Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Express Raider (Arcade)

Hello! Remember me? It's been a while since I last posted, sorry! I've been busy with things like re-learning how to 3D model and other miscellany.

Anyway, Express Raider is an arcade game released by Data East in 1986, and it's a pretty early example of a game in which the player is the bad guy. I won't say first, because even if there's no earlier villain arcade games (which there might be, I haven't checked), there's probably something from the 80s british computer scene that features a playable bad guy.

The specific knave over whom your control will be exerted in this game is a nameless train robber/mass murderer in the old west. There's two types of robberies this no-good scoundrel commits: ones where he
boards the train, and ones where he rides horseback alongside it. Yes, it's not "one big score" he's after, he's a career criminal.

The two types of robbery are represented by two types of play. The on-foot robberies see the player walking across the tops of the train carraiges, each of which is protected by a different guardian. This might sound like a beat em up setup, but as the enemies are fought one at a time, in fixed spaces, it's more along the lines of something like Karateka, a strictly Player-Vs-AI fighting game with a single playable character, but multiple opponents, a genre that was pretty much killed by Street Fighter II, and then buried by Rise of the Robots.

Other than the generic tough guy you'll encounter a few times on each fighting stage, there's also riflemen, big guys who try to shove you off the train with a wall of boxes, and the coal-shovelling guy who, on your arrival, diverts his attention from fuelling the train to ending your life. An interesting part of these sections is your health bar, which obviously get depleted via enemy attacks, but also gets restored through your successful attacks, making it something more of a momentum meter than a traditional health bar.

The other bits, the ones that take place on horseback, aren't nearly as interesting as the fighting bits, though they're not the chore I'd originally assumed them to be when I saw them in the game's attract demo. The
easiest way to describe it would be as a kind of horseback cabal-esque shooting gallery. The bottom part of the screen is your moving area, in which you must dodge the enemy bullets, and the top has the train carraiges. Enemies pop up to take shots at the player through windows or from behind walls or whatever, and sometimes a woman will appear with a bag of points for you too (you lose a life if you shoot her, which is really easy to do, considering how frantic these sections are). After you kill a certain amount of enemies at a carraige, you move on to the next until you finally reach the engine, which plays host to a mildly bizarre bonus stage, in which you have the remaining time from the rest of the stage to shoot as manically as possible to find invisible targets while a guy on board the train randomly gives you big sacks of points.

Express Raider is a fun, fairly unique game that definitely meets my recommendation. You should totally play it!

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