Your Sinclair1st January 1990
Published in Your Sinclair #49
Well, let's be honest about this, I wasn't expecting too much here. I mean, Michael Jackson, he might be a very 'talented performer' and everything, but he's a bit of a... well, he's a bit 'funny', isn't he? And did you see his film?!!? Blimey! Words fail me. (Except for these ones, of course - "What a load of old crap!")
But (but! BUT!), having said all that, Moonwalker the game's actually not too bad. Or rather, it's really, really, really 'bad' (in Michael Jackson speak) which means 'quite good' to the rest of us. In fact. It's so 'bad' (meaning 'good') it's bloomin' terrible!
Quite how has this rather spooky state of affairs come about then? How can you take what even Katy, Sean, Zeke and Skipper the dog (Michael's pals in the movie) would admit was a pretty atrocious film and turn it into a half way decent computer game? Well, it's simple, innit? Moonwalker has such a slight plot (basically one long chase dotted with fight and dance sequences) and so many expensive set pieces that it's pretty simple business to pick out the good bits. You then just pick out some more good bits (but this time from old games like Gauntlet and Op Wolf), sort of squish them all together and 'Roberts es tu tio' (as they say in Spain). (Er, that's 'Bob's your uncle', readers. Ed)The first two levels are rather Gauntlely. In Numero Uno, you (as Wacko) are on the run from a whole host of grotesque tourists, fans and journos. It's one of those scrolling, overhead view maze jobs and what a massive one it is too. So large you sort of vaguely remember bits when you come back to them, but can't quite figure out how it all fits together. The idea is that Michael needs to disguise himself to escape the mob. How shall I do that, he thinks. Should I dress as something inconspicuous like a cleaner and just slip out the back? No, I'll go as a giant rabbit! No one'll spot me like that! Quite a subtle plan, eh? So Michael has to pick up the bits of a giant rabbit suit from all around the place (plus some other odds and sods), spotting them by watching the dots on the map thing at the bottom of the screen. The ones that are moving are either baddies or Michael himself, but if one just sits there chances are that it's a piece of bunny clothing. Great! Now you know where it is, you just don't know how to wiggle through the maze to reach it.
Working out how, if you ignore Michael's rather odd running action, is a surprising amount of fun. The tourists are suitably grotesque, the dodging-around-obstacles and avoiding-being-caught-up-a-dead-end bits are quite challenging and, all in all, there are a lot worse ways of spending 20 minutes. The Bad soundtrack is (just about) recognisable too.
Michael escapes from this on to Level Two, a rehash of the first, only this time divided into four sub-sections populated with bullet-firing hoods and other spooky bad guys. You're mounted on a motor bike and must crush stashes of drugs and collect crystals. Get ten and you turn into a super car and can then jump over a barrier wall out of one sub-section and into the next. This is all very well but having to do the whole process four times soon becomes as tedious as, erm, a very tedious thing. Next level quick!
Phew! Level Three happily moves away from mazes into Op Wolf territory. This bit's really bizarre and quite clever. Clever in that even though it's basically a horizontal scroller it doesn't look like one. Your well-animated Michael sprite runs around the edge of a nightclub dance floor in a loop (jumping on to tables should he feel like it), so eventually you'll come back to the same bit again. Behind you the walls and windows come closer, then receed, giving the whole thing a feeling of depth. And behind the windows lurk the baddies, which is where the really bizarre bit comes in! Michael's got a gun! And he shoots people with it! I mean, strewth! I mean blimey O'Reilly O'Rourke!
Michael picks the gun up, collects some clips lying around the floor, then pulls the trigger and ratatatat! A little cursor appears, he spins round to hit a baddie and... all the bullets run out. Phew! The baddies are relieved ('cos Michael wasted all the rounds moving the cursor about) but the thought was there! As soon as he (er, you) get the shooting process sussed out there'll be baddies littering the place, as well as a few of your kid pals, who the bad guys tend to hold up in front of them as hostages. Oops! Imagine - Michael in Murder Shock! It's a scandal.
So is Level Four, in fact, which is another cursor shoot-'em-up jobbie, but this time with baddies appearing in doorways around a giant Michael robot. You (the robot) take pot shots at them all, as well as a rather f'nar-worthy giant laser in the top corner of the screen. It's quite playable but again rather repetitive (yawn), though the animation sequence at the start (Michael walking on screen and turning into the robot) and the end pay off (the robot turning into a space ship and taking off) do go some way towards making up for it.
In fact, Moonwalker has more than its fair share of little animation bits. For instance, it begins brilliantly. Here come Michael's feet in a spotlight, tippy-toeing on to centre stage. Then (fizzle fizzle!) he does a funny little dance, all glittering tinsel stuff falling out of his trousers and (sptang!!) turns into a prancy text Moonwalker logo. Fabulous! it has to be one of the neatest intro sequences I've seen in yonks.
That's the game all over really. Smoothly implemented but rather repetitive gameplay, coupled with the occasional neat and watchable animation sequence. All in all, a rather nice surprise.
A bit repetitive perhaps, but perfectly playable all the way through with some neat graphical touches. What a pleasant surprise!