, pulling the trigger and waggling moves the gun sight. It's a hard battle to win, as you soon get intensely claustrophobic, not knowing which way to run, jump or shoot.
The fourth and final level is the show-down with the boss drug-dealer. Your Jackson figure has transformed himself into a giant robot, and is set to shoot it out in an arena with all the heavies Mr. Big can muster. You stay stationary, swinging from side to side blasting as baddies appear from everywhere. By this point, you're so low on lives it pays to be cautious, because losing your last disk here means a return to the very beginning...
Levels One and Two are graphically limited by their Gauntlet styling, but Three and Four make amends. MJ moves like his human (well, almost!) model, leaping over shots and onto furniture. Each level is previewed with a screen to depict the film, giving the game a fuller feel. The best graphical moment comes at the very beginning, where MJ's feet and famous sparkly socks walk across your screen before giving a twirl. Completely superfluous, but very pretty.
Being based on a musical film puts Moonwalker in an odd position, the sounds justifying the game. Attempts at four of Mr. Jackson's ditties accompany the levels, of which only Smooth Criminal pays dividends. Two and Four have pleasant but unrecognisable songs, while the unfortunate Level One gets the baddest version of Bad imaginable.
Moonwalker succeeds as a compilation of games bound together by an anti-drugs narrative. None are particularly difficult, but Levels Two to Four all exhibit exciting tendencies. Twenty lives make the whole epic attemptable in one go. and that's important. The dull first level, needs more baddies and a smaller map. Once past there, the pace picks up and you find yourself in Wacko's weird world. Odd but fun.
First Day Target Score
Reach Level Two.
A strange film, and an even stranger licence. Looks good, but makes virtually no sense at all.
Green Screen View
Radar gets hard to follow.
P. Great moments.
P. Smooth Criminal sounds brill.
N. Bad sounds, well, bad.
Grab Factor 21%
P. Level One is dull.
Staying Power 79%
P. Twenty lives.
P. Three good games.
A strong game from a strange licence.