|Vice: Project Doom|
With the success of the Ninja Gaiden series it's no surprise that several other companies tried to emulate its forumla of fast-paced gameplay and storytelling cutscenes. One such cart is American Sammy's Vice: Project Doom, which went almost unnoticed upon its release except for a cover story in Nintendo Power. At first glance it seems to borrow liberally from the NG engine in more ways than one but if you investigate further you'll find that Vice also has some original elements and still manages to stand out in the pack of NES platformers.
This title casts you as Officer Quinn Hart, a member of a special forces unit investigating a strange conspiracy. The population of a city is addicted to an otherworldly gel that has lethal side effects and Quinn and his team is out to find the source of this substance and put an end to its production. However Quinn's partner disappears during this case, leaving Quinn to solve the mystery on his own, and Quinn soon finds the answer goes much farther than he bargained for.
Quinn's mission covers 11 multi-level stages of varying environments. Most of the game takes place through the standard side-scrolling stages reminscent of Ninja Gaiden; Quinn has to make his way to the end of the stage before a timer runs out and must slay an army of bizzare creatures out to do him in. Quinn's default weapon is a laser whip for up-close combat but he also has a .44 magnum and grenades at his disposal, both of which have limited ammo but can be replenished from killing foes for power-ups. You can also get coins from exterminating enemies and collecting 100 earns you an extra life. At the end of each stage Quinn has to conquer a monster boss to proceed to the next stage and you're rewarded with a cut scene that advances the game's plot. However in addition to the platforming action you also have to survive two special stages with different gameplay modes. These include two Spy Hunter-style levels where you drive Quinn's vehicle down a packed street shooting up any enemy vechiles in your way, plus two Operation Wolf-type stages where you view the action from Quinn's perepective as you blow away the baddies with your two projectile weapons.
This cart sports some very good visuals. The stages are mostly well-designed and some even feature some great background effects, including bits of parallax scrolling. The sprties are all very detailed and have some nice animation, plus there's little in the way of slowdown or breakup. Even the story scenes have some great detailed looks to them. As far as the audio goes, most of the stages have some good background tunes that fit the action, while the sound effects aren't as good and a few get annoying.
Gameplay-wise the comparisons to Ninja Gaiden are unavoidable. The stages work in much of the same way, the enemies are slimiar to the ones found in that other cart (complete with annoying bird creatures), and even the cut scenes use a similar typeface. But Vice shows that even somewhat unoriginal gameplay can still be done very well. The platform levels are a blast to play with fast and furious action and the drivng and shooting stages are also pretty good. The controls are very responsive with no lag time and using SELECT to switch between weapons is no sweat even in the heat of battle. The game also sports a well-balanced diffculty level with a good learning curve, staring out easy and getting toughter near the end with very few frustrating moments. The storyline unfolds at a nice pace, though there are a few head-scratching and disjointed moments, and in a nice touch you have to complete the first level before you get to see the title screen just like a real movie.
So while Vice: Project Doom won't win any awards for creativity and won't unseat Ninja Gaiden, it still turns out to be one of the top platform titles for the NES. Just about everything in this cart is first-rate from the graphics to the action and even though the sounds and story could have been done better it's still an excellent game to check out every once in a while. Definitely one the many unheralded titles in the vast NES catalog.
|Site design and content © 1998-2010 Adam King
Nintendo and Nintendo Entertainment System are trademarks of Nintendo of America, Inc.