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Posted on Sep 4th 2015 at 06:00:00 AM by (singlebanana)
Posted under review, Sega, Genesis, retro, Crack Down

I know that some of you are probably disappointed that this isn't a glowing review of Crackdown on the XBox 360. I'm sure that's a great game, but having never played it, I'd like to talk about another game of the same name released on the Sega Mega Drive & Genesis by Sage's Creation in 1990 & 1991 respectively.  Crack Down is a port of the original 1989 arcade title of the same name that was developed by Sega for their Sega System 24 arcade board. The game was also ported to the Commodore Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, ZX Spectrum, the Wii Virtual Console (PAL & Japan only), and most recently (2010), the Genesis/Mega Drive version was made available on Steam.

Crack Down was published on the Genesis by Sage's Creation.  Many of you may not be familiar with this publisher, due to the limited titles it released on the Genesis; their only other releases included: Shadow Blasters, King Salmon, Devilish: The Next Possession, Ka-Ge-Ki: Fists of Steel, and Insector X.  However, most of you are probably very familiar with the company HOT-B.  Sage's Creation was an American video game publisher that was presumably set up by Nobumitsu Kubo, president of HOT-B, to publish HOT-B's Sega Mega Drive games in North America. Like many other companies, HOT-B was already a licensed Nintendo publisher and it allowed them access to Sega's most popular console at the time.  But enough about the game's history, let's get to the story and how it plays.

The plot of Crack Down revolves around its heroes, Ben and Andy, who are explosive experts sent in to thwart the sinister plans of the mad scientist Mr. X (sound familiar?).  In order to do this, your objective is to traverse each heavily-guarded level and plant bombs throughout.  Bombs are placed by simply moving over large red "X's" on the floor with your character. These marks are easy to locate and appear as red dots on your overhead level map (a great feature).  Once the last bomb is placed, you must make your way to the level's (or "act" as it's called) exit before the bombs explode. Sounds easy enough right?  Well, as I mentioned before, each level has a multitude of constantly regenerating, robot guards who fire at you. There is no life bar, so one hit causes you to lose a life (even though some enemies take more than one hit to dispatch). If that's not enough, there are also instant death obstacles that you have to navigate, including pits, electrical wires, moving machinery, crumbling floors, and more.  On top of that, there is a timer that runs during gameplay and you must exit the level before it ends. Coming in under time rewards bonus points, so finishing a level quickly is the key to a high score in Crack Down.

**gameplay video courtesy of debyaka**

Crack Down is a top down, run and gun, multi-directional shooter in the vein of Gauntlet, Super Smash T.V., and even Berzerk. The D-pad is used for moving and changing the direction of your shot, the "A" button is used to toggle between your cannon (stronger and passes through multiple enemies) and your machine gun, "B" is for firing, and "C" is for releasing a smart bomb, which can come in handy when cornered or in multiple enemy areas.  The amount of smart bombs and ammo for the two guns you have is tallied on a small screen above the playfield and more ammo can be collected throughout each level. 

One of the more unique control features in Crack Down is the wall hugging. To avoid enemy fire, simply direct your character against a wall using your D-pad and pull them off by pressing in the opposite direction. This feature comes in handy very often in the game and must be mastered to progress. Since wall hugging is dictated by the D-pad, and not keyed to a button, there are times when you will accidentally hug a wall when you are simply just trying to move along it. Though this can be frustrating at times, it didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the game, and since you can't be attacked while on a wall, it never caused me to lose a life. Along with wall hugging, the environment can also be manipulated by using doors. While some doors only slide open, others can be swung forward when you enter or exit a room and destroy enemies. This feature reminded me a lot of Hotline Miami and with a similar top down look, I imagine that this mechanic might have been borrowed from Crack Down or an earlier title.

Graphically, Crack Down is a bit underwhelming compared to other titles released on the Genesis. The major reason for this is the split screen, which is the result of it's System 24 beginnings.  While the split screen is typical of many 2-player games, it's annoying when the screen is still split in 1-player mode, so less than half of your TV screen is used for actual gameplay. As a result, the game has a more compacted look with smaller and less detailed/defined sprites and levels. Still, the graphics aren't terrible and because these limitations were put in place to create a more accurate arcade port, I understand and can give the developers a pass. 

The box highlighted in red is your game screen.....

While one of the biggest gripes I hear about Crack Down is how slowly your character moves, I didn't have much of an issue with it. Though the pace is not furious like many other run and guns, I think it suits the game well and allows you to be more methodical about your actions. However, this game is not without it's annoyances; to me, the most frustrating part of the gameplay is the multi-life depleting obstacles in the game.  There are areas with platforms that move in opposite directions and others where you must traverse areas of live wires where you will constantly lose a lot of lives.....and I mean A LOT of lives! It's great that the game has an over-abundance of continues, but even so, losing lives in such a rapid fashion can get overly frustrating.   

Though Crack Down has its flaws, there are features that I really enjoy about the game.  For one, playing with a friend in 2-player mode is a lot of fun and requires a more diverse strategy.  The split screen means that you do not have to travel with your partner wherever he/she goes. You are free to move about the level as you please and this comes in handy when setting bombs. Since you can split up and go after different "X's," you are able to finish an act quicker and thus receive more bonus points at the end of each one. However, bonus points for both players are the same and are accrued only after the last of the two players passes through the exit, so reaching the exit around the same time is best.  Surprsingly, the game also has some nice cutscenes between stages (about four acts make up a stage).  They are pretty impressive for an early system and something that you didn't see in a lot of games at the time. There is even a nice little cutscene that rolls through the credits at the end of the game!

Finally, the music and sound in Crack Down is pretty good and typically of most Genesis games of the time.  Though tracks are repeated through different the multiple acts throughout the game, there are enough levels and variety in the tracks to keep them fresh and fun.

**video courtesy of Classic VGM Soundtracks**
Behold the music of Crack Down! Be aware that the first minute is the title screen music and it is a little repetitive and annoying, so stick with it.

Though some might disagree, I think that Crack Down is a fun and worthy title to add to your Sega Genesis/Mega Drive library. The single player mode is fun, but I think that the 2-player co-op is where you'll get the most enjoyment out of the game.  Sold listings on eBay have the game selling for around $8-$10 loose and $20-$25 CIB, so if you can snag a cheap copy, I think it would be worth your time. Thanks for reading and please comment below.

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Loved this game on the C64.
I think you have the name of this came wrong. It's name is Metal Gear Solid...


All joking aside it looks to be a fun time. I'll pick up a copy if I see it for cheap.
@Addicted: Or maybe MGS should be called Crack Down since the latter came first. Wink
This sounds pretty good, I'm definitely interested in the co-op play for sure.
@Gamer4Lyfe: Yes, this game is a ton of fun in co-op mode. I should have also mentioned that friendly fire is not something you have to worry about in this game. However, it's nice that the enemy is affected by it. Game Sack has a video where they discuss co-op games, which includes this one. It's worth a watch, but they may be a bit more critical of the game than I am.
@singlebanana:I am hoping that this game will be entertaining, and it seems like it will be.  I try not to get hung up on every detail of every game, it's OK when games have flaws, sometimes they end up adding rather than detracting from the overall experience.
Exactly. There is no perfect game, contrary to popular belief.
@singlebanana:Right on Banana!
Good article, man.  I remember reading a review of this in VG&CE years ago (I think I still have that back-issue...), and was always curious about it, but have never actually played it, even via emulation.  I might have to be on the lookout for a copy next time I'm out game hunting in the big city.
You did it yet again.

You had me at "in the vein of... Super Smash TV and even Berzerk."
@Zagnorch: Not nearly as frantic as SSTV, but the directional firing mechanics are similar.

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