MDM Game 41 Crack Down

Choose your own film quote, there’s enough of them…

Twitch gameplay broadcast archived at:

The #MegaDriveMarathon is back after the festive period, and we’re rolling into 2019 by playing a game from 1991. This is still a sentence structure I can’t get my head around, but no matter, we’re here for games, not an English lesson, right?

Crack Down is a top-down arcade-style game that plays like a strange hybrid of the classic hack-and-slash title Gauntlet and every single 1980s science fiction trope that a cartridge can handle being forcibly shoved into it. I’m not exaggerating, if it’s been in an eighties movie then it’s probably here. Megalomaniacal scientist trying to take over the world? Check. Cyborg enemies with machine guns that will stop at nothing to kill you? Check. Uninspiring hero-types who are sent in on a suicide mission to prevent the downfall of mankind, kill everyone in their path, and destroy the empire that Mr. K (the aforementioned scientist) has built before he can use it against us all? Check, check, and double check, we’ve got the whole genre slammed together right here.

The uninspiring hero-types even have perhaps the greatest of uninspiring names: Ben and Andy. Seriously. Who creates a game about saving the future of the world as we know it and names their protagonists something so innocuous? They’re supposed to be special agents! At least give them names that are somewhat more flashy and rockstar-esque like Drake, or Maverick. Anyway…

Once you’ve decided which of the pair you want to play as (there’s really no difference other than appearance), your mission is to plant bombs in various areas and then escape the areas before their timers go off. The targets for these bombs are handily marked out by big red crosses on the ground, which suggests either someone really dumb works for Mr. K, or someone else got there before you and forgot to take any explosives with them, instead taking a detour to the DIY store and picking up some paint. I’ve never quite understood why anyone would mark out the exact weak points of their plans, in much the same way as the bad guy always explains his plans to the good guys before trying (and failing) to kill them, but here we are. More tropes in action I guess.

Still, it’s better than wasting those bombs blowing up anything and everything, and it all starts off easy enough. But inevitably the layouts of each stage become more convoluted, the number of enemies to fight off starts to rise and their desire to wipe you out becomes more relentless. In particular, it’s worth noting a stage that is comprised almost entirely of conveyor belts, with the intention of the player working out which routes lead them to the Xs and which lead them to bottomless pits of doom. All well and good in theory, but the collision detection of the tileset is such that it’s almost pixel-perfect to get onto one of the belts, let alone to reach one of the targets, otherwise you fall to your death. And that’s before we reach a later implementation of a similar set of belts in the final boss level, where you discover it’s somehow impossible to fire your gun and maintain traction on a conveyor at the same time, whilst also attempting to shoot down a barrier blocking your way. Baffling and frustrating in equal measure.

Ben and Andy, at your service. Yeah, I’m not convinced either…

Despite all the faults I’ve picked at, Crack Down is still a lot of fun. Granted, it gets difficult quite quickly, and the above-mentioned deaths feel quite cheap, but such is the plight of an arcade port originally designed to eat your money, as we have discovered many times before. I’ve given Crack Down a lot of stick with the sci-fi hyperbole, but it’s better than I give it credit for. It’s certainly not Gauntlet, which despite its age gap still stands up to this pretty well, but it’s still worth a couple of plays.

MDM Rating: A Nut To Crack