Today, a game about robots, cops and meddling studio executives with Probe and Ocean’s 1992 NES your-move-creep-em-up RoboCop 3. You know, a game based on the movie where RoboCop can fly and hangs around with children.

Children like this weird-faced, uzi-toting little munchkin. Doesn’t a six-year-old having access to a submachine gun break some kind of law, RoboCop? Do your goddamn job! It’s going to be difficult serving the public trust when you’re using a schoolkid as a shoulder-mounted gun emplacement.
Okay, a confession: I’ve never actually seen RoboCop 3. I’ve heard about it, and somehow the morbid curiosity that made me watch Hellraisers four through eight (nine is apparently where I draw the line) was not strong enough to get me to sit through the family-friendly adventures of the incredible flying robot-cop. From what I’ve read, though, Robocop 3 the game follows the plot of the movie fairly accurately. I’m sure that if anyone can spin gold from RoboCop 3, it’ll be the titans of game development that are Probe and Ocean. I’m sure Ocean were hoping that this would be as big a hit as their home computer ports of RoboCop, but I’m going to guess that it really wasn’t.

The game begin with a call from Anne Lewis, RoboCop’s partner, and she’s in trouble. Not to worry, dealing with trouble is what RoboCop does best and he’s quickly off to to save her. In a car, he’s not flying yet.
I have to say, that’s some nice artwork on Officer Lewis. Well drawn in a very small number of colours, I’m very impressed with it. It’s a look that really shows Probe’s history as a home computer developer, too.

Not so impressive is RoboCop himself, who looks like he’s having real trouble driving his car. I’m having problems parsing which way around the hand that’s holding the steering wheel is supposed to be facing. It’s not terrible-looking, just kind of awkward.

That, erm, that is true, I guess? Things may well go on behind closed doors, although I don’t see what that’s got to do with RoboCop, who spends most of his time on the streets or inside large industrial facilities. I thought it might have been a hint about a secret in the first stage or something, but having investigated thoroughly I think it’s just weird. Also weird is the description of the criminals you’ll be facing as “splatterpunks,” but that’s the kind of weird I can appreciate. Whatever else RoboCop 3’s failings may be, at least it’ll always have the cachet of having used the word “splatterpunk.”

It will come as absolutely no surprise to anybody that RoboCop 3 is a side-scrolling action platformer where RoboCop travels through the city while shooting criminals (sorry, splatterpunks) and jumping over things. That’s what I always think of when I remember RoboCop: the vast amount of jumping he does. In Probe’s defence, they have at least made RoboCop feel very heavy when he jumps, with every landing producing a satisfying thump as he hits the floor.

What else can RoboCop do, besides jumping? Well, he can aim his gun diagonally upwards, which is handy because a lot of enemies pop out of windows to take pot-shots at our hero. You can also switch between two different weapons: a handgun and a missile launcher. You might think that given a choice between a pistol and a rocket launcher your pistol would get less use than Bruce Willis’ hairbrush, but in practice they’re both about as useful as each other – the missiles are more powerful but slower than the pistol’s shots, so they end up killing things at about the same rate. On the plus side, killing a bad guy with the missiles causes them to fly away off the top of the screen rather than exploding in a bloody mess.

One problem with RoboCop 3’s combat is that it can be quite difficult to defeat criminals when they’re right next to you, thanks to their tendency to stand “inside” RoboCop, where his guns cannot reach. This instance was particularly infuriating, because this bad guy ran up behind RoboCop and kicked him right in his big metal arse. This somehow caused RoboCop damage. That does not seem right at all. What’s the point of the hugely expensive and complicated robotification process if you can still feel pain when someone kicks your backside? Did OCP cheap out and use spray-painted plastic instead of titanium alloy when crafting RoboCop’s buttocks? Actually, that sounds like something OCP might do.

The stage ends in extremely anticlimactic fashion as RoboCop reaches a dead end and has to stand around and shoot a certain amount of criminals before the level abruptly ends. Thanks to the combination of RoboCop’s crouching ability and the enemies’ tendency to fire at head height, most of the combat revolves around shoot people in the groin. Is this inspired by the scene in the original movie where RoboCop shoots that guy’s balls off? Honestly, shoot one person in the genitals and you'll never live it down.

Between stages, you’re given the chance to repair RoboCop by using the maintenance tokens you’ve collected. Simply select which part of RoboCop’s body you want fixed and spend your tokens accordingly. Supposedly, having high damage on a body part will cause that part to malfunction. It always seemed to be the legs, in my case, and every now and then RoboCop will be unable to move for a moment or two if his legs aren’t repaired. I’m not sure whether I noticed this more because the way I played the game (badly) meant RoboCop’s legs took all the damage, or if RoboCop’s so stiff and awkward to control even when he’s fully repaired that it’s hard to tell when he’s on the blink. I figured I’d better explain this system to you, because I wouldn’t want you to think that RoboCop spends his between-mission breathers sitting atop the Throne of Justice, presiding over his court as a jester makes jokes that are really going to struggle to get a laugh.

Stage two sees RoboCop fighting his way through a car factory. Why? I don’t know, the game didn’t bother to explain. All it said was that RoboCop’s making his way to the “ultimate conflict,” and as he’s a Jesus Christ analogue I assume that means he’ll be fighting the antichrist at some point. The thing is, according to what I’ve read of RoboCop 3 The Movie’s plot, Anne Lewis is killed at around this point in the movie. The game makes absolutely no mention of this shocking development, presumably convinced that the player’s desire to eliminate crime will be sufficient impetus for them to continue without the waters needing to be muddied with something so trite as vengeance.

This stage adds a lot more platforming into the mix – fussy, miserable platforming that requires a lot of very accurate leaping from a character who’s made of a ton of solid metal and bloody controls like it, too. Fortunately, missing a jump here isn’t instantly fatal. You just loose health while you’re in the goop. No, the insta-death pits come later in the game, so that’s something to look forward to. Amongst its other quirks, RoboCop 3 also has a strange lives / continues system: you have one life, and when RoboCop explodes the “Game Over” screen appears and you go back to the title screen… where you can continue from the start of stage you died on. So, not Game Over, then? Okay, cool.

Suddenly, a ninja appears. That’s generally how ninjas work, I suppose. So, it’s the agile, speedy ninja versus RoboCop, who may be a hero but who is as lithe and nimble as a bin-bag full of microwave ovens. This seems like it would pose a problem for RoboCop, but the ninja seems less interested in stopping our hero and more excited to show off his totally sick flip jumps. It’s understandable that you’d want to showcase your ninja training, even if it does give the this fight the air of a junior school gymnastics performance with RoboCop in the role of the bored father. The ninja somersaults around the place, RoboCop shoots the ninja when the opportunity presents itself and the pair of them chase each other around the arena in this manner until one of them emerges the victor. On to stage three, then.

What? There’s another half of the stage to go, with another ninja fight at the end? I suppose I’d better get on with it, then, starting with shooting this criminal hiding in a pile of tires. Hang on, that exact scenario also happened in Rolling Thunder! Man, I wish I was playing Rolling Thunder, it’s a much better game than RoboCop 3: where Rolling Thunder has precise controls and easily-identifiable enemies with distinct attack patterns and threat levels, RoboCop 3 is a fussy game with enemies that puddle into a generic soup of felonious activity. There’s simply nothing interesting about them. Even the ninjas are boring.

When stage three does finally begin, a few things are different. For one, RoboCop is walking towards a tank. This fact is highlighted by the artillery shells that occasionally come flying across the screen. You can see one at the bottom left of the screen, where I managed to avoid it thanks to the other change: RoboCop can fly now, because he has a jetpack. It might seem like a very un-RoboCop thing to happen, this sudden change from the future of law enforcement to the Rocketeer, but it’s probably the nearest this game gets to being fun. You boost upwards by holding the jump button, RoboCop moves fairly smoothly and it’s a nice change from his usual leaden-footed stomping. It doesn’t alter the gameplay too much, because you still need solid footing to effectively deal with the enemies, but even if it’s little more than being able to do a big jump it’s a welcome addition.

I do like that graffiti down there, because it appears to say “diet.” Like, as a command, perhaps in response to the hefty thud RoboCop makes when he lands from a jump.

Oh, yeah, I should probably mention that RoboCop can upgrade his weapons during each stage by collecting the appropriate items. His pistol starts off firing single shots but can be powered up to three-round bursts – you know, like how RoboCop’s gun works in the movie – and onwards to a three-way spread shot. I think the spread shot is actually less useful than the rapid fire, because it doesn’t put as many bullets out as the rapid fire and the ability to aim diagonally makes part of the spread redundant. As for the missiles, they can be upgraded to homing missiles. “Homing missiles? That sounds great!” I hear you say, but they’re hardly flawless. For starters, they don’t work on some enemies, most notably the ninjas, who emit some kind of jamming field according to the on-screen text. The homing missiles also aren’t that good at homing, and will often fly around in circles a few times before lethargically wandering towards a splatterpunk. Supposedly there are also explosive rockets, but I don’t think I ever managed to upgrade the missiles that far so I’ll have to take the manual’s word for it.

Here’s the tank, well-camouflaged for the urban hellscape of downtown Detroit. Getting close to it is the hard part, because the grenade launcher on the side emits a constant stream of damaging ping-pong balls. Once you get right up to the tank, however, it’s a matter of dealing with all the criminals that pop out of it, as well as their accomplices who run in from the edges of the screen. A simple enough prospect, but there’s one problem: the splatterpunks have learned how to crouch. This makes it almost impossible to avoid their attacks when you’re fighting them on a flat plane (and makes it that much more difficult to snipe their gonads off), so the only real strategy is to kill them all before your health runs out.

Once the tank is dealt with, the stage is over and RoboCop’s jetpack is drained of fuel, regardless of whether you actually used it or not. This causes the game to order RoboCop to “walk back to the OCP tower.” What happened to that car he was driving earlier, huh? Walk back to the tower, I ask you. Is this any way to treat a RoboCop? He’s certainly not likely to win any speed-walking competitions, so the villains’ sinister schemes – whatever the bloody hell they may be – have plenty of time to come to fruition as RoboCop plods his way back to headquarters like a pensioner on his way home from the pub.

It wasn’t kidding, you really do have to walk back through the stage you just completed. As far as I can tell, it’s exactly the same lay-out as last time. Well, that’s one way to avoid having to design new levels, I guess. Most games make you complete the whole thing before you unlock Mirror Mode, but RoboCop 3 is generous enough to give you an early taste.

The only new things to worry about in this stage are these small, unassuming orbs that are scattered around the place like your nan’s throw cushions. They’re actually land mines that will blow up if you touch them. Exploding throw cushions, then. They’re also prone to some completely baffling collision detection, where sometime you can detonate them with your gun but at other times you bullets will pass right through them. It’s especially strange because the hit detection is pretty much okay in the rest of the game, it’s just these bombs that do their own weird thing.

Waiting at the end of the stage (and pacing back and forth) is ED-209, everyone’s favourite badly-programmed murder droid. It’s still his job to defeat RoboCop, despite being terrible at it. Makes sense to me, would you want to be the one to tell ED-209 he’s been made redundant? I thought not. Anyway, ED-209 hangs around the left hand side of the screen and launches many, many projectiles at RoboCop’s general position. This makes it difficult to get a clean shot at ED-209, especially because you have to shoot him in the head, but I managed to find a sweet spot near his feet where I took as little damage as possible while attacking his weak spot. It’s not quite as efficient as luring ED-209 onto some stairs, but it’ll do.

The final stage is about to get underway, but not before RoboCop 3 offers up a lesson in road safety.

You’re in the upper offices of OCP headquarters. There are multiple ninjas. Ignore the ninjas. Not only do ninjas hate not being the centre of attention, but you can’t hurt them anyway. Instead, the entire final stage consists of walking up to this computer terminal and holding up on the d-pad.

If you do that, RoboCop begins decrypting whatever this computer system is supposed to be. Don’t worry about the ninjas, they’ll spend 90 percent of the fight somersaulting around the screen while RoboCop gets to work. That’s right, the climactic encounter of RoboCop 3 involves the player holding a button on the controller and gazing at RoboCop’s arse. I’ve faced off against some truly awful final bosses in my time writing VGJunk, but I think “fiddling with a computer” might be the very worst of them.

With the computer thoroughly hacked, RoboCop flies away with two children. They’re acting as ballast, I think, lest RoboCop accidentally has an Icarus moment. That means RoboCop 3 is over, which is sort of a relief because even though it’s a very short game it still feels like a bit of a slog. Part of that is down to RoboCop himself, because he’s slow and lumpen. On paper, RoboCop feels like he should make a good videogame hero, but he’s not really a good fit for most action games. There must be some way to make playing as RoboCop fun while still feeling like RoboCop – a lightgun game, maybe – but side-scrolling platformers with lots of jumping are not it. On top of that, the swarms of boring enemies that pop up seemingly at random don’t make the gameplay any more engaging, and there’s a lot of annoyance in constantly taking little bits of damage. On the plus side, it doesn’t look bad and the soundtrack is above average, composed as it is by Commodore 64 music legend Jeroen Tel. Plus, you’re playing as RoboCop. There’s still a ten-year-old inside me that will always be excited by that prospect, even if he is flying around and rescuing kids rather than blowing away perps in an extremely gory manner. So, on the whole RoboCop 3 isn’t quite as terrible as I expected, but I would still highly recommend you watch RoboCop instead of playing it. Hell, I think I’d recommend you watch RoboCop 2 over this. At least it has that scene where the failed RoboCop experiment rips its own head off.



It’s not Fantasy Zone. It’s not Fantasy World Dizzy, nor is it any of your Final Fantasies. It’s Italian developer Electronic Devices’ arcade game Fantasy Land, and it’s got some pretty weird ideas about what fantasies should consist of. Let’s have a look at it, shall we? Whaddya mean, “no”? Hey, I’ve played through this bloody thing now so you’re going to sit there and learn all about it, all right?

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you see a title screen and you can’t help but think “this game is going to be crap.” Ugly gradients, a blobby logo in a font where the holes in the letters appear to be a gaping orifices and a main character that looks like someone hastily drew a hobbit during a bumpy bus ride. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest Fantasy Land isn’t going to be some hidden masterpiece.

The game begins in a very Ghosts ‘n Goblins manner, as a cloaked villain swoops down and abducts our hero’s romantic partner. Differences from Capcom’s arcade classic include the villain having LED flashlights for eyes and the small parrot nesting in the hero’s hair. So, I’ll be travelling across a variety of landscapes, battling monsters and bosses until I rescue the kidnap victim and murder this floating cloak? Okay, I was just checking it wasn’t going to suddenly turn into a jet-ski racing game or something.

Nope, it’s your common-or-garden side-scrolling hop-n-bop platformer. It even begins with a forest stage, so I doubt we’re going to be seeing much divergence from the usual formula. You play as the small blonde person currently hiding behind his parrot, a character that the game doesn’t bother introducing to us. He may look like a once-ordinary chap who escaped from a car compacter just before his injuries became fatal, but there must be something special about him because he can fire magical bolts of energy from his fingertips. Let’s call him Steve, in honour of Marvel Comics’ sorcerer supreme Dr. Strange. Move to the right, jump over obstacles and annihilate all those who oppose you with the powerful mystic forces you command. You know, the usual.

Sometimes, when you zap an enemy they turn into a giant pear. I think that’s a pear, at least. Perhaps whatever extreme gravitational forces turned out hero into the lump he is also deformed an orange.

You can also jump on the enemies to defeat them, but I wouldn’t recommend this, for several reasons. They take multiple bounces to kill, you tend to spang off them at unpredictable angles and their faces transform into grotesque mockeries of human physiognomy when you jam your boots into their skulls. Stick to using you magic powers, that’s my advice. Your parrot will even help out. It hangs around until you take a certain amount of damage, and while it’s there it acts like an Option from the Gradius games, adding an extra projectile whenever you attack. You can even control the hight of the parrot by pressing up on the joystick, although this ability is rendered entirely useless by the endless streams of enemies that pour in from every corner of the screen. The constant attentions of the earring-wearing, ham-fleshed archers, bald warriors and whatever the hell those grey things are supposed to be means that you’ll never have the time to think about the best place to put your parrot.
This screen also serves as a good example of Fantasy Land’s wonky level design. You see that waterfall? You can’t walk across the top of it. If you try, you fall down the waterfall. That’s okay, I can understand that. So I tried approaching it from the bottom, but it turns out you can’t jump through the waterfall either. I say “though,” your character is clearly in front of the waterfall, but if you try to jump past it you hit an invisible wall and fall down. It doesn’t make sense with the way the geography’s drawn, and I think I'll simply have to accept that Fantasy Land isn’t going to make much sense in general.

The jumping physics work okay, I suppose. A little floaty, but I could generally get Steve the Munchkin to go where I wanted him. I did have problems with accidentally falling through platforms, though. To drop “through” the floor and land on a lower platform, you press down on the joystick… which is also crouch, so there’s a lot of opportunity to fall down when all you wanted to do was duck. That’s why most games map this command to down and jump, Fantasy Land.

Then a boss appeared, as bosses are wont to do. I kind of wish it hadn’t, mind you. Not because it’s a difficult boss to defeat – shoot it and jump over its head when it gets near is about the extent of it – but because it’s creepy as hell. What’s going on with its feet, for a start? I know it’s just an extra-large person in red boxers shorts and thus shouldn't be so unnerving, but I’ve realised why I don’t like it: it’s because its expression never changes. It’s always got that same look of resigned boredom on its face, whether it’s being shot by a pudgy magic-man or pounding said magic-man beneath its gargantuan fists. There’s something disturbing about my potential murderer not being interested in anything I do.

Stage two now, which is set in a castle of some sort. That’s fairly standard for a fantasy setting. Less usual are the men is executioner’s hoods and very snug-looking jockstraps, a garment which gives these enemies a very prominent groinal bulge. I can only assume that Steve’s assault on this castle coincided with the annual executioners versus prisoners football game, and nobody had time to get changed before rushing out to deal with Steve.
Also take note of that skull. It’s sitting there on the floor, not moving, not doing anything and generally being unobtrusive. It hurts you if you touch it, something I didn’t notice was happening as I stood on top of it and my health drained away. That’s another problem with Fantasy Land, it’s surprisingly difficult to tell when you’re taking damage, an issue that’s compounded by the fuzzy boundaries of Steve’s hitbox. He doesn’t get hurt when something physically hits him, he gets hurt when his personal space is invaded.

Also in this castle: some fairly adorable bats and far less adorable rats that don’t so much look like plague carriers but active agents in the furthering human misery through the spreading of the Black Death. There are also these teddy bears you can collect. I presume you can collect them, anyway. I wasn’t about to go near them in order to find out. Not with those soulless eye-holes staring out at me.

Once upon a time, a young man named Aladdin found a whoopee cushion in an ancient cave. The whoopee cushion was dusty, so he gave it a polish and out popped the Genie of Farts! The genie cannot grant wishes, but he does leave the lingering scent of rotten eggs and boiled cabbage wherever he goes.
I may mock the Flatulence Genie, but he’s managed to kill poor old Steve. There he goes now, divested of his mortal apparel and floating off to heaven why I try to figure out what that red mark on his belly is and why the artist seems to have given him very subtle pectoral muscles.

We’ve had a forest world and a castle world, but stage three combines the two with a castle in a forest. The next stage had better take place in a castle that has a forest growing inside. For the first half, this stage is pretty much the same as the previous two, but half-way through it takes a change of tack.

Steve finds some scuba gear and embarks on an underwater adventure! Given how generic Fantasy Land’s gameplay has been up to this point, you won’t be surprised to learn that this swimming section works exactly how you’d expect it to. You can swim in eight directions and, while you can still fire a projectile attack Steve launches dinner forks rather than his usual magical energies. It’s not a bad little section, honestly, although it’s still plagued by the same issues as the non-swimming areas: too many enemies appear with no warning and the zoomed-in playing area gives you little chance to avoid the enemies when they do appear. The swimming section also manages the remarkable feat of making the ruddy great sharks look like the least menacing creatures in the sea.

Also found underwater are gun-toting people in diving suits that remind me of Chelnov, if Chelnov made his helmet by cutting a hole out of a beer keg and covering that hole with cling-film. There are mermaids, too. The mermaids don’t look pleased to see our hero, or maybe they’re annoyed that someone has left a load of naval mines in what is essentially their front garden. Like almost all the enemies, the mermaids have soulless black orbs for eyes, but I think it’s a look that works much better for a half-fish creature of the deep.

Another boss arrives, and I’m calling it a boss just so I don’t hurt its feeling. It’s not much of a guardian, I’ll tell you that. Final encounter aside, the bosses of Fantasy Land are by far the easiest part of the game, because they fall into one of two categories. Either their attacks are very easy to avoid or, as with this stubby-limbed eel, you can hold your position and mash the attack button and the boss will die before you do. A boring fight to be sure, enlivened only by the realisation that the collectable gold bars on the ocean floor are only 18 karat gold. It seems fitting that a game such as Fantasy Land, a game that either can’t or won’t attempt to be anything but mediocre, wouldn’t have the purest gold laying around.

The level design reaches a nadir at the start of stage four, as Steve makes his way across an ocean liner that’s been overrun with pirates. It’s just a flat walk across the deck with the odd box to hop over, but Steve having changed costumes to get into the mood (or maybe to fool the pirates, he does have a pet parrot, after all) is a nice touch.

The second half of the stage takes place in an icy wilderness, where the pirates have wrapped up warm and the penguins are large. Hang on: ships travelling to the Antarctic, mountains in the background, giant penguins: please tell me this is going to turn into a colourful platforming version of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. I want to see Steve driven mad by the unfathomable star-beasts that lurk in the frozen wastes.
Speaking of those penguins, they don’t half remind me of James Pond. This is partly because James Pond II was sponsored by McVitie’s Penguin chocolate biscuits, (a snack that I ate so often as a child that I’m not sure I could face eating one nowadays,) but also because Fantasy Land has a real “European computer game” look it it. If you’d told me this was an Amiga release, I could have almost believed you, thanks to the cartoony but not anime-inspired art style and the fact that there are hundreds of small, mostly useless collectibles in each stage.

Wow, maybe I wasn’t too far off with the Lovecraft connection. This boss certainly has a little of the Cthulhus about him, with his green bat wings and alien demeanour, but I don’t recall any of the Elder Gods having a grappling hook for an arm. Maybe if Lovecraft had focussed less on racism and more on giving his creatures totally sweet cybernetic upgrades, his books would make more palatable reading today.
This is another boss that’s very easy to defeat, thanks to its claw not being able to hit you while you’re crouching, but I do have a lot of fondness for it. There’s something very endearing about just how ugly it is. Like, if I was a parent and my young child drew me this as a picture it would get pride of place on the fridge door, you know? It’s part xenomorph, part Ridley from Metroid and part construction equipment, and that’s a surprisingly lovable mix.

Oh look, it’s another castle! This one’s got lava in it, so I guess it’s the “fire world” to complement with the previous stage’s “ice world.” The level layout is a bit more twisty-turny than that boat, which is an improvement, and there are even a couple of actual platforming challenges to get past, but it’s still lacking something. Excitement, mainly. The whole game feels rather half-arsed, as though the developers had ideas but couldn’t quite transform those ideas into gameplay. Take, for example, the keys. There are some locked doors in each stage that you need a key to open, but the keys are always so close to the doors as to render them entirely inconsequential. Of course, the alternative – maze-like levels in which you have to really hunt for the key – would be much less enjoyable given Fantasy Land’s hitboxes and relentless enemies, but still.

However, this is still the best stage in the game because of these enemies. What the hell are they? I’m not sure, but I’ve got a few ideas, most of which involve a combination of the words “vampire” and “sea creature.” Who was the incredibly brave vampire who sank his fangs into a shark to spawn Count Chompula over here? Did Dracula and the Gill-Man have a regrettable one-night stand after a well-lubricated Universal Monster party and nine months later these fish creatures of the night were spawned? Here’s my personal favourite explanation: they are beluga whales that are dressed as vampires for Halloween.

The game itself might not be much cop, but I’ve got to say I’m really enjoying these weirdo monsters. Here’s a jolly executioner, leaping around the room and trying to menace me with his axe, He’d be more menacing if he wasn’t wearing bright blue underpants and pink boots, but his axe is real. Real easy to avoid, that it. If the axeman could stop himself from prancing all over the room for a couple of minutes, I’d have no way to dodge his mighty axe, but for him gallivanting is a way of life so I had plenty of opportunity to run underneath him.

The final stage takes place, bizarrely, in a modern city. I think it might be Metro City, specifically: street punks roam the area and there’s graffiti everywhere, I’m on my way to rescue my kidnapped lover, this is basically just Final Fight, right? I was confused as to why the villain of a game named Fantasy Land would make his final stand in the urban jungle, but I think I’ve figured it out. He’s actually from the real world, and he needed to kidnap a princess so he hopped over to Generic Fantasy World #7894-B and kidnapped their princess. There aren’t many genuine “daughter of the reigning monarch” princesses in the real world, and if he did abduct a member of the, for instance, British royal family, he’d have the SAS tracking him down wherever he went. So, he abducts a fantasy princess, reasoning that one chubby wizard is going to be easier to deal with than one of the world’s deadliest special forces units.

The city stage is definitely my favourite of the bunch, because it at least offers a bit of a journey: you start off on the streets, climb up a few fire escapes, scuttle through the sewers and then jump across the rooftops. It’s almost not bad, which is a good description of Fantasy Land in general. Almost every aspect of the game is bad but not awful, and if a few areas were improved – most notably the collision detection, enemy placement and general level design – you’d have a game that wouldn’t be amazing but would at least be a passable way to spend thirty minutes.

While I’m up on the rooftops, please enjoy this billboard in the “extremely unsubtle sword-boner” category. Magic Sword, indeed.

There’s also this billboard which implies Silent Hill 2’s Pyramid Head has branched out into the hospitality business.

Eventually I reached the final boss’ lair, but before I can meet the head honcho I’ve got to take care of these jungle cats. All they do is run back and forth and can easily be stopped by Steve’s magic fingers, but it still takes quite a while to do so because they just keep coming. The kidnapped (presumed) princess spend the whole fight shouting “HELP ME!” from the background, as though I’m fighting all these jaguars just because I’m bang into animal cruelty.

Then the floating cape reappears. Seemingly flummoxed by Steve managing to penetrate his inner sanctum and thrown into anguished confusion by the deaths of his pets, the boss does little more than float about the screen like a moth with a hangover, occasionally throwing balls of energy in random directions. The balls eventually fizzle out and leave a solid core, which our hero can bounce on. That seems to be the best way to avoid the boss while you chip away at his needlessly long health bar. It’s hardly the earth-shattering clash of titans I was hoping for, but at least it’s simple enough that I didn’t have to do it for long.

“My hero!” exclaims the rescued princess. Steve looks dubious. Can anyone truly be considered a hero when they have toilet plungers for feet? Oh well, no time for self-reflection now. Fantasy Land is over, and there’s just the extravagant ending sequence left to enjoy.

There you go, that’s your lot. Steve and the princess get romantic, despite looking so similar that they’re almost certainly related, and Fantasy Land draws to a close.
Well, that was an arcade videogame, wasn’t it? Yes indeed, no-one can say it wasn’t an arcade videogame. That’s about all you can say for it, though, and Fantasy Land is an unsatisfying sludge of an experience. Bland gameplay and dull levels mean it’s something I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone actually plays, but I will give it credit for having some interesting and often charmingly ugly enemies. Play Ghouls n’ Ghosts instead and pretend some of the enemies are vampire sharks, that would be my advice.

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