The title of this article says it all, really. The Amiga is home to some of the finest pixel artwork ever seen in gaming. A lot of Amiga title screens feature large, shirtless men, often grimacing through exertion, rage or being too cold. Do these two facts ever overlap? Are there a great many extremely well-drawn depictions of glistening pectorals to be found in the Amiga library? I don't know, but by God I intend to find out. File this one under "investigative journalism," folks. I'll be sure to thank you all when I collect my Pulitzer.

Dogs of War, Elite, 1989

Beginning with a fairly average representation of the genre, the hero of Dogs of War is most definitely large and shirtless. The "oversized weapon as phallic symbolism" is an easy angle to take on this, especially when he's holding it at groin height, but he doesn't seem very happy with his, ahem, tool of carnage. That's the face of a man suffering from buyer's remorse, I reckon. He's wishing he hadn't traded his body armour and helmet for this wildly impractical minigun - a minigun which, if you take a closer look, appears to have either a smaller gun or a scope attached to the top. Neither of those things seem like they've be very useful. He'll be out of ammo in seconds, and then what has he got? A very large paperweight and acres of bare flesh that might as well have "mosquito buffet" painted across it.

Bloodfest, Mellow Chips, 1995

This Sunday at the Recreation Grounds, it's Bloodfest! Try the blood sausages! Donate some O negative for an AB positive cause! Ride the inflatable corpuscles down the Blood Flume! Fun for the whole family, six pounds for adults, three pounds for children and free if you pay in blood, sweet, life-giving blood!
This fellow will sadly be unable to donate blood, as he has already lost too much for the technicians to extract any without him becoming dangerously woozy. I don't think a sugary biscuit will be enough to help him recover. Could some of these wounds have been prevented had Mr. Bloodfest - not to be confused with Captain Bloodfest, the loveable syringe-shaped mascot of the Bloodfest carnival - deigned to wear a shirt? Quite probably. They mostly look like scratches, I doubt he'd have felt a thing if he'd been wearing a thick coat. On the other hand, he would have been uncomfortably warm wearing much else, seeing as he's managed to convert his Uzis into flamethrowers.

Leatherneck, Microdeal, 1988

I think "No-Neck" would have been a more accurate title. Apparently "leatherneck" is a colloquial term for a marine, supposedly originating from the practise of wearing a leather collar to help maintain correct posture. This marine could probably just about get a leather strap under his chin, a shark's-tooth necklane or something, but there's no room there for a collar so it's a miracle that is posture isn't completely terrible.

Vaxine, The Assembly Line, 1990

A really crappy dreamcatcher? No, it's Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, only with four fewer limbs and his genitalia airbrushed into obscurity to protect the moral cleanliness of you, the viewer. He's also even more ripped than in the original drawing. Jumping-jacks are good for muscle definition, it seems. As for why this title screen shows him being dropped for a great height onto a mound of lime jelly, I have no explanation. Maybe that's just his thing.

TNT Wrestling, TNT, 1991

This wrestler is so buff he even has abs on the palm of his hand. A friendly pat on the back will make your ribcage shoot out of your chest, and a handshake from this guy? It's like grabbing Godzilla's vibrator. Probably just as oily, too - this slab of man-meat is practically glistening, as though one of the vampires from Twilight rejected a life of relentless brooding and learned how to perform the perfect suplex instead.

Top Wrestling, Genias, 1992

Sticking with wrestling, and here's a face not even a mother could love. That's because the owner of this face has eaten his mother alive in the hopes that doing so would grant him the trust and protection of the tortured spirits of the dead whose infernal shrieking blights his every moment. "If only they'd be quiet", he thinks, "all I need is one moment of silence, then I could think, find a way to escape this nightmare. I did everything they asked! I ate my poor, sweet mother alive, I dress in nothing but agonisingly tight striped underwear, I've even managed to create the most unflattering haircut since the French stopped using the guillotine and still they torment me!"

Conan the Cimmerian, Virgin, 1991

I think Conan gets a pass on the whole "bare-chested" thing, right? I mean, he's Conan. You will notice that "a nice cotton button-down from Marks and Spencer" is not included in his list of things that are best in life. He only wears those furry pants to muffle the sound of his giant steel balls clanking together, lest the noise betray his presence to his foes.

Rubicon, 21st Century Entertainment, 1992

Giant head or tiny torso? You decide! Aww, someone's a grumpy widdle sausage! Cheer up, Mr. Rubicon, I'm only teasing. I tell you what, to show you I'm sorry I'll buy you some of that bronzer you like. What's the shade called again? Grandad's Leather Armchair? I'll pick you up some more Hair Concrete while I'm out, too.

Jungle Boy, Byte Back, 1991

Jungle Boy? Are you sure? He's built like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1989, I think we can bump him up to Jungle Man. Maybe it's his expression of childlike innocence as he swings from tree to tree that gives him a boyish air, but I'm sure he's old enough to be legally tried as an adult  That's important, because there's no combination of that home-made knife and that psychotic rictus grin that doesn't end with Jungle Boy trying to carve his name into an innocent person's lungs.

Gladiators, Smash 16, 1989

"We did the exact same move at the exact same time, how come I have a lacerated kidney and you're fine?"
"I dunno, I guess I just wanted it more?"
"I bet it's your beard. I knew I should have grown a beard! The gods will never grant their favour to a man who merely sports a Burt Reynolds."
"Maybe there's still time, you know, after..."
"After what, Steve? After our fight to the death, which I am already losing, just like I'm losing quite a lot of blood?
"Oh good, well as long as you're sorry, that's alright."
"Hey, there's no need to be a dick about it, No-Beard."

Cyber Cop, Impressions, 1991

Even the machines are, and I'm putting my full confidence in this pun, muscling in on the semi-naked action. Good work, pun, we nailed it. The Cyber Cop revels in his chiselled physique, posing in an overly-dramatic and frankly pretentious way. I think he's annoying me so much because he didn't have to work for it: he rolled off the production line with a body that would cause even the gods of Olympus to do an appreciative half-whistle. Cyber Cop will never know struggle of not pretending to be hosting a party so you have an excuse to order three large pizzas, nor will he ever have to lie to his doctor about how much exercise he does due to shame over his slothful nature. On the other hand, he can never experience love or happiness, so, you know, swings and roundabouts.

Carver, G&T Game Systems, 1991

I'm pretty sure Carver used to open for Motley Crue. Well, maybe not quite that high up the 80's rock food chain. They probably did some warm-up stuff for Ratt, at the very least. It's the bandanna that gives it away, and that logo - tell me it doesn't look like it was was designed - nay, destined - to be stencilled onto a bass drum?
Carver himself looks oddly slick, and for once I don't think it's down to baby oil or the combined sweat of all those he has wrestled with. He's very... plasticky. Then you look at his face, and it all becomes clear: Carver is wearing a fake inflatable muscle suit, and as he tries to make himself look big in order to intimidate his rivals, his expression shows he's very nervous that someone is going to see through his ruse and stab him. Then he'd never get the deposit back on his muscle suit, and also he'll be dead, which I'd describe as a lose-lose situation.

Torvak the Warrior, Core Design, 1990

Hey, Torvak, Tobias Funke called and he wants his cut-offs back. Torvak has gone for a Batman-esque "looming in the shadows" look, although his menace is rather undercut by my inability to see his torso as anything but a grumpy face.

See? Not so much a mighty Viking warrior as a dangerously 'roided-out Horace.

Pinkie, Millennium, 1995

He might not built like the result of a romantic encounter between a gorilla and Mount Everest, but Pinkie is one hundred percent shirtless. And bottomless. A weird, naked little gremlin with a head that peaks in a tightly-coiled turd. "Look at me," his leaping pose seems to cry, "I'm smooth all over!"
Let's get one thing straight, Pinkie: I don't like you. You look like you were created in some whimsical fairytale manner - a pencil eraser that wished super-hard to be a real boy, maybe - but you have a navel so you must be the offspring of a placental mammal. So what is it, Pinkie? Are you a man or a beast, and if the answer is man, won't you please develop a sense of shame about your rubbery body and cover yourself up?

Friday Night Pool, The One Amiga, 1995

Friday Night Pocket Pool, more like. I see you over there, sunglasses. Knock it off, this respectable gaming establishment and we're as opposed to that kind of behaviour as we are to following the rules of perspective.
You might be thinking "hey, VGJunk, you promised me shirtless men and that guy in the sunglasses is not completely barechested! You shall be hearing from my lawyers!" but c'mon, no jury in the land is going to agree that his tattered leather waistcoat functions as a shirt. It's some kind of negashirt, made of fabric and worn on the torso but somehow serving only to highlight the wearer's lack of decency and fashion sense, a kind of garment equivalent of the Streisand Effect.
Also, as someone who spent a fair amount of time in pool halls during his youth, I feel I should point out that they generally do not look like this. For one thing, these people are smiling. There is also no middle-aged man who has been hunched over the fruit machine for the last seven hours, and pool hall patrons do not tend to dress like they just watched The Terminator and decided it'd make a good basis for their future sartorial choices.

Over the Net, Genias, 1990

The fun of this one is imagining how you'd interpret those silhouettes in the background if you didn't know this was a beach volleyball game. Personally I'd go with "amateur one-man ballet adaptation of Schindler's List."

Axe of Rage, Palace Software, 1989

Axe of Rage, Expression of Mild Contempt. When you're out for lunch with a friend and they start taking things from your plate after they said they weren't hungry enough to order anything, this is the look you give them as you say "Really? You're going to just take my potato wedges?"

Brain Artifice, Sceptic Design, 1991

All these action games about barbarians and super-soldiers are logical candidates for the inclusion of a large, shirtless man, but I wasn't expecting to find any in the more cerebral puzzle genre so Brain Artifice's title screen came as something of a surprise. A welcome surprise, I have to say, because nothing excites the old synapses like trying to unravel the tangled web of circumstance that leads to grey-haired man and a vaguely "Arabian" warrior in a posing pouch playing a board game in a darkened room. If this is a game of strip draughts, then the warrior is clearly not doing very well.
I can only assume that what happened here is that the warrior challenged the old man to a battle to the death but neglected to specify the form this battle would take, leaving him red-faced when he arrived at the designated battleground in his y-fronts. That's why he looks so disgruntled about the whole affair.
As an added extra, the record lying on the floor is titled "Dirty Cash," so presumably the two combatants are listening to this as they play. Knowing this only enhances the vignette before us, and it was pretty bloody great to start with.

Ball Raider, Diamond Software, 1987

"And you're sure you want to call yourself 'Ball Raider'? It's just, with the muscles and the pink underwear, you know... No, no, it's fine. Yes, I'm sure your father and his father before him were proud Ball Raiders. It'll be fine, we'll just run the name up to corporate to make sure there aren't any, I dunno, websites or anything already using the Ball Raider name before we get the t-shirts made."

Street Hassle, World Software, 1994

Finally, I'll leave you with this masterpiece. There is little I can say about it, other than Andy Warhol and his grandparents are entering a world of hurt.



Today, a game of cat and mouse. More accurately: a game of cat, mouse, a bunch of other animals, many familiar videogame mechanics rolled together like so many differently-coloured lumps of Play-Doh, and balls. Lots of balls. It's Metro's 1995 match-and-pop-em-up Mouse Shooter GoGo!

That is, a mouse who shoots, you don't spend the game shooting at mice like a Depression-era ratcatcher. For that experience you'll need to play Hobo Joe: Ratslayer, coming to Steam in 2016. No, this is the game for you if you're into shiny, rubbery cat heads such as you might find on the S&M gear of a sexual deviant who's really into the Pink Panther.

Here are the mice that star in Mouse Shooter GoGo. The unnerving, a-little-too-close-to human mice, the mice that are surely the mascots of a family pizza restaurant franchise in some other universe. They're having a fun time visiting the Bizarro-Cinema, where the screen is behind you and all the seats are leather sofas. What movie are they watching? The Story of These Two Mice, starring these two mice, a moving tale of these two mice trying to impress two classy mouse ladies despite their romantic intentions being severely handicapped by the wrestling singlets they appear to be wearing.

Not to worry, the mice have a plan, and the plan is... hell if I know, they're examining the blueprints for something - something roughly shaped like a cat's head, now I look at it again - and they like what they see. Those mouse girls are going to love whatever this thing is!
Side note: if you have to rip holes in your hats so they fit over your enormous ears, maybe don't bother with hats. Wear a bandanna or something instead, or get a pair of smaller hats, one for each ear. Also, I thought that mouse was winking, but he isn't. His eye is still open, he's just contorting his pupil. I'm starting to dislike these creepy mouse-men.

There are some fairly detailed instructions included in the attract mode, which is always helpful although Mouse Shooter GoGo is simple enough that you'd pick most of it up just by playing the game for a couple of minutes. The basic aim is to throw the ball / severed animal head that your mouse is holding into the balls of the same type that are freely bouncing around the screen. In this case, you can see that the mouse is holding a panda head, so throwing it into that group of four panda heads will cause all the panda heads to disappear. If it hits a non-matching ball, like the pink cat, the blue dog or the golden pig, it will stick to them and make the clump bigger.

I'm not going to lie, I'm immature enough that I laughed when I first read this because it sounds like something you'd overhear on the set of a particularly unpleasant pornographic movie. Why will the balls stick together? There are so many wonderful possibilities! You should discuss these possibilities with your friends and neighbours. Call up your father-in-law and ask him, I'm sure he'll have a few exciting opinions on the subject.

Here's stage one, and you'll see that Mouse Shooter GoGo is a more action-heavy version of Puzzle Bobble with the target-splitting mechanic of Pang thrown in too - if you, for instance, popped the cats and pigs in the middle of this arrangement first then it would split in two and that'd give you twice as many things to avoid. Fortunately your mouse can run wherever you like on the screen and can throw his balls in any of the eight joystick directions: press the second button to switch to "free" aiming" and press it again to lock your firing angle in. This freedom of movement is something that takes a little getting used to - or it did for me, anyway. I was so hidebound by the familiar mechanics of Puzzle Bobble that moving away from the bottom of the screen or firing at an angle that wasn't "straight upwards" felt wrong somehow, which is a bit worrying. Do I really lack the imagination and creative thinking required to play an arcade game from 1995? Christ, I was hoping for a reasonably playable action-puzzle game, not a searing indictment of my own flawed psychological make-up.

Other than exposing my psyche as lacking a certain amount of mental fortitude, Mouse Shooter GoGo works quite well as an action/puzzle hybrid, although as I say the emphasis is definitely on the "action" part of that equation - the only puzzling that needs doing is figuring out which balls you should burst to keep the clump in as few separate pieces as possible. It's a lot easier to dodge two large, slow-moving pieces than it is to avoid a cavalcade of balls flying at you from every angle, as the actress said to the bishop. The colour of the ball in your mouse's hand is randomly generated each time you throw the previous one, summoned from the Decapitated Animal Dimension by the same dark force that twisted these mice's forms into the crude mockery of humanity you see before you, so sometimes you'll find yourself unable to do much with the ball you're given. It's ironic, like ten thousand cat heads when all you need is a snake or a frog or a very unwell Pac-Man, whatever the green things are supposed to be. On the other hand, you're only ever given balls that match the colours still active on the play field, which is a nice concession.

For such a simple concept, Mouse Shooter GoGo has plenty of smaller gameplay elements bolted on to it. There are non-animal-head balls that act as power-ups, giving you extra time or changing large numbers of balls into the same colour. Your mouse dies if a ball touches him, but to defend himself he can use the ball he's holding to bounce away any balls that come at him from the front and blimey, I sure am typing the word "balls" a lot in this article. I'm up to my neck in balls, like a tiny person at poorly-planned orgy. Oh, and if you can create a straight line of ba... bubbles and put a bubble of the same colour at either end, all the bubbles in between will switch to that colour. It doesn't come up very often unless you're shooting for a high score, which is something I've never been all that interested in.

The mouse ladies appear every time you clear a stage. Do their breasts jiggle when they jump? I think you already know the answer to that. I'm not sure which is the more depressing scenario: the artist sitting down and thinking "finally, my chance to share my sexy rodent fantasies with the world!" or a project manager type - in my mental fiction, a fat man wearing suspenders and smoking a cigar - leaning over the artist and saying "no, make them sexier. Sex sells! What do you mean, 'sexier how?' I don't know, give 'em some cleavage, have one of them flash their knickers at the player. You're the artist, you figure it out!"

This stage's background is based on French artist Georges Seurat's painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which I mention for two reasons. One, it's a striking counterpoint to sexy cartoon mice and two, I'm pleased with myself for remembering the artist's name well enough to Google it properly. Sure, I misspelled it as "Serat" but that's close enough for me, and it's nice to know I possess some cultural knowledge beyond videogames and slasher movies.

Not content with cribbing their gameplay from Puzzle Bobble and Pang, Metro decided to squeeze some "inspiration" from one more classic game by including the brick-smashing action of Breakout. It works okay, I suppose, especially in later stages when some balls are precariously contained within a prison of fragile bricks and you're trying to be careful not to release them too early. In fact, Metro deserve some credit for taking so many (possibly over) familiar elements and building a decent game out of them that never feels too overburdened.

A boss battle heaves into view, between our mousey hero and fat cat wearing mittens. Maybe he's called Mittens. Maybe he's the reason Mittens is a common name for cats, although now I'm writing this sentence I just realised that it rhymes with "kittens" so that could have something to do with it. I'm rambling about cat names because there's not really anything to say about this fight - the cat curls up into a ball and rolls towards you, which might be adorable if the cat in question wasn't built like King Hippo. The cat is very slow. You are in almost no danger at any point unless your fingers suddenly drop off and the boss kills you while you're adjusting to controlling the joystick with your teeth. Throw balls at the cat until it's health bar is empty, move on to the next stage. It's basically the worst Tom and Jerry cartoon ever.

If you do manage to lose all your lives at some point, you're treated to a continue screen showing the mice about to be eaten alive by said cat. The mouse on the right is struggling against this grim fate, but the mouse on the left seems resigned to the fact that reincarnation exists but he can only come back as a hairball.

Not to worry, if you don't insert any more credits the mice drift away to Mouse Heaven, where cheese is plentiful, Rentokil employees are forced into subservience and cats are most definitely not admitted. They go to Cat Heaven instead, which is almost indistinguishable from the normal life of a pet cat with an attentive owner.

And so Mouse Shooter GoGo continues as before, with thirty stages of bubble-bursting antics. The backgrounds change and the bubbles are arranged in different configurations, but that's about it. In this instance they originally spelled out "OK!" but they've drifted around the screen a little. They're not threatening to knock me out or anything.

There's another boss battle half-way through the game, this time against two cats, and they that look much more like cats than the first boss did. That thing looked like the Rancor from Star Wars in a fursuit. The Double Cats are more of a challenge, because there are two of them but mostly because they can throw their own supply of balls at our hero. They're still not particularly difficult to defeat, but they're like a goddamn Dark Souls boss compared to the fat cat, and they provide a welcome break from the usual ball-matching gameplay.

I'll be honest, having this snaggletoothed samurai gunman staring up from beneath me was a bit distracting. I wanted to know what his story is. Whatever it is, there's no way it's less interesting than Mouse Shooter GoGo - like, who gave him that gun? He doesn't look like he could be trusted with a bunch of daffodils, never mind a firearm... although if you look closely, it appears to be one of those "BANG" flag joke guns. This is why you have to be careful about including compelling details that are more interesting than the game they appear in, because I've now lost all interest in popping bubbles and instead have become fixated on who this samurai is and what member of the daimyo's court he's pulling pranks on.

The difficulty level is all over the place, too, with stages wildly varying in challenge from one stage to the next. This is the penultimate stage, which appears simple at first until you realise that removing the black bear heads from play means the big lump will immediately split into ten smaller, independent lumps, and even with the mouse's nimble footwork and ability to push balls away from him it's going to be a real struggle to avoid being pinned down. In the end I spent so long dithering about that I ran out of time, at which point the walls of the stage began to close in. I always enjoy it when games handle their time limit in this manner as opposed to just having you spontaneously drop dead when the clock hits zero as though you're fitted with a combination pacemaker / alarm clock, because it always feels that little bit more special when you manage to win despite the increasingly hazardous conditions.

Then there's the final stage, which is surprisingly easy. It's also Space Invaders: you stand at the bottom and fire upwards at the solitary bubbles that move left-and-right across the screen. Let in never be said that Metro didn't try to learn from the classics. Or steal, steal works fine in that sentence too.

Mouse Shooter GoGo then unceremoniously and abruptly ends, with not even a final boss battle to contend with. It could have been against, get this, three cats! I can't believe anyone would pass up an opportunity like that.
As for the ending, the mice take a celebratory road trip across Mouse Land while the mouse girls pose seductively at the bottom of the screen, Metro being fully committed to the challenge of getting the player to be into that kind of thing. The trouble is, if you ignore their giant satellite dish ears, the mouse girls look more like the results of a DeviantArt search for "sexy Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man" than anything else. Who ya gonna call? Someone who can extract these nightmare visions from my mind, hopefully.

The game closes with the bizarre image of our rodent heroes relaxing on the beach, completely unperturbed by the conga line of crustaceans that is scuttling along their bodies. That's why the mouse girls are nowhere to be seen, they don't want to catch crabs.
Mouse Shooter GoGo may not be an amazing game or a life-changing experience, but it did break this month's streak of me only playing truly awful games, and I ended up enjoying it rather more than I expected to. It's a simple concept executed well, somehow managing to remain simple even as new gameplay elements are added, and I don't have any complains about how the gameplay feels. Presentation-wise it's a mixed bag, with some charmingly-drawn graphics but a soundtrack so forgettable that I only remembered to mention it because I made a note reading "did this game even have a soundtrack?" It's also unusually easy for an arcade game - the first time I played it I made it about two-thirds of the way through on a single credit, and as long-time VGJunk readers will know I am not good at videogames. So, if you're looking for some simple, undemanding arcade puzzle-action gameplay, or if you want to play Puzzle Bobble, Pang, Arkanoid and Space Invaders but are on a tight schedule, then give Mouse Shooter GoGo, ahem, a gogo.



Today at VGJunk: an unlicensed NES game. Maybe I really do hate myself. What other reason could there possibly be for playing an unlicensed NES game? I could be playing a Mega Man or a Castlevania but no, I have made myself a guinea pig in an experiment to see just how much sprite flicker one man can stand, without the shining golden aegis of the Nintendo Seal of Approval to to protect me. So, here it is: Sachen (under the pseudonym Joy Van) and Color Dreams' 1990 throwing-knives-into-mouths-em-up Silent Assault.

Of course it's going to be a silent assault, our hero is a green plastic toy soldier and they're generally not the most talkative bunch. I'm looking forward to taking on the enemy with the weapons our hero has managed to scrounge up - a gun that looks at though it has tin foil crumpled over the barrel, (possibly as a makeshift silencer,) and a shard of broken glass. That's what your tax dollars are going towards, citizens of whatever nation Private Plasticine belongs to.

Okay, so this one isn't going to be a graphical tour-de-force. We already knew that, right? Unlicensed NES game, and so on. Silent Assault is going to look like the proverbial bulldog licking piss off a nettle, if the dog, the piss and the nettle were built out of Duplo. Also, the title Silent Assault implies our hero was aiming for a certain amount of stealth, which is rather undermined by his decision to fly into the battle zone on Barbie's Dream Hang-Glider.

At first glance, Silent Assault appears to be a familiar left-to-right scrolling military-themed run-n-gun adventure, and for the most part that's exactly what it is. Then you look a little closer and start noticing details that seem a little out of place. For instance. the thing towards the bottom-right of the screen that looks like a pink knife is our hero's projectile. Is he throwing knives around instead of using a gun? Maybe! Your guess is as good as mine. Then there's the pink thing flying through the sky, the one that looks like a dripping turtle shell. It's bombarding the player with small pink lumps. What is it? You might be thinking "can I jump on it, it looks a bit like those flying Koopa platforms from Super Mario 3," but you cannot. You can shoot it, ignore it, or ponder it's existence. Those are your three options.
On reflection, I think it's an alien. Reading the meagre amount of information about Silent Assault that exists, it seems the plot of the game involves a lone soldier - basically the only kind of soldier in videogames - fighting an extraterrestrial menace. The aliens may have taken control of the Earth's military. That's the best I can do with the plot of this one, folks. I reckon I've still thought about one thousand percent more than Sachen did. I imagine the planning meeting for this one consisted solely of "SOLDIER SHOOT ALEIN" written on a napkin in crayon.

Okay, I want to know what's in that truck. Is it ice cream? It looks like it could be ice cream. Although, if it's an alien ice cream truck is probably full of unsettling flavours that exist in a realm beyond man's understanding. Glorploid Entrails, Caramel and The Full Realisation of Your Insignificance in an Uncaring Universe, Neapolitan With The Chocolate and Strawberry Removed, that kind of thing.
The gameplay, then. Your soldier, who I'm going to call Soldier because I'll be damned if I put more effort into naming him than his creators did, can walk and jump and fire his knife-gun, all the things you'd expect him to be able to do. He can even crouch, and aim his gun straight upwards, which is two more moves than I anticipated him having. You have a health bar and a limited supply of screen-clearing grenades. Combine these moves to get to the end of the stage. It works, oh, what's the word I'm looking for here? Okay. That's it. It works okay. I couldn't think of any major grievances I had with the controls. In fact, I can barely remember what it actually felt like to play Silent Assault: the action is so bland, so generic, that it is scarcely capable of leaving an imprint on the human mind. It is the very definition of "middling NES action game," which was a merciful relief when I was playing the game but it makes it rather difficult to describe after the fact.

I was so fascinated by this tiny pink house, my mind racing with the possibilities of who could live there and what the rent is like, that I forgot that the thing on the floor that looks like an oversized peanut is in fact a deadly land mine that will kill Soldier on contact. I'm picking up some haziness on the developer's part around what constitutes a "military" theme. Soldiers and guns, yes, that's fine. The ice cream truck? Well, it was oddly painted but I'm sure it was still supposed to be a canvas-covered army vehicle. Then you get to the exploding peanuts and toll booth for the fairy-folk and I'm suddenly wondering whether the Army recruitment slogan shouldn't have been "Be the Best, as long as you can fit into this beach hut for elves."

"Maybe the boss of this stage will make more sense," thinks Soldier as he makes his way into the giant pink wedge that serves as the boss' lair. It would be cruel to laugh at his naivete. Let's allow him his happy dreams.

Boss No. 1: Wally Two-Guns.
Because there are two guns, you see. "Cannons" might be a better word, I suppose. The one at the top fires energy balls downwards, while the bottom gun is more advanced: it represents the very pinnacle of anti-gravity technology, because the missiles it fires travel so slowly that they must be being held aloft by powerful magnets or, in keeping with this so-far unimpressive alien invasion, strings. They're not difficult to dodge. Shoot the cannons, the cannons explode, stage one is over.

Stage two is, erm, well, it's this. It's very pastel. It's a scientific installation decorated like the toddler section of a 1980's Toys R Us. What is the intended function of this building? Am I even indoors? Because that could easily be the sky. Speaking of doors, where the hell does that pink one next to our hero lead? Nowhere, and it's just a spare baby-pink door propped up in the middle of this (I'm going to hazard a guess here) factory? I certainly can't interact with it or anything.

The wall-mounted thermometer tells me the temperature is a balmy what-the-hell-is-going-on degrees. Good job Soldier wore his short-sleeved fatigues!

Hang on, so this whole level was actually an elaborate prison designed just to hold one inmate, an inmate so traumatised by the Care Bears as a youth that the prison was painted in pastel blues and pinks to help keep them restrained? There's definitely... I was going to say "a person" but I'm going to revise that to "something," behind those bars. Maybe it's an ally, someone who can explain to Soldier why he's just fought his way through the multiverse's worst Mega Man stage.

Boss No. 2: Metal Gear(s).
This isn't a prisoner at all! It's cogs. Just cogs. Sometimes the big cogs produce little cogs that roll towards Soldier, giving him a nasty graze on the shin. Better get some antiseptic on that graze, Soldier! Then launch your projectiles at the two red cogs until they explode. The top one's easy enough to deal with, but the bottom one is one of those annoying videogame targets that requires you to press fire at a very specific and fiddly point during a jump. It's very easy to fire either fractionally too low or high, and every boss in Silent Assault suffers from this problem, just in case you though it was reaching surprising levels of playability for an unlicensed NES game.

There are more strange colour choices on stage three, especially the tiny toytown tank, currently decked out in watermelon camouflage. The stage is meant to represent some kind of military base, with rockets and fighter jets in the background, but that doesn't explain the flame-spouts that seem to be powered by huge novelty matches, or that building back there that looks like a burger on a plinth.

I mean I think these are supposed to be fighter planes. They look just enough like fighter planes that you'd accept them as such on first glance, but they do not hold up well to deeper scrutiny, which is a decent metaphor for Silent Assault as a whole. Also fun is Soldier's prone pose, with his leg kicked into the air in the manner of a teenage girl talking on the telephone. "Hi, Cindy! Oh, nothing much, just fighting aliens. Did you see Josh in the barracks today? He is so dreamy!"

Boss No. 3:  This Bullshit
"What if we just crapped out the most boring boss we can possibly think of and put it near the start of the game? Once the player gets past it, all the subsequent bosses will seem better than they actually are!"
"Kid, you're a genius. Have a million dollars and the keys to my Ferrari."

Next up is the desert. What's in the desert? Cacti, vaguely "Asian" pagodas and the Stig. Or is it a mummy? My first thought was that it's a mummy, but I think I was overly influenced by the desert theme because it doesn't look much like a mummy at all. Whatever they are, this stage has them. What this stage doesn't have is level design, unless you're generous enough to count "drawing a straight line" as design. Yes, from here on out all of Silent Assault's stages are flat left-to-right walks with nothing but enemies and indecipherable background graphics standing between you and the goal. With the levels set out this way you might be tempted to start jumping over some of the enemies rather than wasting time killing them, but that's not a great idea because - and hold on to your hats, this one's a real shocker - the collision detection isn't very good. Oddly, it's only bad on the horizontal plane: vertically it seems fine, and you'll make it over obstacles okay, but Soldier's hitbox is much bigger horizontally than his sprite is so you'll end up being hurt by enemies that appear to be safely behind you.

Boss No. 4: A Skull. Wait, really?
Yes, a skull. Floating around, shooting out smaller skulls, the same as all the other bosses in the game only bonier. At least it's a bit more interesting visually than the others. Of particular note is the wiggling blue thing in it's eye socket. This is clearly a worm which is piloting the deadly skull, the Maverick of maggots, an annelid Amuro Ray. That's why you have to jump up to juuust the right height and shoot the skull in the eye. You're taking out the pilot, you see.

Another high-tech base now. Even the enemy soldiers are more high-tech than before, they've got jetpacks and everything. Soldier himself has turned pink with envy! Okay, so he's turned pink because he's picked up a temporary invincibility item. Silent Assault does have a few power-ups for you to collect, the invincibility ones being both the most common and the most useful, but there are also life-replenishing hearts and a rifle that upgrades your throwing knife to a rapid-fire machine gun. Sadly you lose the rifle if you take damage, and because there's so much in the stages that wants you dead you're unlikely to be able to hold onto the rifle for long.

Oh, it's one of those religious futuristic tech-labs, is it? I know I've spent this entire article banging on about the baffling nature of the random assortment of unconnected elements that make up Silent Assault, but seriously, if someone can tell me what that cross is supposed to represent, the geometry of it, where it is in relation to the other objects in the room, anything, I will be grateful. Until then, I'm going to get the Church of England on the phone and explain to them that I might have a lead on why church attendance is falling.

Boss No. 5: Computer Mouth.
Imagine if your computer screen one day suddenly grew a mouth and started reciting all the embarrassing things it had seen you do on the internet, quietly at first but gradually getting louder and louder until you're forced to unplug it and all seems well... but then your mum comes around to visit and the computer screen switches itself on, without power, without being connected to anything, and screams "HE ALMOST BOUGHT KINDLE DINOSAUR EROTICA, IT WAS IN HIS BASKET AND EVERYTHING" at the top of its voice. You'd want to throw knives into it's mouth, right? Right. So let that be your motivation for fighting this boss.

All the fun of the fair now, where bizarre hybrids of pig, monkey and children's television nightmare Pob throw things at Soldier. It's still more fun than a real-life funfair.

C'mon, Sachen, if you're going to show me a giraffe slide with a staircase coming out of it's arse then at least let me climb on it, for pity's sake. I actually did try to climb on it, despite knowing full well it was just part of the background. Why wouldn't you make this something Soldier can interact with? I'm not asking for a special animation where he slides down the giraffe's neck (although that would have been nice) but these levels desperately need something, anything to make them more than flat planes of unrivalled tedium.

Boss No. 6: That Nightmare You Keep Having.
A garish face that I want to describe as "clownish" even though I think that's just because it follows the funfair stage, this boss is weird. Weird for the already very weird Silent Assault, even. Then you realise that it's body is a giant shoe and the weirdness meter clicks up another couple of notches. The big question is whether or not there's a foot inside that shoe. A big, fleshy foot with a sleepy-eyed clown's head attached to the ankle, flapping around like a freshly landed trout, all sweaty and moist, pressing down on top of you and squeezing the breath from your lungs. This alien invasion is fucked up.

Thank god for the utterly generic woodland stage. It's just trees. I can handle trees. Even the enemies have a friendly face, or are a friendly face. That's a much better invasion tactic. No-one's going to trust Squelchy the Clown Foot but a fluttering smiley face can get close to its targets, gain their confidence, learn their secrets. That's espionage, that is.

In one of the most hilariously half-arsed attempts to make a game interesting I have ever seen, the woodland stage offers Silent Assault's one and only moving platform. You have to jump on that little brown log and ride it across this pond. Enemies above you? Well for Christ's sake, whatever you do don't aim upwards and shoot at them, because doing so locks you in place while the moving platform continues on its merry way, eventually dumping you in the deadly water. Get to the other side and take a moment to congratulate yourself on surviving Silent Assault's most fiendish challenge!

Boss No. 7 Whispy Woods.
Okay, sure, whatever. Aliens landed and brought a spooky Halloween tree to life. The withered, dead tree attacks by spitting fire, which is kinda ballsy. It's like me attacking someone by using a live cobra as a whip, there's a lot of room for it to backfire.
Beating the tree takes Soldier to the final stage, which isn't a stage but just a battle against the final two-part boss. Who is the leader of the aliens? What dastardly force have they set in place as their final guardian? Can Soldier overcome the terror of... the Sphinx?!

Boss No. 8a: The Sphinx.
Ha ha, just look at his expression. He used to be a revered figure in Egyptian mythology, now he's reduced to spitting out bubbles and he is not happy about it. That's definitely the face of someone working under duress. I wonder what the aliens are using to blackmail the Sphinx into working as a bubble machine? This being a videogame, the bubbles are naturally lethal to the touch, and while the sheer amount of them can seem a little overpowering at first there are plenty of gaps in the lather for Soldier to stay safe. Jump up and shoot the Sphinx in his curmudgeonly face a few times to claim victory. I know you can do it, Soldier. You made it past the Clown Foot, you can do anything.
Defeating the Sphinx is only the first part of the fight, however. Take him down and you move on to phase two...

Boss No. 8b: The Sphinx.
Ha ha, just look at his expression. He used to be a revered figure in Egyptian mythology, now he's reduced to spitting out bubbles and he is not happy about it. That's definitely the face of someone working under duress. I wonder what the aliens are using to blackmail the Sphinx into working as a bubble machine? This being a videogame, the bubbles are naturally lethal to the touch, and while the sheer amount of them can seem a little overpowering at first there are plenty of gaps in the lather for Soldier to stay safe. Jump up and shoot the Sphinx in his curmudgeonly face a few times to claim victory. I know you can do it, Soldier. You made it past the Clown Foot, you can do anything.
No, seriously. You beat the first Sphinx, move one screen forward and fight another, identical Sphinx. That's the end of the game. Then there's whatever this is supposed to be.

This is the whole ending - Andy Warhol-esque pop art portraits of a man in a cravat and five purple stars arranged carefully on a plinth. They look like those magnetic metal building block, only shit. That's it, that's all you get for being tenacious or stupid enough to play all the way through Silent Assault. Those of you who like to over-analyse pop culture, take your best shot at whatever this is intended to represent because I do not have a clue.

That's Silent Assault, and by the time you've played through game and heard the same music track play on every single stage then you'll wish the title was literally true. I like to look for the good in every game I play, even unlicensed NES trash, but for this one I cannot come up with much of anything. It's good that not every stage was a military base, I suppose? And the gameplay is at least competent, which is lavish praise indeed for a Sachen game - it's definitely a lot better than Hell Fighter, I'll give it that. However, my final recommendation is that you play Contra or Rush'n Attack instead unless you're deeply into the pastel aesthetic.

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