Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Desert Ambush

There's a distinct feeling of deja vu here, like I've played Desert Ambush before. Which I haven't, of course, but that niggling feeling still remains. Perhaps it's because I used to play a lot of games like this, with lone warriors fighting the world, before I got old and boring and only wanted to play Peggle. Unfortunately, Desert Ambush does not bring back any fond childhood memories, save for those times when I sat down to excitedly play a brand new game and walked away ten minutes later because it was a load of ass.

The year is 1997 (?) and three brave soldiers have disappeared while investigating an ancient tomb. One of them looks remarkably similar to the character you'll be playing. Maybe they're brothers. Yeah, that's it. They're certainly not the same generic model with different outfits.

"The current evidence suggests that they are no longer alive." No, I'm willing to bet they're not. Something about this picture of the Sergeant getting torn to shreds by an eight foot tall demon tells me that they didn't make it. On a side note, isn't it cool how the soldiers didn't have real last names, only initials? That's so hip.

Anyway, your character is sent to secure the area. Alone. No back-up. Just you and a tomb full of monsters. Because three guys worked so well, why not send just one?

Here is your character, Chuck Manly (I don't think he has a name, but that one will suffice.) Chuck, who is totally not on steroids, is such a badass that he's going to fight the armies of hell barefoot and with nothing but his fists and feet for weapons. I don't know whether to sigh in total embarrassment for Chuck or pump my fist in the air and scream, "WHOOOOO!!! U.S.A.!!!!!" but I'm willing to bet it's not the latter.

Chuck makes mincemeat out of everything except the giant scorpions. This is why you don't walk barefoot in the desert, Chuck! For some reason, skeletons who blow poisonous smoke and box aren't a problem, but those scorpions will kick your ass!

Which brings up another question - skeletons have no lungs, so how the hell are they blowing black smoke in my face?

In every level you'll find one of these lamps (there are also water jars to regain health, but who cares?) Once you have one of these you'll be able to temporarily enter Genie/God mode, granting you invincibility for a short amount of time.

Yeah, watch me go transparent on these fuckers. I would have thought, however, that with a genie you could have asked for more than fifteen seconds of invincibility. At the very least, some kind of slapstick joke and a few pop culture references would have been nice. But no. Not even a Robin Williams cameo.

We did it! YEAH! We reached a completely out of place red target on the ground! I know that's nit picking, but nitpicking is what I do.

Things get a little more interesting with the addition of mummies, who are able to take away large amounts of health very quickly. This would be more impressive if they weren't total pussies that could be defeated with a single punch or kick. They even make some wimpy whining sound as they're kicked offscreen by our intrepid, moronic hero.

That's another little problem - the controls. it's not that they're bad, it's just they seem a little like overkill to me. You've got the usual arrow keys for moving, ducking and jumping, but then you have four attack buttons, one for each limb. Why? Players are just going to use the same two buttons over and over. That's time wasted - time that could have been spent making scones, Semtex or a better game.

On the one hand, these swords that shoot up out of the ground are pretty cool. On the other, they're about as dangerous as the skeletons and mummies, so you're really only at risk when you've got a whole bunch of monsters ganging up on you, or if a scorpion is nearby (scorpions being, of course, the only real threat in Desert Ambush.)

Yay, we've reached the tomb! After three levels of repetitive desert landscape, we now get two levels of repetitive dungeon hallways. What fun!

Again, the scorpions are the only real threat. There may be more of everything else, but they're still manageable. Those little buggers scuttling across the floor are not. The scorpions inside the tomb are bright red, most likely because the regular ones would have been impossible to see in this murky colour scheme.

OK, look. I could keep going. I could have played until I reached level 5, so you could see the demon, but you've already seen him in the screenshot near the start of the review, ripping into a far smarter soldier than Chuck. The truth is, I died on Level 4. With no pause button, I had to quickly go from my web browser to my art programme and back again to get all the screenshots I needed, which left me vulnerable. Once I died, I was faced with the prospect of starting all over again. And quite frankly, I couldn't be arsed. Desert Ambush is a slow, ponderous affair, which only picks up in the last level, and this is only because you've got a frickin' demon running after you.

It's got some nice graphical touches but it plays like a piece of crap and you'd have to really love this sort of thing to play it through to the end. I wouldn't even suggest it as a time waster, because the levels take so long to load. A whole bunch of stuff got thrown into Desert Ambush in the hope that the result would be a brilliant game. But if you put enough crap in something, it's just going to stink.

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