Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Predator 2 (Master System)

Checkpoints ON
1 Difficulty level
7 Stages
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Teeny Weeny Games
Published by Acclaim/Tec Toy in 1993

Hidden within the Master System library lies this movie adaptation turned into an arena scrolling shooter. Different from the Mega Drive game, which used an isometric view with no automatic scrolling, Predator 2 for the Master System looks like a horizontal take on the same style of Gun.Smoke - the difference is that our hero, Lieutenant Harrigan (played in the movie by Danny Glover) is able to shoot in 8 directions while the action goes from left to right. A minor deviation from the norm is that if you stay put scrolling is haulted, but you can't go backwards.

The game was officially released in 1992, but my copy is the one released by Tec Toy in Brazil in 1993. Teeny Weeny Games is long gone from the gaming world, and judging from their contribution here it's no wonder nobody knows who they were. Predator 2 is a yawn-inducing experience to say the least, and even for fans of the Predator franchise it falls short in practically all aspects. There is some value in the graphics, but the lack of variety, the dodgy hit detection and the repetitive design all contribute to restrict its appeal to masochists and nostalgia buffs.

Two shoeshiners and a hostage - where's the predator?

Those who've seen the movie know that Harrigan the cop has two threats to face: drug dealers and the alien creature itself. Predator 2, the SMS game, is infested with drug dealers. In fact, they're the only enemies you encounter during most of the time, with a few predators appearing sparsely in the last couple of levels. Whenever you kill a moving enemy (a drug dealer), a drug sack will fall to the ground. They're all sent to the "drug squad" once taken, just like all other loose drug bits you collect here and there. Strangely enough, no stationary crooks will ever have drugs on them.

The only weapons Harrigan can count on are his default firearm (which is actually very effective) and a handful of special items you'll find lying on the ground. Grenades are the only thing that hit the baddies shooting you from windows. Machine guns, rifles, spread shots and later on alien predator discs all have limited ammo, and are cycled with the default gun by using the other button in the controller. Occasionally the red aiming reticle from the predator will appear, and if your head is caught inside its center you're dead meat, regardless of health left. Health, by the way, is what makes Predator 2 a relatively easy romp: it's fully restored every time you take the jacket item. Health is also fully replenished when you get the 1UP icon. Since you can withstand a good deal of damage, after a while gameplay becomes a matter of surviving long enough until you get to the next health jacket. And even though the game is checkpoint-based, the damage applied on bosses does not reset if you die facing them. Racking up extra lives is made easy by the fact that besides 1UPs there are also extends given for every 100.000 points scored.

In Predator 2 cleaning the town from the scum isn't enough, our hero has the extra mission of rescuing hostages spread around the stages. Do not let any of them pass by or die within the predator's mortal reticle - after the third lost hostage it's GAME OVER, no matter how many lives you have. The game gets cheap in certain points, with hostages getting almost instantaneously killed after appearing on-screen (gotta be fast on these ones). Other than that, the bulk of the challenge lies in boss fights, when respawning enemies might eventually overwhelm the player. There are no CONTINUES, but the game gives you a password to start again in later levels.

Lt. Harrigan eventually meets his doom
(courtesy of YouTube user djvatio)

Although the main character is given a nice animation when he moves and walks around firing his weapons, everything else in the game is of subpar design. Your hit detection perception has to be adjusted to the way the AI deals with enemies - some of them will move just below your line of sight, closing in and causing lots of damage by contact while you're not able to even hit them. Shooting in diagonals is possible, but it's a pain to get it right. As for regular enemy resilience, absolutely all of them share the same hit points, be it a burglar or a predator. It gets boring after a while.

The action takes place on the streets, on rooftops, inside something that's supposed to be a slaughterhouse, on the subway (the best looking level due to the moving train) and inside the alien spaceship. Looks change, but other than that you have the same enemies coming out of doors, sniping inside hatches or spawning from the sides, with one or two bikers speeding by and very few helicopters dropping bombs. The music is nothing special, eventually BGMs start repeating themselves and mostly resemble some platforming cop game instead of a badass showdown against an alien menace.

Since scrolling can be halted by staying put, it's possible to rack up points and eventually counterstop the game just by standing still and killing any respawning bad guy. Of course there's no fun in doing that. I got to the end once and that's enough. Apparently I won a huge bonus when I beat the game, probably one million.


  1. They still made Master System games when Predator 2 came out? My chronological senses are broken. I love how you take pictures of your high score screens. It reminds me of taking pictures of completed Zelda games and sending them to Nintendo Power.

  2. Well, Predator 2 the movie came out in 1990. This game was released in Brazil in 1993, and many more SMS titles would be released well into half the 90s by Tec Toy.
    Tks for the comment!

  3. Still enjoying your blog, week after week :)

    Quick question: Do you play with the original controllers for your systems or do you use an arcade stick? I find it quite hard to play shmups on a pad especially on the older systems.

  4. Thanks for the support, Alex. :)
    The only case where I'll use an arcade stick is with the Neo Geo (for obvious reasons). I can pretty much say I prefer pads. And in the case of the Master System I favor the Mega Drive controllers, simply because the SMS d-pad is very unreliable.

  5. It's a very nice SMS game. I supposed that this version is a port from Genesis game, moreover, a good game.