Thursday, June 09, 2005

Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32

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You want retro? This is retro. This almost as retro as it gets. If you start this up having never seen it before you'll probably laugh at the simplicity. For about, oh... 3 minutes or so. Then you'll be sobbing and calling for your mama, it gets tough. Frenzy was the successor to Berzerk, also a great game but lacking the varied gameplay of Frenzy. Both were ported to a lot of systems, owing to their graphical simplicity. But we're talking Mame here, so the original arcade version is our focus.
Control is classic early 80's: an 8-way joystick and fire button. The levels are generated randomly so you can't really assume that any particular starting strategy will work. There are 2 kinds of walls: reflective that ricochet bullets, and destructible that you can shoot a path through. You'll never be boxed in by the maze itself, but when a lot of enemies are concentrated in one place you'll be in trouble, so if you feel things tightening up have a quick scan to see if there is a wall you shoot a way through if need be. Note it takes several shots to clear a wide enough hole, so give yourself time to complete the task. Becasue you're tall and thin it only takes a few shots to clear a path through a horizontal wall, but if you want to escape through a vertical wall it may take 5 or 6. You're only allowed 2 bullets on screen at any one time, so the closer you are to the wall the better, you'll reload far more quickly. Unlike Berzerk the walls themselves are not deadly to touch, but ricochets can catch you out. Nothing is worse than shooting yourself! Note that if you're touching a reflective wall you can still fire off a ricochet, for some reason it won't hit you as it passes. When shooting horizontally at a refective wall the ricochet will pass above or below you (assuming you haven't moved since firing), whereas a vertical shot will ricochet straight back at you. There are 3 basic enemies in Frenzy: round-headed droids, skeletons and Evil Otto, a disembodied head with a mean streak. The droids usually move diagonally, looking to line you up for a shot. The skeletons usually move left-right or up-down looking for for a shot. Note that they're quite large and shoot from their heads, whereas you shoot from the hip so it is possible to have a bullet part your hair while firing one off yourself that will hit the shooter. But you'll have to be pixel-perfect. When they're firing vertically they shoot slighly right of centre, but you shoot from a lot further out so they can nail you on the inside. It pays to keep mobile in Frenzy. Be careful when you destroy an enemy, he explodes, taking out you if you're standing right next to him. Of course you can use this to good effect, starting a chain reaction if they're all bunched up. It's a great trick that's hard to pull off but you know you're hardcore when you nail it. Once you've cleared all the skeletons and droids you'll be awarded a nice fat bonus, so you should aim for this. Evil Otto appears when you've taken too long to clear a level. He's a real problem, though unlike Berzerk you can shoot him dead. But it's difficult owing to his bouncing motion. Of course, thanks to Mame we can affore to lose plenty of credits for practice's sake! If you want to kill him, wait till he gets close and fire off a 2-shot volley. If you keep dawdling you'll be greeted by another Evil Otto, and try getting out of that quagmire in one piece. Note that all you have to do to 'complete' a level (without a bonus though!) is run through a playfield doorway, so if you've got Otto bearing down on you find the nearest exit and make a run for it!
In later levels you'll come up against some static enemies, basically bosses. One is a giant yellow Otto. If you shoot a regular Otto the boss Otto will spawn 4 regular Ottos. And he smiles when you're killed.... nice touch. Another boss is a device that looks like an electrical generator. He's hidden behind destructive walls so clear a path through and shoot him, and all the enemies will stop moving. Another looks like an old punch-tape computer, take him out and enemies can't shoot. But he's tough to shoot, you'll need to hit him diagonally where the refective walls surrounding him intersect. So if your GP32 doesn't like diagonals don't waste your time, but if they're ok go for it as it'll make clearing the entire level a walk in the park. And then you can rack up a nice fat bonus! The final boss I've yet to see myself, but apparently he shoots balls at you. If you shoot all the balls it's the same as clearing the level so you'll get the bonus. Back in the day most folk never took the time (or money!) to see the later levels in Frenzy, but thanks to MameGP32 you can get stuck in and see how far you can get.
You'll find Frenzy (and Berzerk) in your Classics folder. Unfortunately sound is not replicated (the originals were famous for their speech) so turn the sound emulation off, go with no frameskip and you'll be good to go. And good luck! Writing this has made me want to see that ball-spawning boss so I know what I'm doing next.

Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran


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