Amstrad Action1st October 1989
Published in Amstrad Action #49
The Running Man
In 2019, the nightmare of corporate empires has become all too true. One man dares to say no to the totalitarian system, a police officer named Ben Richards - alias Arnie Schwarzenegger - and he is about to pay the price. Richards is to become a Running Man.
The Price is Right has gone crazy. The Running Man sends convicted prisoners into a maze to fight for their lives against a crack squad of flashy assassins. Watched by millions, this is the most successful show ever to hit the crystal bucket and viewing figures are going to be high tonight because the "Butcher of Bakersfield" is about to run.
Little do the poor defenceless TV promoters know that they've made two big mistakes. Firstly, Richards, the aforementioned "Butcher," is actually innocent (well surprise, surprise!) and is rather keen to get even with the people who framed him. And secondly they've transgressed the unwritten law of movies - never play a villain opposite Arnie if you want to walk again!
So down the chute you shoot with Uncle Ben into the arena. The show takes place in four different locations, each with a different assassin, or stalker, taking on the man mountain. First comes Subzero, an ice hockey player who uses his stick and pucks to great effect, tripping and beating runners into submission (or more often the afterlife). Stalker number two is Buzzsaw, who specialises in a chainsaw - not very sporting but it gives him an edge (ouch!). Next it's Dynamo who uses a special electrified suit to zap people, so punching him isn't really a smart move. Last but not least comes Fireball, who uses fireballs (these Schwarzenegger movies are so full of surprises) to cut opponents down before he wades in with his fists.
If Ben survives all these little tests it's time to go back live to the studio for a word from our sponsors and some physical violence for Killian, the show's sadistic host. An ideal formula for both a film and a computer game, one would think, but then again have you seen the movie? OK, so it's not *that* bad but it's more than ropey in places. The game, on the other hand, is just ropey all the way through - with the possible exception of the loading screen!
Your attention is first grabbed by the attempt at parallax scrolling. Good idea, shame it doesn't work. The effect that this has on the game is remarkable: touch any part of the scenery and the whole screen wobbles like a Crossroads set. I know the game is set in Los Angles, but this many earthquakes? The sprites themselves have to be seen to be believed: indefinite, sketchy outlines and a very limited number of animated poses. The unintentional highlight of the game being the Ben Richards waddle...! Due to the way he's been animated every third step his rear end becomes so pronounced you'd swear it was Anneka Rice and not Arnie out there.
The combat is limited to say the most. You control your player with the options jump, kick and punch. Occasionally you can pick up a weapon but even here Arnie prods at the stalkers as if he's trying to tickle them to death, not beat them up good and proper.
The only saving graces are the sub-games, where you're trying to find the combination to a satellite beaming station by jiggling a set of symbols. In the story it allows you to broadcast to the nation and declare your innocence: in the game it's for points and full health. After a few games this becomes irrelevant as the stalkers are easily-defeated wimps, with the only energy loss coming from falling into or off the scenery.
Overall, The Running Man is a poor excuse for computer entertainment. It's not fun to play, the technical execution is atrocious and it gives every indication of being put together piecemeal fashion. It doesn't do the film justice (and that's saying something) and yet, like Red Heat, it will sell simply on the strength of the Schwarzenegger image. Arnie is a perfect subject for computer games: let's see someone use that potential and create a game (based on the Terminator for instance) that you wouldn't feel nervous about showing to the man himself.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. You'd honestly have more fun playing noughts and crosses. Cheaper, too.
Green Screen View
Just as awful in green.
First Day Target Score
Not reformatting the disk!
P. Nice loading screen.
N. Appalling scrolling - bad sprites.
P. Great rendition of the film music.
N. Average sound effects.
Grab Factor 35%
P. Very easy.
N. In fact, far too easy.
Staying Power 10%
P. Finish it on day one, then forget it!
Nice box, shame about the contents.