Rambo: First Blood Part II, Commodore 64

Rambo: First Blood Part II, by Ocean Software, is a legendary Commodore 64 game without much substance. People revere the music (by Martin Galway), and also like the simple 360 shooter gameplay, but the truth is: this is an example of an early video game without much to do, and what there is is rather simplistic.

The game really only has one level, split into three different sections, and the only thing stopping you from making it look easy are the ridiculous amounts of bullets flying around the screen, fired from swarming, indistinct enemies. You have an energy bar, which whittles down as the bullets hit you. Once that’s gone it’s game over. You have a number of weapons available at the start – throwing knives (the default), arrows, and rocket-propelled grenades. You can supplement these by picking up other weapons in the field – a machine gun, grenades, and another type of quick-firing rocket launcher.

You begin the game, as Rambo obviously, in the southern end of a sparse jungle and must make your way north to an enemy encampment. There are two ways into the camp. On the left, through a maze of tangled bushes, or on the right, by blowing a hole in the fence with an RPG. Once you’re in you must then rescue the tied-up POW then blast you way through the jungle, northwards. At the northern end of the jungle is a helicopter waiting for you. The second section of the level then begins, where you have to fly in, free the caged POWs in the southern end of the camp, then make it back to the chopper. Section three is then a rather anticlimactic (and unplayable) dogfight with an enemy gunship, where you’re both flying rings around each other, trying to shoot each other down. Make it past the gunship and you’re home free (to repeat the process again, or until bored).

There’s not much else to it than that, which was disappointing in 1985 when it was first released, and is still disappointing now. Zzap!64 magazine (the leading C64 magazine at the time) criticised the game for lacking gameplay, and they were not wrong. Here’s their review from issue ten.

It’s a pity more wasn’t made of this game, because the underlying mechanics are reasonably sound. The scrolling is smooth and the gameplay is okay, if a little unforgiving (the bullets flying around the screen have a nasty habit of making Rambo‘s life hell). There are a few graphical glitches, like the enemy gunship disappearing in the lower half of the screen, and Rambo shooting downwards not being very effective. Maybe there’s a glitch in the bottom half of the screen? The enemy sprites are repetitive and not very well animated either. Plus: collision detection on the jungle foliage is pretty annoying too.

Nobody should be surprised that Rambo: First Blood Part II isn’t very good, though, because Ocean didn’t give the programmers very long to make it. They acquired the movie license and rushed it out in around four months – a tactic they employed numerous times in their chequered history of releasing movie licenses.

More: Rambo on Wikipedia

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