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Altered Beast? More like Awkward Beast
Sega Altered Beast (Amiga) (Classic Game)
Member Name: Retrotastic
Sega Altered Beast (Amiga) (Classic Game)
Advantages: A decent arcade port, humourous speech samples and fairly cool beast transformations
Disadvantages: It's slow paced, weak human player character and very short
Altered Beast is an arcade port from Sega and something of a cult classic though not necessarily a classic for all the right reasons.
In this game you play the part of an unnamed Centurion from ancient Greece who is commanded by the mighty Zeus to rise from his grave and rescue his daughter Athena from the evil Neff. One thing to note is that Zeus himself appears to have a speech impediment and so hence the infamous line "Wise from your gwave" you here at the start of the game.
There is a story of sorts presented by cut short scenes between each level. These scenes are presented in a somewhat purple hue so it's difficult to really make out what going on but it seems to involve Neff using his dark magic on Athena. However this is an arcade beat-em-up so the story isn't a particularly crucial factor in this game.
Once you have "wisen from your gwave" it's your task to complete 5 levels of side scrolling beat-em-up action. Unlike most beat-em-ups you're restricted to only the one plane of action and you can punch or kick various enemy monsters that swarm onto the screen, you'll find yourself kicking more often than not. You can also pull a crouch kick but this move is relatively useless, as you're hardly ever in a situation where this move is any more effective than your other two attacks. So in total that's three moves, which makes for something of simplistic game but you don't tend to play an arcade port expecting a great deal of complexity or depth.
The main meat of this game is that whenever you dispatch a particular type of enemy (blue two-headed dogs that across the screen every so often) a floating blue "power up". Zeus helpfully says "power...up" on collection of each orb, though you will be able to notice the difference from the change in your characters appearance anyway. The first orb just makes your character look a little more buff and muscular looking, the second makes his muscles grow so much his shirt is ripped off Incredible Hulk style and the third is where the fun begins, this when you become the "Altered Beast".
On transforming into an Altered Beast you're treated to a close-up head shot of your characters head turning into some form of monster. The exact type of monster you transform into depends on the level you're playing. And each monster has it's own unique attacks and powers. On the first level you transform into a werewolf for instance and in this form you have the ability to throw fireballs from your hands and turn into a mass of fire and streak across the screen dispatching monsters as you go. Other levels allow to become a dragon man and this gives you the power of flight, at which point the game becomes reminiscent of a side scrolling shoot-em-up As an Altered Beast you're near enough invincible few enemies will be able to put up much of a fight with you at this point. However this action is short lived as the levels tend to be somewhat short and you soon find yourself encountering Neff who "welcomes you to your doom" and transforms into some kind massive monster of some description and an ensuing end of level boss battle commences. Though they look impressive these battles aren't too difficult and once defeated Neff reverts to his human form and removes all your power-up orbs. At which point you proceed to the next level only being able to punch and kick once more. You can only encounter Neff when in beast form so collecting these power-ups is an essential part of the game you won't be able to progress without them. If you encounter Neff in your human form he repels you with a lightning shield and runs off, he apparently only wants to attack you in your powered-up form. It doesn't make a lot of sense why he would do that but that's just the way the game is.
The game is fairly short with each level lasting around 3 minutes so the game can be completed in 15 minutes. However the itself presents a challenge due to the fact that in human form your character is somewhat feeble and has slow and awkward attacks that are a challenge to connect with anything. While your enemies by contrast are fast and they attack quickly, each of their hits drains one third of your life-force. The game itself while it seems to aim for being a tense and adrenaline soaked arcade experience it actually moves along at it's own rather strange leisurely relaxed pace. While numerous monsters are killing you don't really feel the tension and excitement you really just feel slightly bored as slowly attempt to punch and kick away ineffectually. So while the game is challenging it isn't challenging in perhaps the way it was intended to be.
The graphics are bold and colourful, fairly close to the arcade original and would have been moderately impressive for a home console of its time, but they aren't particularly exceptional. There are a variety of environments from graveyards, caves and palaces and the monsters and boss battles are reasonably detailed, but there's nothing here that holds up to particularly inspired standards of art. So all in all it doesn't look particularly bad and it doesn't look particularly great either.
Like the graphics and the gameplay the music is also not something to write home about. The music attempts to emulate an ancient Greek atmosphere with organs and timpani playing throughout but the score is limited and somewhat forgettable. The sound effects aren't particularly crisp, it sounds like you are punching or kicking a mouldy cabbage. The few brief speech samples are really the only thing of note though not necessarily for the right reasons, they are terribly ham acted but this gives them a "so bad they're good" quality. The speech samples are at least guaranteed to raise a smile in what is otherwise a very run of the mill game and they are ultimately the games legacy to gaming posterity.
While the game can be completed in a few minutes it will take a while longer to beat with practice as the owning to the difficulty factor, the difficulty factor being more down to your characters incompetence than the actual design of the levels. The main challenges to the completion of this game come in the form of frustration or general boredom where you may find yourself switching off after a couple of minutes/levels and popping in something else. But it is a fairly good game to play a quick few minutes if you really have nothing else better to be doing, if only to hear the infamous speech samples.
Altered Beast is the very definition of an average game, but it does have it's quirks and novelty appeal which have given the game it's lasting cult status. It hasn't aged particularly well and gaming had moved well beyond this standard even before the end of the 16-bit era. Altered Beast is something more of a quaint antiquity of gaming, but it is nonetheless worth playing at least once if you have any interest in retro games as this is in it's own right something of a cult classic. Some people love this game, a lot of people hate it but it is what it is, a very average port of a semi-popular arcade game.
Summary: One of those games that's so bad it's almost quite good