Amiga Power

Hudson Hawk
By Ocean
Amiga 500

Published in Amiga Power #7

Ocean change tack for their latest film licence, opting for a single game style to represent Bruce Willis' lovable roguery

Hudson Hawk

Bruce Willis' recent catburgling movie Hudson Hawk has been the recipient of universal panning since its release, which is something it has in common with most of the films Ocean have based recent games on. (Darkman being the bottom of the barrel, in both movie and game terms.)

A flurry of poor multi-section production-line jobs from the Manchester software behemoths did nothing to increase expectations of something worthwhile coming from this venture either, but with Hudson Hawk Ocean and programming team Special FX (a talented bunch with a pedigree stretching way back to the 8-bits, most notable - as far as I'm concerned anyway - for their excellent conversions of the coin-op Midnight Resistance) have bravely deviated from the norm and concentrated on one game style, in an attempt to put together something with a bit of coherence to it.

And What've They Come Up With?

Well, an uncomplicated platform romp with very minor puzzling elements thrown in as much as a pacing device as anything, set over fifteen levels, each corresponding to various sections of the movie. Superfluous plot aside, your objective in each case is simply to get to the end of each stage before your time limit runs out, in which you're aided by the ability to swot baddies with a huge boxing glove or throw explosive bouncing softballs at them. The action is depicted in time-honoured cute cartoony graphics style, and accompanied by suitably cheesy music and sound effects, and it's all very lovely. Could there be a success in the offing?

Hudson Hawk

First off, there's something which can't be avoided. This game is, in many ways, extremely similar to Titus' new Blues Brothers licence. The look is very much the same, the basic platform nature of the action is the same, but the whole feel is of two games separated at birth. Comparisons are inevitable, then, and the fact of the matter is that Hudson Hawk comes off worst every time. It's just a bit too big to have the same focus, it relies too heavily on Rick Dangerous-style frustration rather than 'proper' challenge (by which I mean there's far too much memory-testing and incredibly finicky platform-leaping involved as opposed to genuinely taxing gameplay), but mostly it suffers from one of the most incredibly irritating control systems I've had the misfortune to encounter all year.

Roll And Rock

Hudson's movement is afflicted with the kind of inertia which makes you feel as if he's permanently on rollerskates, and it makes it incredibly frustrating making the simplest platform to platform leap if you're never quite sure whether you're going to stop near the edge of a platform or tumble right off the side of it.

What it really smacks of is an attempt to make the game harder without really having to change anything, and it's plain and simple laziness. Hudson Hawk drips with character and humour, but it's impossible to really enjoy it because you get so annoyed with the appalling control. For every time something funny happens, there'll be a time when your character slides out of control over a ledge or jumps sideways into a baddy from a position of completely safety and gets sent back to the start of the level, and you end up hurling the joystick to the floor in a rage.

Hudson Hawk

Not, and this is the crucial difference between this game and The Blues Brothers, a rage at your own incompetence in messing up some simple-looking task, but a rage at the surprisingly and un-necessarily weak design of a game which hasn't got the guts to take you on fairly.

Don't get me wrong though, Hudson Hawk is easily Ocean's best attempt at a movie licence since Batman, and in some other month might have picked up a rather more favourable mark. The point is, The Blues Brothers has come along and cruelly exposed every niggling little flaw in the design and implementation, leaving Hudson a mile behind it in every aspect. The characters and animation are beautiful, and it holds together better than almost any movie game I've seen, but it eventually gets so annoying that you're likely to give up well before you get to the end.

It would help if it was just a little bit shorter - and it's rare you'll ever find us complaining about a game having too much to it! - or if there was some way of not having to start at the very beginning whenever you lose all your lives, but as it stands you never really feel as though the end is within your grasp. This stands for both the game as a whole and for individual levels - all too often a stage will be littered with little traps which deposit you miles back within that level (and frequently they're very tricky timing and reaction tests which will catch you repeatedly even when you know they're coming).

Hudson Hawk

Hudson Hawk is a pretty decent game, and one I thought I'd like a lot more than I did, but if the programmers hadn't played so much Rick Dangerous it would have been a whole lot better.

The Bottom Line

Uppers: Looks good, loads of character, lots of nice little funny touches. No Bruce Willis (to speak of) either.

Downers: Totally dumb control system means you spend more time fighting against the programming than against the actual game. Too big not to have level codes or something similar, especially with the number of times it sends you back a few screes.

Hudson Hawk

A big improvement on Ocean's other recent movie licence efforts, but check out Titus' Blues Brothers to see how Hudson Hawk should have been done.

On The Other Hand

This isn't so much to quibble with the mark Stuart's given Hudson Hawk - I might have been a few percent more generous but no more - but just to make a couple of points.

For a start, lots of people like Rick Dangerous-type games - they like the fact that every couple of screens you come across a section that's so hard it'll take you ages to get it right.

Hudson Hawk

Stuart doesn't like games like that, and to be honest I don't really either, but some people love them, and it's worth bearing in mind. Secondly, a couple of more useful comparisons than The Blues Brothers are, I think, Ocean's very own The Simpsons and Robocop II.

The Blues Brothers is very much an arcade-style product, and thus puts a lot of effort in being clean, smooth and fast to play - Hudson Hawk doesn't do that. For all the look of the graphics, it is a computer game - the emphasis is on providing value for money (which often translates into making some bits so hard they'll take you ages to do), not in catching 50 pence and five minutes of your time. Thus it is a lot trickier than The Blues Brothers, and I dare say someone who bought it would get more hours of fun out of it - Blues Brothers simply wouldn't last as long.

Having said that, I agree with most of what Stu says about tricky movement making up for only so-so game design. There's a disturbing tendency in most of Ocean's not-bitsy designs to produce well programmed and good looking games which fall down on the playtesting/control side by cheating on you - by which I mean giving you 'value for money' (perhaps most obviously in Robocop II) by making things harder than by rights they should be in lazy, unsatisfying ways. If they didn't do that I think they'd be rated five to ten percent higher each time.

Stuart Campbell

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