This second attempt at a Judge Dredd game on the Spectrum was developed by Random Access (the development team at The Sales Curve) and published by Virgin Games in 1990, although there is some debate about how widespread the game’s release actually was.
Was the game even properly released, or was it cancelled and some copies leaked out? Few people seem to have had a copy and it only recently turned up on game preservation sites. There were reviews in most of the major magazines at the time, although this doesn’t indicate whether the game was released or not.
Virgin‘s Judge Dredd is a scrolling platform shooter with simple gameplay, and – in truth – is another failed attempt to bring the famous 2000AD character to life on 8-bit home computers.
The game features six different levels (League of Fatties, Charles Darwin Block, The Aqua Station, Weather Station, Blockmania, and The Dark Judges), and the gameplay in each is basically the same: explore the scrolling landscape, shoot ‘perps’ to keep crime down, destroy or deactivate a certain number of ‘things’ to reach the next level, and then shoot your way through a transition stage.
Judge Dredd can pick up lettered tokens to change weapons (although the only real difference between them is the graphical style of the bullets), and he also doesn’t seem to suffer from fall damage (which is fine by me). He can jump, but only across horizontal gaps. To reach higher platforms he must walk up diagonal ramps by zig-zagging his way up them.
There are health and crime level indicators on the left-hand panel, but strangely no other information (like the score). You only get to see your score between levels.
Graphically, Judge Dredd is quite good. The scrolling is fast and smooth and the backdrops are well drawn, if completely lacking colour. It wouldn’t have been a bad idea to at least have used different colours to indicate the six different levels. The sound effects are fairly decent as well.
What lets the game down, though, is the repetitive gameplay. Each level is basically the same, but with a slightly different layout, and playing it quickly becomes tiresome. It’s also not very representative of the Judge Dredd comic stories – especially the last stage when the devs erroneously call Judge Mortis, “Judge Mortice” (a ‘mortice‘ is a hole in a piece of wood; Judge Mortis is named after a Latin word for ‘death’)… Which is a stupid mistake which demonstrates that the people who wrote this game didn’t know the comics.
See also: 2000AD Special.