Big Trouble in Little China, Commodore 64

Based on the 1986 John Carpenter film of the same name, Big Trouble in Little China is a side-scrolling action game designed by Mev Dinc and published by Electric Dreams Software for the C64 in 1987. And it is pretty lame, it has to be said.

The game could [should] have been great, and it does have some of the elements to make a decent game, but unfortunately the game’s designers really didn’t make the most of the license, and the end result is a less-than-satisfying Kung-Fu Master clone that doesn’t deliver the goods.

You control three main protagonists: Jack Burton, Wang Chi, and Egg Shen, and can switch between them at any time by pressing Enter. Each of your three warriors has a separate health bar; a separate set of attack moves, and can also pick up weapons that will give them extra attack power (Jack can shoot bullets with a machine gun, Wang Chi can use a sword, and Egg Shen can throw fans at enemies).

You must make your way (right to left), through various locations in order to confront the evil sorcerer, Lo Pan, in his Chinatown fortress. As you make your way through a level you’ll be attacked by a variety of differently-coloured ninja, some of whom will fight you with just their fists or feet, while others carry weapons like swords, or guns that can shoot at you. The basic aim is the same, though: defeat each enemy put in front of you and continue walking to the left on a seemingly never-ending crusade.

You pass many doors as you walk through the scrolling levels, but you can’t enter any of them. Some of the open doorways have monsters that come out of them to sap your health more quickly, and avoiding taking damage from them is very difficult.

When all three characters have no more health, the game unceremoniously ends and you have to start from the beginning again.

Big Trouble in Little China is bland and repetitive and the fighting moves are badly-animated and unsatisfying to use. The scrolling of the various coloured backgrounds isn’t even smooth, and the game feels like a budget title that’s been rushed out unfinished. It’s shocking how little there is to the game, but it could have been massively improved by adding a few more features, and by making the kicks and punches actually feel like they’re making contact, which they just don’t do. The sound effects are dreadful too and there’s no music in the game at all.

It doesn’t matter how much you love Carpenter‘s film – no fanboy should be defending this game for being the huge missed opportunity that it is. I love film, for what it’s worth, and was initially excited by the prospect of playing this game, but afterwards it just left me jaded by its lack of features, and the poor dynamic feel of the action. It’s yet another mid-Eighties movie license that was released without the polish and detail it deserved, and is very disappointing.

Big Trouble in Little China was also released for the Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum.

More: Big Trouble in Little China on Wikipedia
More: Big Trouble in Little China on CSDb

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