“ Genre: Action & Shooter / Released: 14 Sep 2011 / Publisher: SNK Playmore Corporation „
Ikari Warriors was a sensation when it came to the arcades in the 1980s. It received a number of great conversions to the home computers of the day and still plays well today. Recognising this, the game has now been made available to download for the PS3 from the Playstation Network for the bargain price of just £1.99
At first glance, it's hard to see why there might still be interest in this game, since it appears to be a pretty generic 80s shooter. Stranded in the jungle after your plane crashes, you must guide your warrior up the screen, killing any enemies that appear and collecting things like spare ammunition or extra health that they leave behind. Ikari Warriors didn't show a great deal of imagination in its gameplay, but it was well executed, making for a great game.
That's not to say that it was completely unimaginative and it did have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. For example, most levels feature different vehicles, such as tanks, which your soldier to leap into. These have more powerful weaponry and effectively act as a second life. Taking a hit whilst in a vehicle causes you to leap to safety before the vehicle explodes, leaving you free to carry on fighting.
Unlike most 80s arcade games, Ikari Warriors is not an out and out shooter. If you charge up the screen blasting away, you will not last very long. Instead, the game introduces an element of strategy. Some of the scenery (rocks etc.) provides cover where enemy bullets can't reach you, allowing you to nip out at the right time and pick them off. Of course, enemies can also use the terrain in the same way, so you sometimes really have to stop and think about the best way to approach targets so that they are exposed and you are not. The fact you also have a limited supply of ammunition further curbs this gung-ho approach since you will soon find yourself unarmed if you go in all-guns blazing.
The level design for Ikari Warriors is really cunning and shows a lot of imagination. Enemies and obstructions are very carefully placed so that the unwary player will soon find himself outnumbered and surrounded. Some enemies require pixel-perfect positioning to be able to get to them, making this very much a thinking person's shooter. This all adds a far greater element of depth to the game than you might normally expect from something lazily labelled as a "shoot em up"
The game does have a punishing difficulty level. It harks back to the days when arcade machines were deliberately designed to be tough, so that they could gobble up as much of your money as possible. Particularly when you first start playing, you will find yourself dying repeatedly which can be a barrier to getting into the action. Some may find its steep learning curve too much and switch off in frustration, going off instead to a more modern game which rewards you with an "Achievement" simply for managing to hold the controller the right way up.
Like most 80s shooters patience is the key to Ikari Warriors. Success relies on learning the attack patterns, which never vary from game to game. Once you have played a level a few times, you start to anticipate where the next attack wave will come from and move yourself into position accordingly. There's no finer feeling than sending an enemy soldier to sprite heaven before he's even had chance to draw his gun! Sure, this trial and error approach can be frustrating, but it also aids the title's addictiveness. Every time you play, you get just that teeny little bit further and that makes you hit the Continue button again to have another go.
This version of the game has also been made slightly more gamer-friendly through the inclusion of unlimited Continue Plays. When you die, you can simply hit Continue and pick up from the point where you just died. Even with this in place, though, Ikari Warriors is still a tough challenge.
It's not a game that is ever going to win any awards for presentation. Even on its release, it didn't look that special. The colours are muted, mostly made up of muddy browns and greens (befitting the game's jungle setting). The sprites are pretty small, although nicely detailed and very clear. Despite the fact that the screen sometimes gets very busy with enemies, there is no noticeable slowdown, no matter how much is going on. The only slight frustration is that the gamer does occasionally suffer from "invisible bullet syndrome". With so much going on, you can sometimes be killed by a bullet that you didn't even see as these are quite small and sometimes hard to spot.
Sound effects are exactly what you would expect from a game like this. They're made up of firing sounds and explosions with a few jingles looping away in the background. It might be limited and sound quite primitive to twenty-first century ears, but everything works well within the context of the game. The noisy sound effects really add to the atmosphere, and this is one of those games I always annoy Mrs SWSt with by playing it at full volume!
It's a shame (as with most of these Playstation Mini games) that the two player mode has been disabled. Playing Ikari Warriors with a friend was always even more fun, as you could co-operate to defeat enemies and then squabble over the power-ups they left behind, giving the game both a strong co-operative and competitive element. Two player mode also helped with the game's difficulty levels as you weren't left to fight the hordes of enemy soldiers on your own. Presumably there are technical reasons why the two player mode has been disabled, but it's a real pity that it's been lost.
The frustrating difficulty level and lack of a two player mode are the two things that might put casual gamers off Ikari Warriors. However, fans of the arcade original or people who love challenging shoot em ups will love it. At just £1.99 to download, this has got to be one of the best value games on the Playstation Network.
© Copyright SWSt 2012
Digital download of the Konami classic arcade game from the Playstation Network