The second Judge Dredd game on the Commodore 64 was developed by Random Access and published by Virgin Games in 1991, and while it’s better than the crappy 1986 Judge Dredd game from Melbourne House, it’s still not very good.
In this Judge Dredd game you must walk, jump and ride your way through platforms in six different levels in order to turn off or destroy a certain number of objectives. What these objectives are differ on each level and are explained before the level begins. The aim in each level is the same, though: shoot the ‘perps’ (to keep crime rates low), and find the switches/valves/whatever. Once you’ve completed your primary objective you must then find a door, exit the level, and shoot your way through a connecting level to the next one.
Gameplay is repetitive and the layout of the levels is weird, with diagonal ramps connecting to higher platforms above. To reach the upper areas you must zig-zag your way up these diagonal ramps to reach them. You cannot simply jump up, even if it looks like Dredd can reach a platform. Another strange thing about the movement is that you don’t seem to be able to walk down any of these diagonal ramps to descend levels – you must drop off the end of a platform to the levels below, making sure you don’t drop too far. Frankly, it’s a bizarre system the game’s designers have decided to use, and it makes the game frustrating.
Another frustrating feature are the enemies that jump down onto Dredd and pull him off the bottom of the screen (and as a short cut scene shows: into hospital). While I appreciate that the game’s designers are trying to increase the risk with these falling enemies, it does lead to more frustration. It doesn’t help that the cut scenes explaining what happened disappear far too quickly.
By pressing the space bar Dredd can call his Lawmaster bike and ride it along platforms, presumably to speed up his movement. On his bike he can go up and down diagonal ramps, which is useful to some extent, but Dredd cannot fire his gun while riding it, which means he can’t shoot at perps. Keeping the crime rate low is not any easy thing to do as it’s not entirely clear who you’re supposed to shoot. If you just go around blasting everyone the crime rate will rise very quickly and the game will end, so the idea to only shoot the “bad” guys. Figuring out who you can and who you can’t shoot is confusing, leading to even more frustration.
The graphics in this version of Judge Dredd are pretty decent, if simplistic, but the gameplay is shallow and the use of the Judge Dredd character is deeply flawed. The developers would have been better off making this more of a traditional platform game, rather than trying to shoehorn Judge Dredd into their frankly poor idea of a platform game, as seems to have happened here.
You can tell from the numerous spelling mistakes that this Judge Dredd game was rushed-out without care or polish. Virgin‘s Judge Dredd was little more than a cynical cash grab on the part of everyone involved.
See also: 2000AD Special.
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