Cor blimey, Spec-chums, Shadow Warriors looks such a scorcher that this could quite possibly be the first review I've ever written that doesn't once resort to the word 'crap'!! (Oops! Well, perhaps not.) And you can rest assured that I definitely won't be using the words 'boring', 'un-addictive', or indeed 'not very colourful' anywhere either. (Well, not outside of this intro bit anyway.) You see, it's actually a bit of a corker!
So what's it all about then? Well, it's a beat-'em-up, but rather a different offering from most of the ones we've seen lately. It's a scrolly for a start (so all you people hoping for straight hand-to-hand combat can go away right now), and (secondly) it's got blinkin' massive sprites - just take a look at the screenshots for proof. Happy yet? Well, if you're not just check out the 'thirdly' - the scenery's not just there to look pretty, ho no. You can actually 'do things' with it too! And fourthly, it's, um, erm... I can't think of a 'fourthly' actually, so let's leap straight into the review.
Right, here we are in the game and just look at my muscles! (Big, eh?) But (uh-oh) they're not as big as the ones on these guys heading straight towards me! A quick waggle with the joystick should sort them out I think, but what's this? I don't seem to be attacking them, just doing some sort of funky dance instead. What's going on, readers? (Actually, what's happening is that I'm doing this sort of fancy kick which involves hurling all your limbs around aimlessly - come to think of it, it is rather like my dancing actually - so all I have to do now is move a little closer to them and - yes! - I'll knock them to the floor.)
You see, unlike most beat-'em-ups, you don't have to keep wibbling your joystick to repeat a move, you can just sort of hold it in one position and your character will keep going until you let go. Other moves include jumping in the air (to get out of trouble, or up onto an overhead platform), rather groovy back-flip-cum-kick-the-git-in-the-head thingies, and all sorts.
Onto the next bit now, and I'm wading along a road packed with baddies, this time including some nasty big ones armed with whopping great tree-trunks! Slapping the joystick into first (ie pushing it upwards) I leap high in the air and find myself swinging back and forth from a lamp-post thing above them, clobbering them a few good ones on the head. (Told you you could interact with the scenery - you can swing from it, you can jump up onto it, you can kick suitable-looking bis to reveal handy bonuses and so on. It really is the biz!)
On the baddy front, there's lots of variety too. Fat ones, thin ones, sort of average-looking 'normal' ones, hog-mounted bikers (who chug onto screen) and (of course) your unfeasibly gigantic end-of-level ones, some of whom are actually larger than the screen - they're all here. It's all very colourful too, which makes it even more remarkable. Watch out for some incredibly neat background effects as well, particularly the massive cars that rumble diagonally across the screen on Level Two.
It all sounds pretty good so far, dunnit? And believe me, it is. Although it doesn't demand as much skill as something like Renegade (speed and luck are what's called for really) It's still very involving to play. I did find it a bit too easy to completely trapped between two blokes who were more than happy to punch me to death, but perhaps that's just me being crap. (Oh no, there's that word again!)
So there we have it. Shadow Warriors - a very technically impressive beat-'em-up (with perhaps the emphasis slightly more on being technically impressive than on the actual beating-people-up bit) that's not 'boring', not 'un-addictive' and not 'not very colourful'. And it's not 'crap' either. (Of course, it's multiload - on the humble 48K, that is - but what do you expect with all those fancy graphics?)
This game has long been acclaimed as one of the Speccy's prettiest beat-'em-ups, and something of a technical achievement to boot. It's stuffed with lots of huge multi-coloured sprites which leap around all over the place without all that ugly colour-clash nonsense. It's not a bad conversion of the original Tecmo coin-op either, but it all starts to go a bit wrong when you remember that said coin-op was a complete load of old tosh...
The big problem with Shadow Warriors is much the same as the one with Golden Axe (reviewed two issues ago) - there's almost no skill involved in playing it whatsoever. In fact, in one respect it's even worse. While in Golden Axe the mainstay of your strategy was walking up to the bad guys and hammering the fire button repeatedly, in Shadow Warriors it's not even that complex - a couple of tweaks on the joystick get your character moving, then you can keep up a constant barrage of athletic kicks and punches simply by holding the fire button down. Any enemies who walk into the onslaught get creamed, and you're basically only in trouble if two of them attack you at once from opposite sides. If that happens and one of them actually scores a hit on you, your character gets completely paralysed and can't move again until he's taken another couple of hits and lost a unit of energy, at which point you simply launch into the old limbs-a-flailing routine again until you've eliminated all opposition by a simple matter of attrition (they've got you outnumbered, but you've got multiple lives and about a thousand continues - ha!).
Still, there is a bit more to the game than with Golden Axe. The scenery is interactive, which means you can leap up and down on roofs and walkways to avoid baddies, swing from lamp posts to kick 'em in the chops, or send them crashing into telephone booths to reveal power-ups and bonus items. There are a few nice touches later on too. such as the huge cars which drive 'into' the screen, turning crossing the road into a highly dangerous pastime, or the big nasties who thwack you around with telegraph poles. Other than that it's all incredibly repetitive, pretty confusing and definitely uninspired stuff.
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