Commodore User1st April 1988
Published in Commodore User #56
Venom Strikes Back
Someone out there had better tell Gremlin you can have too much of a good thing. Acquire a licence, maybe make a sequel, but a sequel to the sequel? This time though, Gremlin have finally cracked it - MASK III: VENOM Strikes Back falls just short of being a very nifty piece of software.
This time the dastardly Miles Mayhem has kidnapped Matt Trakker's son Scott. And unless all of MASK's equipment is turned over to them, Scott will be executed (or at least never seen again). So what does Matt do? Surrender MASK and let VENOM's forces take over the Peaceful Nation's Alliance? Or let Scott die? No, big brave Matty boy sets out in a solo do or die mission to rescue his son. One man against the entire forces of VENOM. A mission which will take him to many different places, such as deserts, forest and space.
No sweat, piece of cake. Swat the bad guys, rescue the kid and be back home in time for dinner. But wait. Do I detect more than a hint of difficulty in this game? Too right, matey. Not only is Matt subjected to a constant barrage of anti-anything missiles, he also has lots of precision jumping to do. Gigantic spiked mines are placed in inconvenient places.
Matt has to negotiate along a scrolling landscape vaporising anything he comes across (apart from extra suits). At the end of each sub-level is a doorway leading inside a rather arty building where Matt gets shot at even more. If Matt is still in one piece by the time he reaches the end of the level, there comes the traditional face-off with the guardian. If the guardian so much as touches Matt, he's a gonner for sure.
Matt is controlled via keyboard or joystick and is restricted to left, right, jump, crouch and fire with the keyboard being used to select the different types of suit Matt can wear [Armani, Woodhave or Hamnet? - Ed]. These are picked up en route and tend to bounce up and down in the thick of a battle doing a ruddy good impersonation of a VENOM attack craft. So don't go blasting them mindlessly. Some of the suits give you mega-blasty firepower and a nice name like Backlash. Others can heal you, or in the case of Jackrabbit give you a jumping ability nothing short of Superman.
In total contrast to the previous MASK releases, MASK III boasts some really good graphics. Large, colourful and well animated. Sound is utilitarian but effective. The game plays surprisingly well considering only the backdrops rarely change.
Fancy cutting a swathe of Mayhem through miles of VENOM's territory? Well, MASK could get away with being called almost any title under the sun because of its lack of ties with the comic, but at least it's a good game.