Big Trouble in Little China, ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum version of Electric DreamsBig Trouble in Little China was the first released, coming out the same year as John Carpenter‘s famous film, in 1986. The Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 versions followed later, in 1987.

It has to be said that all three versions of Big Trouble in Little China are pretty awful, but the Spectrum version is arguably the least terrible. Mostly because it’s the fastest, and also maybe because expectations were generally lower on Sir Clive Sinclair‘s diminutive 8-bit machine than on the other two systems.

Big Trouble in Little China is a scrolling beat ’em up where you control three of the film’s main protagonists – Jack Burton, Wang Chi and Egg Shen – and must fight your way through a sequence of random ninja-style enemies in order to defeat Lo Pan at the end of the game. You can switch between each of the three playable characters by pressing Enter, and each has their own fighting style and health bar (represented by three ying/yangs on the bottom panel). Each can also pick up weapons to give them extra fighting power.

As you encounter enemies, the lead character steps up and must fight them, either with their standard moves (mostly with kicks and punches although the cloud-riding Egg Shen fires magic out of his hands), or with their acquired extra weapons. When an enemy has been defeated the three then reassemble and carry on.

Big Trouble in Little China falls flat on a number of levels. Firstly, the fighting moves and animations are somewhat pathetic and have very little dynamic impact, so the beat ’em up aspects of the game fail badly. Secondly, the backdrops, as you progress through the game, are extremely repetitive and have no interactive elements. Thirdly, the enemies, when you fight them, often jump over you and disappear, leaving you to ignore them and continue on (although sometimes they will trap you for a short while before doing that). Fourthly, the gameplay as a whole is bland, badly-designed, and is a poor reflection of the excellent film. The whole thing is a waste of a license and seems more like a quick cash-in than a concerted effort to make a decent game and to do the film justice. Which is exactly what this game is.

You might get a tiny amount of enjoyment out of Big Trouble in Little China for a short while, but when you begin to realise that the animated characters are laughably badly-drawn, and the combat is a hit-and-miss slugfest, you’ll gradually start to feel cheated. Especially if you were one of the mugs who paid money for it back in 1986.

Big Trouble in Little China is unfortunately not worth playing now, unless you’re a fan of bad games, or just want to see how badly Electric Dreams messed it up with this license.

More: Big Trouble in Little China on Wikipedia
More: Big Trouble in Little China on World of Spectrum

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