Friday, 1 June 2018

TH Strikes Back (Arcade)

You might remember a few years ago, I reviewed a Spanish arcade game entitled Thunder Hoop. Well, the TH in this game's title stands for the same thing I guess, since this is the sequel to it. Like its predecessor, it's about a guy who looks a lot like Son Goku (though this time round, it's more of a "Dragonball Z as drawn by Rob Liefeld" kind of Goku than the original game's shorter, more cutesy Dragonball style) running around platform stages shooting stuff.

Unlike the original though, TH Strikes back has less of an Amiga/Microcomputer feel to it, having a much faster pace, and more of an influence from console games as well as its arcade peers. There's generally a lot less careful platforming in this one, as you storm ahead as fast as you can, constantly shooting the many crowds of one-shot enemies, making you feel like the super-powered fighter your character resembles visually. The game has the "semi-auto" shooting, where you can shoot as fast as you can press the button, which is always satisfying, especially during boss fights. All in all, it's generally pretty fun to play. If you like Contra or Metal Slug and want a not-quite-as-good-but-still-pretty-good alternative, TH Strikes Back is a decent enough effort in that regard.

With the talk of the actual mechanics out of the way, I want to talk about the game's graphics. I've already mentioned the main character being a bit unoriginal, but the enemies are all pretty interesting. There's weird biological horrors, sleek, shiny sci-fi women who look like they've been ripped from the cover of an issue of Heavy Metal, floating cast-offs from The Real Ghostbusters, and even weirder biological horrors. The backgrounds are nice, too, being a mix of standard sci-fi spaceships and tech along with some shameless Giger-cribbing. All the enemies also have unique deatth animations, which for the most part have them exploding, spreading their innards all over the place, but special note should be made of the aforementioned sci-fi women, who upon death, inflate until they burst. I'll give the developers the benefit of the doubt since this game came out in 1994, but in our post-deviantart 2018 world, it does seem like that might have been some fiendish, perverse animator catering to his own special interests on the sly.

There's another cool little touch that kind of covers mechanics and aesthetics at the same time: enemies generally don't instantly kill you on touch. Bullets and other projectiles they shoot do, but the enemies themselves will instead initiate some attack when they touch you, and if you're quick enough, you can kill them before they actually pull the attack off and kill you. Like the death animations, those are all different for each enemy too. Lots of attention to detail in this game all round, which is a nice surprise when you consider that a lot of western-developed arcade games are just ugly, cheap cash-ins with the minimum effort put in.

TH Strikes back isn't going to change your life, and there's lots of better games in the genre, but it's still got enough going for it that you should at least play a few credits and have a look for yourself.

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