I always liked the film Karate Kid. Released in 1984 it told the story of Daniel LaRusso, a high school student who moves from New Jersey to California and is subsequently targeted by a group of bullies that all attend the same Karate school. He is befriended by Mr Miyagi, his apartment block’s handyman, who teaches him another form of Karate to defend himself. The training sees Mr Miyagi setting Daniel a series of seemingly menial, boring, mind numbing tasks, such as painting his fence and waxing his car. The film concludes with Daniel taking on his tormentors one-by-one in a karate tournament and (major spoiler alert (if it is possible to post spoilers on a film thirty-four years old…)) ultimately winning all the fights and the respect of his former enemies. It is a typical Hollywood tale of the underdog standing up against much greater forces at seemingly impossible odds and at the time was lots of fun.
This brings us rather neatly to Walker. Walker is a game written by DMA Design and published by Psygnosis in 1993. You control a mechanical killing machine that bears more than a passing resemblance to the two legged Imperial Walkers that first appeared in The Return of the Jedi in 1983, which (at the time) was the third Star Wars movie, though later became the sixth and now, after Rogue One (if I have kept count), has become the seventh. Ummm, unless we count the new Han Solo film in which case it’s the eighth. Anyway I digress. You pilot your Star Wars inspired Walker through a war torn landscape via a combination of keyboard control for left / right movement and the mouse for aiming the gun-sight on screen and firing using the mouse button. It is a clever mixture of key and mouse control and works well. If you hold the fire button down too long your gun overheats, resulting in an enforced cool-down period during which you cannot fire. Firing in short controlled bursts is the best way to avoid this happening.
You move your Walker from right to left, killing anything and everything that appears in your path. Enemies can be on foot, in a variety of tanks, armoured vehicles and trains, all of which will fire at you if you allow them too much time on screen. You also have to deal with flying attacks from various sources including planes that drop paratroopers that will also return fire should they reach the ground. Some soldiers will appear in the windows of the buildings you are passing by. You are equipped with a shield which depletes gradually with every hit taken and if you lose it before the end of the level it’s ‘game over’. The whole package is very slick, with impressive loading and menu screens. The enemies are varied and nicely animated. The sound is convincing, with the clips of radio transmission in particular adding atmosphere.
I normally don’t mention previous reviews or specific markings, but in this case I will make an exception as I have good reason. This game was released to a unanimously positive reception. The following markings were awarded: Amiga Action - 89%, Amiga Computing - 87%, Amiga Force - 73%, Amiga Format - 81%, Amiga Power - 85%, CU Amiga - 82% and The One Amiga - 81%. All magazines rated the game between ‘decent’ and ‘exceptional’. And do you know what? THEY WERE ALL WRONG. This is my Daniel LaRusso moment, standing up to the combined might of the Amiga press all on my lonesome (albeit twenty-five years too late). In my mind, there is no doubt at all that Walker is a festering turd of a game, a boring, repetitive, unimaginative pile of utter crap that should be as welcome in a game collection as a fart in a space-suit.
I have to back that up don’t I? I can’t just sign off, you want to know why I am right and why every single one of the Amiga gaming journalists were wrong. Okay then, this won’t take long. It is very simple. First of all you need to do something. Load up the game and play for sixty seconds. If you don’t have it then you can watch it on YouTube. Have you done that? Well that’s it – CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE SEEN THE WHOLE GAME. There is no variation. Absolutely none. Each level is just an extremely similar variation of the last. All are drawn to look very much alike. You get no additional weapons. There is nothing to collect. You can’t upgrade your Walker. The enemies might change shape and come at you at increasing speed as the game progresses but ultimately the gameplay doesn’t change from minute one to minute sixty-seven (assuming you wanted to waste an hour of your life to play the whole rancid thing through). They don’t even have a level where the Walker travels from left to right for a change. I have seen more varied gameplay on a public domain game.
Now I am always fair. I have fired Walker up on a number of occasions, convinced that I must be missing something; believing that there simply must be more to it than walking right to left and mowing down apparent endless waves of enemies. But there really isn’t. Don’t get me wrong; what is there is nicely done. It looks ok, it sounds good, it is easy and intuitive to control and it is programmed well. I am not talking a game riddled with bugs here. It’s just so mind numbingly repetitive, so devoid of any variation or imagination, I cannot imagine anyone deriving any pleasure from playing for more than a few minutes.
However it takes all sorts. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Just because I hate it doesn’t mean you will too. You may well be the sort of person that enjoys spending your time on things that are mind-numbingly tedious with a capital 'T'. In which case you might be able to to make a few quid, because Mr Miyagi needs his fence doing again…
Walker (Psygnosis Game, Commodore Amiga, 1993)