Sunday, April 5, 2009

50 Great Arcade games #3 - Elevator Action Returns

Elevator Action had an interesting concept in that you progressed through stages mostly by elevators. Unfortunately it really wasn't very good. Thankfully Taito saw fit to take a second look at the game and put out this excellent sequel.

The storyline isn't really worth bothering with except it showcases some very impressive in-game cutscenes. Some eco-terrorists or something want to start a new world order and your job is to make sure that doesn't happen. You start off by choosing from one of three characters who all have varying stats and abilities and go through six stages that range from apartment buildings to sewers to an oil refinery and of course the villain's hide-out. The objective typically boils down to finding red doors which hold bombs or some other related plot device though there are certain encounters that are sort of like boss-fights. 

The first thing I should point out is there are a lot of ways to kill your foes. You can shoot them, smash them from above or below with an elevator jump and/or ram into them, pistol whip them, set them on fire with rockets, bombs, or exploding barrels, clip them when they're close to a ledge and watch them fall to their death, catch them in their own traps, and so on. An important tactic for scoring in this game is to kill everything after knocking out the lights because it doubles the point value of everything you do(including going through red doors and collecting items). 

However everything you can kill the bad guys with can just as easily kill you. You have a health meter capable of taking a few hits(and health-restoring food is readily available) but getting crushed, falling a certain height(which is typically about one floor), and in rare cases taking an elevator to a certain spot before getting the red door(this has happened to me) can take you out instantly. With only two lives and no hope for extends you can't really afford to screw up. Thankfully this game is has very strong mechanics. It's entirely possible to duck, jump over, and manipulate elevators to dodge bullets. Also your character is more than capable of out-shooting any foe and with three flavors of bombs for those rough scenarios you have more than enough to survive with. To add to your hopes of survival you can find a machinegun or rocket launcher(which doubles as a bullet-canceler) as well as additional bombs and computers/diskettes for points.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of Elevator Action Returns is the behavior of the enemy and the environment. This is not like most action games where enemies appear and gun straight for your character. These guys will arrive via the many doors dispersed around the area and wander around, only attacking if you happen to be in sight. These guys will also ride elevators if they have to realistically behave depending on the situation. For example you can sneak up on people who haven't spotted you(maybe they're facing the other direction). Obviously something like this wouldn't fly in a Metal Slug or Shinobi but these aspects unique to EAR are what gives it its' identity.


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