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Written by  :  Adzuken (854)
Written on  :  Sep 10, 2010
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful

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It's gross!

The Good

After playing Gun-Nac, I became concerned that every time I would try to play an 8-bit scrolling shooter, I’d get five minutes in before I say to myself, “I’d really rather be playing Gun-Nac right now,” and turn it off. It may sound like a strange concern but the effects have already been felt by poor, defenseless Star Soldier. Even its younger sibling, Zanac was unable to overcome the strange hypnosis that Gun-Nac has cast over me (or maybe it’s because I can barely make it through Zanac’s first stage). However, I can finally put my fears to rest, because Abadox managed to hold my attention through to the end.

Abadox is a scrolling shooter in the same vein as Life Force. The premise is fairly by the numbers and completely ripped-off from Life Force. It takes place within a huge grody alien where there are both vertical and horizontal scrolling sections. Your job is to destroy the alien from the inside the only way you know how; shooting everything in your way while dodging slow moving projectiles. The difference between Abadox and other shooters is its emphasis on pattern recognition. There are many different enemy types which vary between levels, each with their own attack pattern. To succeed, you must learn how best to deal with each type, and their attacks. It’s a fairly slow paced and methodical shooter. Environmental hazards are also a big issue in Abadox, as many of the levels have you flying through tight corridors.

What I really find appealing about Abadox is how tight it is. The graphics and animations are all very solid, and the control is spot on. I especially like how the main character moves during the horizontal sections, which show his legs dangling loosely. The power-ups are very evenly dispersed throughout the game, so certain weapons will usually appear where they’re most needed. Each of the weapon powers are pretty well balanced, so I never really felt like I needed to avoid a certain power-up. The hit detection is skewed slightly in the player’s favour, which is how it should always be. The hit box around the player in particular is a lot smaller than the sprite. This means you won’t always die when an enemy or a projectile gently brushes against you.

I found Abadox’s alien life form quite atmospheric and interesting. Most of the game is rather bleak and grotesque. When you’re cruising along the surface of the space monster in the first level, there are a lot of crashed spaceships in the background, perhaps indicating that many other people have attempted the same task that you’re doing now and failed. A lot of the background wiggles and pulses to make everything seem more organic and many of the bosses appear to be the various organs of the enormous space creature. With everything taking place within the same organism, you’d expect all the levels to look the same, but luckily there is some variety. A few of the later stages are more mechanical which is never really explained. I guess since Life Force did it, they might as well make the rip-off complete.

The Bad

Shooters aren’t really well known for their good storytelling, at least that’s not what I know them for, but Abadox brings it to a new confusing low. I’m going to divulge some spoilers here, but since the story doesn’t make much sense in the first place, it won’t matter. Now, without reading the manual, here is what I got:

The opening cutscene has a ship dropping you off near a huge ugly planet with a mouth. You fly in and the game begins. After shooting your way through the big ugly planet, you destroy a boss that looks similar to all the other bosses, only this one drops some weird chick in a bubble. With her in your arms, you fly your ass back out of the planet-thing and it explodes. The end.

That was pretty confusing, so I picked up the instruction manual and learned that the big planet is a “deadly, formless mass” named “Parasitis”. The girl is apparently “Princess Maria” and you play as “Second Lieutenant Nazal”. Apparently Parasitis ate planet Abadox, which I guess Maria is princess of, and you’re out for revenge. I hate to pick apart an 8-bit story, but what the hell? Why is a Second Lieutenant the one doing the mission and not someone of a lesser, more expendable rank? Why is Princess Maria so important, and why did Parasitis keep her alive? Why couldn’t this have been told in, like, a text scroll in the beginning cutscene? Huh? All well, it’s an NES game and for all I know, the story might be the result of poor localization. The story isn’t really important, but more effort would have been appreciated.

I won’t blame you if you pick up Abadox and put it down before even finishing the first level, this game is hard. However, I suggest sticking it out, because once you get going, it can be quite a rewarding little experience. I died a lot playing this game. In fact, I must have died, like, a hundred times on the second part of the second level, but I never really felt too frustrated. Okay, it got bad enough that I turned the system off, but it was more an act of yielding, rather than rage. I never felt that the game was unfair, or insurmountable, I was dying due to my own mistakes. Every death is a learning experience. The enemies and power-ups always appear in the same places, so it’s easy to strategize for your next run. Perhaps, Abadox is too challenging for its own good but I find it important to remember that it isn’t impossible, just challenging, and that can make completing the game all the more satisfying.

The game’s difficulty is offset somewhat by the ridiculously easy boss encounters. The recipe for success is simple: find the spot where the boss can’t hit you, then mash the attack button until it dies. This recipe can be applied to almost every boss you encounter, sub or otherwise. The only time this strategy doesn’t seem to work is on the final boss, and that might just be because I couldn’t find such a spot. I’m dead serious, it’s uncanny. There is one boss that assaults you with rings that it fires from different positions up and down the screen. You can actually sit between where two of the rings are fired (a gap that’s only about four pixels wide) and you won’t be hit at all.

Finally, when Nazal is flying downwards, I can’t help but notice that the sprite looks a little too much like the dude from the pornographic game Beat ‘Em & Eat ‘Em for the Atari 2600. Once you get that image into your head, it’s hard to get it out. Sorry.

The Bottom Line

Considering I pulled Abadox from the bottom of a bargain game pile, I’m guessing it’s pretty underrated. I can see why, I mean, the game starts kicking your butt with stage one, which isn’t the best introduction. Plus, Abadox doesn’t really do anything that hasn’t been done in earlier shooters, and can totally come across as a rip-off of Life Force. However, I must admit that it really grew on me. I really got into the challenge and completing the game was extremely rewarding. However it’s not a game for everyone. Some people may find it too difficult and there was already a tonne of superior shooters on the market when it was released. I still must stress that Abadox is an OKAY game, that is worthy of your attention. I'd also like to note that this game has some of the best box art I've ever laid eyes on. Too bad it didn't come with a poster.