A shadowy, muscular figure races through the darkness. Words flash past as he runs, presumably to freedom. A memory. Strapped to some contraption, like a go-kart without wheel. Bullet shaped, it rockets down a hole in the floor, pausing only for Arnie to mutter 'I'll be back', like he does in all his films, and very well he does it too. Then he's falling, shooting rapidly through the dimly lit tunnels...
This is the intro sequence to the latest, though by no stretch of the imagination, the best Arnie Swatch-and-egger game, The Running Man. Arnie has been roped into the prime time gameshow of the future. The prize, and the forfeit, death.
Arnie has to run for his life, and run he does. Across five right-to-left scrolling screens packed chock-a-block with dogs, guards, obstacles, free weapons and stalkers. Who, you scream, are the stalkers? Well, the stalkers are sort of end of level guardians, though they crop up about three quarters of the way along each level, which incidentally, is about ten screens long. On the first level come across an armoured player, who attempts to club you about the head with his stick. On level two you meet a chainsaw wielder. On level three you meet Electro, who fires bolts from his fingers, as well as driving a pretty hard truck. Level four and five I can't mention because I just haven't got there yet.
Arnie, big as he is, is still quite a versatile chap. He can walk (The Walking Man). He can run (The Running Man). He can jump (The Jumping Man). He can crawl (The Crawling Man). He can punch and kick (The Punching and Kicking Man). He can fall over after being savagely attacked by a rottweiler. (The Fall... (yes, we get it AS)). He can also make makeshift weapons out of items he finds on the floor. Sticks become nuclear missiles in his hands (or a toy for the rottys). Bricks can be hurled at the enemy. Poles can be hurled. Arnie doesn't actually do a lot with these objects other than hurl them.
Obstructions consist of things like low-slung galleys and walls and things, most of which can be leapt on or over. There are holes between some obstacles and. If you should mistime your jump, a fall means instant death. You get only one life.
You also have an energy meter. Being savaged by dogs or hit by a stalker decreases your energy. Kicking the dogs replenishes it, honest! The stalker also has an energy level, and the game won't let you finish the level until you've killed the stalker.
But then that's not the end of the level either. Between levels, just to add a bit of brainpower to all that brawn, you have to complete a puzzle sub-game. Two rings of eight icons are displayed, and then one of them is mixed. The idea is to get the two to match by swapping pairs of icons. You have a time limit of one minute and if you fail it's back to the start of the current level to try all over again.
The game is not slow. It's very slow. Perhaps they ought to have called it the ambling man, or the dawdling man. The speed, is what loses the game some playability points. The graphics are great. The backdrops are detailed and the animation is silky smooth. The thing is, the speed of the scrolling reflects on the speed of the joystick response. It just makes the game too damn hard.
The Running Man isn't quite all it could have been, it's certainly not bad. It just could have been even better.
Fun scrolling film conversion. Not what it might have been.