The 1990 version of Judge Dredd, developed by Random Access and published by Virgin Games, is a frustrating and barely playable platform action game that is hamstrung by restrictive game mechanics.
You play as Judge Dredd and must explore six different levels, set in Mega City One, searching for a number of objectives (usually switches, although it can be valves or even guns) among a maze of horizontal and diagonal platforms. As you walk around the city the crime rate increases and you must shoot or arrest ‘perps’ to reduce it. Dredd can summon his bike to move around more quickly, but this leaves him open to attacks from hostiles.
The most frustrating thing about this game is that Judge Dredd can’t shoot when he’s on his bike (which makes no sense as he’s always shooting his gun when riding his bike in the comics). Unlike in the 8-bit versions of this game, Judge Dredd can walk down diagonal ramps (in the 8-bit versions he can walk up them, but pressing down will simply make Dredd duck), so I was confused about that. Also: it can be difficult to keep the crime rate down because it’s not obvious who you can and can’t shoot (shooting innocents will increase the crime rate, which you don’t want).
This is basically a poor attempt to shoehorn the Judge Dredd character into someone’s idea of a ‘concept’ for a game, and it’s indicative of lazy, cookie-cutter game design of the late ’80s.
Having already played the Commodore 64 and Spectrum versions of this game I had hoped that the 16-bit versions would be better – at least have expanded gameplay – but that isn’t the case. They just have better, more colourful graphics, but the gameplay remains half-baked.
Random Access, it seems, churned-out these Judge Dredd games based on a flawed template that they doggedly stuck to, and Virgin Games tried to cash in on the Judge Dredd name without caring about the underlying gameplay. Which makes this another Judge Dredd game to toss on the pile of failures.
See also: 2000AD Special.