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SummaryA forgotten cult classic that deserves to be revisited
The GoodThis 1996 run-and-gun platformer from Crack dot Com (unfortunately now defunct) is a flawed one, but an amazing and innovative game nonetheless. It's probably most well known for its unusual control system, where you use the mouse to aim and fire, and the arrow keys on your keyboard to move and jump. Kind of clunky at times, but once you get used to it, it works fine, and makes for a unique gaming experience, playing not much like other platform games.
Abuse has the feel of a science fiction horror movie. It's just you, alone (with your awesome weapons) inside a dark prison, battling clusters upon clusters of giant ants, and some robots. The graphics are dark and photo realistic, and the music is intense, thus contributing to the game's atmosphere. In a lot of the levels, there are lots of quiet moments where you feel you will suddenly encounter a horde of screaming ants trying to kill you. I must agree with what YID YANG said in his review of Phantasmagoria that this is basically what makes a horror movie/game scary. Not the monsters themselves; just the quiet, tense moments, and the jumping scares when something happens. (Slender anyone?)
Of course, to encounter such monsters, you have an assortment of awesome, powerful weapons on hand that you can use, provided that you have the ammo for them. Your default weapon is a laser shooter thing that always fires with or without "ammo", but such "ammo" improves its firing rate. All your other weapons will require ammo, and may be necessary a lot of times. These weapons include a grenade launcher, missile launcher, plasma shooter, and a super awesome flame thrower that will easily torch any horde of ants to a crisp. There are also powerups that you can use, like a jet pack that gives you the ability to fly, and a booster that lets you run 2 times faster. Like some of your weapons, these powerups may be crucial for solving some parts of the levels.
And the levels themselves are complex, and require some simple puzzle solving skills. You'll be making use of teleporters, switches, ladders, elevators, doors, and such, in order to complete some parts of the level. There's also breakable walls that explode when fired upon, and often contain hidden powerups or switches, or a passage to another area in the level. A lot of levels require some thinking in order to complete. Along with the puzzle of doors/teleporters/switches/etc, you have to, of course, battle hordes of ants and robots bent on causing your demise. You'll want to make use of the "consoles" that save the state of your game, because in some areas you'll likely die a lot, and keep trying until you finally make it. And when you do beat a level, it is very rewarding.
All in all, Abuse is a totally unique platform game with complex level design, excellent graphics, innovative gameplay, and a dark atmosphere. You will enjoy this game if you like horror games in particular.
The BadTruth be told, the control system in this game can be quite clunky at times. For one thing, using the mouse to aim and fire took some getting used to for me, when I first played it. Using the powerups, however, took even more getting used to. Especially the jet pack powerup that allows the character to fly. You use a powerup by holding down the right mouse button. When using the jet pack with the mouse, it is my instinct to move the mouse in flight, in order to move the character around. But no, moving the mouse is for aiming your gun, so you have to use the arrow keys. This makes it very frustrating at times. It works when you get used to it, but I'm not particularly fond of it. The overall game difficulty can get kind of frustrating as well.
Sadly, this game hasn't really stood the test of time, as its popularity has decreased over the years since Crack dot Com closed down and released the source code, and several Abuse fan sites/resources are now dead, with the community being much less active than it used to be.
The Bottom LineA few flaws notwithstanding, Abuse is an excellent and unique cult classic platform game. I recommend giving it a try if you like platform games, and also games with a science fiction horror setting. Since the public domain release of the source code, there's been some work on it. It's been ported to SDL, and is available for Linux as freeware, with all the registered content from the full game. There's also a 32-bit Windows port available, which I've been able to find on Desura and Mod DB. There's also an iPhone port called "Abuse Classic". Or you might be able to find a copy of the DOS game somewhere, like in a garage sale or flee market.
Whatever way you obtain it, enjoy this forgotten gem, and thank me later.