While Sega laid claim to ‘blast processing’ – whatever that is – the Amiga had ‘Strip-A-Mation’, well, it was implemented in one game anyway. Once the ice had been broken, what it accomplished was soon taken for granted, and no-one thought it warranted such a grandiose term. From then on, games piggybacking on the overlooked concept were known simply as ‘games’.
There it is in the opening paragraph on the back of the box for Frames’ Badlands Pete; a wild west scrolling sharp-shooter released in 1990 for the Atari ST and Amiga, published by ARC Software (the publishing label of Atari Corp. UK Ltd). Nowhere else in the history of the universe was the term ever used again, suggesting it was more of a marketing gimmick than a recognised industry technique.
As such you can’t pop over to Wikipedia for a concrete definition, so we’ll have to take the Merseysider’s word for it when they tell us, “the Strip-A-Mation graphics system was developed to add realism and depth to Badlands Pete. With Strip-A-Mation characters can move through doors, in front and behind objects, up and down ladders and stairs and into hidden passages. Once mastered, Badlands Pete’s joystick controls in conjunction with Strip-A-Mation graphics give you the freedom to move around the Badlands going where you want, when you want…”
What all that means in practice is that the levels operate on multiple planes; you can turn to stare down the player, ruthless grimace indurated by a lifetime of grit and gun-slinging, and walk out of the screen, or about-face and stomp deeper into the screen. You can only pump the lawless varmints full of lead if you’re in alignment with them, and congruously, they can only snipe at you if you are currently occupying the same plane. Additionally, pushing up against a doorway – seeing as there’s no jump facility – causes you to enter it to explore buildings that were previously hidden from view.
Several 8-bit and 16-bit platformers offer the facility to hop between various stratums (Shockwave Rider by FTL, for example), though none I can bring to mind blend this mechanic with moving in and out of buildings (as in Ocean’s Platoon) to discover new areas of a level, and scroll continuously. Perhaps that was Badlands Pete’s USP. I expect Frames researched the topic before making it A Thing (TM).
Other than that it’s a rather pedestrian, lethargically paced walk ‘n’ gun affair with limited motility, and little to keep you motivated.
Steven ‘Grizzly’ Cain is who we have to thank for the game design and music. Coding was courtesy of John ‘Dry Gulch’ Gibson, with graphics provided by Martin ‘Kid’ Calvert and Simon Butler (who worked on the title screen, and didn’t get round to picking a frontier themed middle name).
The plot is a bit of a one-liner: the governor’s daughters have been kidnapped by scurvy outlaws and he’s drafted in you – Pete Coyote – to rescue them, flaunting his gold stash as a carrot on a stick rather than acquiesce to their ransom demands.
￼You earn a $5000 reward for each daughter saved, and a further bounty every time you bury a baddy six feet under. Apparently the governor has been a busy boy so returning his prodigious brood unscathed isn’t going to come cheap. There are multiple levels to traverse and travelling between them is conducted via train, once the obligatory ticket has been recovered.
A slight nuance is lent to the proceedings by having to fathom out which of the inhabitants of Desperadoville are hostile and which aren’t worth wasting your limited ammo on. Not that this is a deal-breaker since your twin .45s can be replenished by collecting supplies from the environment or scavenging them from the fallen foes. Nevertheless, shooting bystanders is further penalised by a reduction in your accrued bounty.
Energy reserves are depicted by way of a blood-filled heart, depleted as a consequence of absorbing shots or touching baddies, yet this can be refuelled through gorging on chicken, Desperate Dan style pies and beer.
Taking evasive action isn’t much of an option seeing as you’re not the most nimble of bandits. Mostly it whittles down to crouching while bashing the fire button like a maniac until enemies pop their clogs – perfectly fine for assailants that shoot at you standing upright, though not so helpful for those sitting down on the job.
In any case, given that you’re incapable of walking and shooting simultaneously (you have to holster your guns in between using the space bar), you may as well stand your ground and try to catch the bullets in your teeth. That or switch planes until you’ve bypassed a ne’er-do-well before getting back on course. Ah, what the hell, either way’ll work.
The governor’s kidnapped daughters could be anywhere so it pays to explore every nook and cranny of the condensed playfield. Just be wary of mistaking villains for seemingly innocent women because some of them will turn on you when you least suspect it, all guns blazing.
In-game audio is limited to sound effects, the only music playing over the title screen, while animation too is fairly basic. Even so, there are some neat touches that are worth noting. For instance, certain members of the townsfolk, when shot, hit the deck landing flat on their back minus their hat, which flutters down to the ground independently several seconds later, much like a scene from a Looney Toons cartoon.
All you see of the outlaw’s braying horses is their backsides. You may not even notice them until you try swaggering past and they reflexively kick out at you with no provocation. I’m not normally pro-animal abuse but I’ll make an exception here, and have no qualms about introducing them to my duel six-shooters.
What the sum of the part (yes, in the singular) amounts to falls well short of Konami’s Sunset Riders, released just a year later in the arcades. A curio then only really compelling for its unique claim to technological breakthroughs, that only a handful of people could put a name to.