The Unreviewables

Some movie-game adaptations are so irredeemably dull that I couldn’t hope to wring more than a few paragraphs worth of commentary out of them. It’s probably for the best because if I could, no-one would want to read a whole article on them anyway.

Can you see where this is heading? Yep, spot-on, I’m here today to present you with a medley of dregs; articles I started writing and abandoned because the games they focus on are an unreviewable blight on the Amiga’s back catalogue. How enticing is that prospect? You must be chomping at the bit to get stuck in!

First up in my collection of pitiful, officially licensed duffers is Dick Tracy. A flick-screen beat ’em up based on a movie, inspired by a comic book conceptualised by Chester Gould. Disney decided they hadn’t a hope in hell of releasing it on time to coincide with the movie that hit the theatres in June 1990 so abandoned the idea altogether. Developers Titus, bullishly believing they could work miracles, forged ahead regardless… limping all the way to the finish line.

Disney were absolutely right to throw in the towel. Titus’s action game (there’s also an adventure game by DSI, published by Disney) hatched rather like a gremlin cocoon in January 1991, half a year after the cinema release. Also missing the predictably lucrative Christmas present buying pandemonium meant they’d be even less likely to recoup their investment. Titus’s eponymous offering even missed the boat on the Yuletide VHS release. It’s for times like this I wish I had the Sad Trombone Widget installed on my phone. Wah wah wah waaaah.

Ironically, ‘Dick Tracy: The Crime Solving Adventure’ was released in October 1992, even further removed from the movie’s diminishing PR bandwagon… and there was a heck of a lot of it, explaining why timing was so critical.

Altogether Disney pumped out 28 separate TV adverts, 14 Dick Tracy figures courtesy of Playmates Toys and a new Roger Rabbit cartoon known as Roller Coaster Rabbit. Dick Tracy co-star, Madonna, also incorporated the movie into her ‘Blond Ambition World Tour’, there was a Dick Tracy musical theatre stage show, a novel, as well as a graphic novel.

It paid off too. From a nest egg of $46 million, it clawed back $162.7 million at the box office worldwide, making Dick Tracy 1990’s ninth highest-grossing movie in America. It’s hard to tell if Disney bought people’s attention, or if it’s genuinely a decent film. They did spend an extra $54 million on marketing hype alone!

I was aware of the furore at the time – everyone was – yet didn’t care enough to watch the movie until last year. I mention this only to demonstrate what an intelligent, independent free-thinker I am. I hope you’re suitably impressed. 😉

As for the game – I think that’s why I brought this up in the first place – it’s kind of like a poor man’s RoboCop without the variety offered by the multi-game approach. You walk along shooting streams of yellow dots at a rabble of mobsters, many of which appear from the upper windows of warehouses, and that’s about all there is to it. Each of the five levels is pretty much identical.

Get too close to the baddies and it’s impossible to shoot them because your bullets don’t register as a hit. Yes, the collision detection is that bad. Those loitering in the screen’s border can’t be shot either for the same reason.

It’s an effortlessly defeatable game, made even easier by crouching whenever you’re in danger – apparently, you become completely invisible when you bend down! I recall doing something similar as a four-year-old sproglet – I’d cover my eyes and instantly vanish. Strangely the technique stopped working in later life. There was this one instance when I’d just pulled off a bank heist… badly. A SWAT team burst in, guns blazing and Alsatians running rampant. Despite executing the manoeuvre in advance, I ended up breaking rocks at Her Majesty’s leisure for the next ten years.

Two gun varieties can be collected en route; a Colt .45 Special and a Thompson sub-machine gun, known as the ‘Chicago Piano’ in the live-action comic book of a movie. Grenades can also be confiscated from the goons to flesh out your arsenal.

The C64 and PC versions initiated by Distinctive Software, Inc. were released unfinished – they’re so shoddy you can punch and leave your fist lingering in the air for gangsters to stroll into, knocking themselves unconscious, permanently. On the contrary, the Amiga, Atari ST, Spectrum and Amstrad editions were written from the ground up by Titus… and are almost as bad.

Plotwise the game is faithful to the premise of the movie. Alphonse ‘Big Boy’ Caprice manipulates Club Ritz owner, Lips Manlis, into signing the business over to himself, before treating him to a ‘cement bath‘. Dick Tracy is drafted in to investigate, dodgy scoundrels are shot, while others are arrested. Like you, I really don’t care. Next.

Actually, with hindsight, this was a stupid idea. All those unfinished articles I have stashed away in the loft with aspirations of transmogrifying into Dizzy games will have to remain unpublished. Unlike the latter, these aren’t worth salvaging. Curse you recycle bin with your smug eco-friendly fixations. Well, erm, this is embarrassing.

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