Saturday, March 12, 2022

Delta Man

Name:Delta Man
Developer:Robert Tegel Bonifacio
Time:1 hour

Cosmi is one of those companies I always associated with shovelware. Any purveyer of the last physically released PC games will have heard of them at some point. They publish low-budget titles released digitally or just release low budget titles themselves. If it looked cheap and was on PC, chances are it was Cosmi. While researching for early titles to cover, I came across their name. Apparently they didn't start off releasing shovelware, they started off like any other golden age company, releasing crap that doesn't really look distinguishable from other crap.
Robert Bonifacio was one of many hired guns who developed games for Cosmi, but would later claim fame as the lead on an X-COM competitor called Strike Squad and, appropriately enough, a few bass fishing games. Perhaps fame is a strong word, but those are the biggest titles he was on.

Self portrait of the author?
Delta Man is set in 2027, in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. You play as a newspaper reporter in Chicago who survived thanks to an experimental high tech robot suit. So much for the realism, like a newspaper reporter is going to survive a nuclear holocaust. You have to escape via O'Hare Airport while dodging the mutated inhabitants of the city. Jokes about Chicago's crime rate aside, I didn't find this earlier because Mobygames calls this an adventure game, while elsewhere its called some variation on FPS.

Buckle up kids, its all downhill from here

The game starts with an animated title screen blasting a pretty cool tune followed by an animated intro. A woman takes her infant into a building, then a man runs up to the screen. A bomb goes off. The woman comes out of the building. But wait, the child no longer looks human...and the mother is dead. Then a second title screen pops up and now the game itself loads up. Very long loading times, I should add. Its also very glitchy.

Five seconds in and I'm already getting shot at
After more loading, the game begins. The joystick controls the game, and while I'm getting used to that, a dude attacks me. Gotta love games that start like this. Its not obvious, but the game is entirely controlled with the joystick and space. I assume the joystick is fairly obvious, but space switches from interacting with the environment and doing things on the menu. There is no pause button, so this guy is going to take pot shots at me the entire time. I can't attack back until I get a weapon seemingly, and I die surprisingly slowly. There's no obvious way to get out of here and there's no weapon in here. Naturally, the manual is nowhere on the internet.

It looks like he's about to bite it, but that assume I can actually hit him
Even though I'm getting attacked, I can still pick up things in the environment. This includes weapons, but also includes ammo, food, medicine, soy-tabs, batteries and fuel. The game offers an illusion of a complex system, but you really just need to eat food whenever you get hungry and when you're in danger of dying, medicine. I never found out the purpose of batteries or any of the myriad of other random objects the game throws at me.
Hey, I got someone, only several million more to go!

While in action mode, you can move into doors, or at least as close as moving into doors is. You can't really move forward and backward, but you get an impressive amount of sidestepping action. You press forward in front of a door. Hopefully after a moment, it opens and you can step through. Naturally, the obvious door from the start leads to another room with a guard. I thought this was supposed to be an apocalypse? Why does it feel like I've been put into an infiltration kind of game? It doesn't work well. Worse, it feels like this game is constantly in danger of falling apart.

Oh, no, I died, anyway...
I eventually find a machine gun, and combat is not great. You can't engage in melee combat, or if you can, the game doesn't make it easy. Which is funny since the game tries to give you some illusion you can do something with your bare hands. Enemies go down quickly, if you hit, but aiming is hot garbage. How many shots are in that magazine seems to be random. That or the guns don't have a set magazine and instead roll every time you fire to see if its out of ammo. I say this because it also seems like the gun jams quite frequently. Conveniently not a problem for the security guards following me. And they are following me.
It flashes to this screen quite a bit at times, for seemingly no reason
Getting outside takes two loading screens. One inside the building, and one to finally escape. I should point out there's no map and no way of knowing if you've made progress. Once outside the game does not improve any. Things start looking better, but it doesn't seem like anything improves. There's still some random dude shooting at me. I still can't really shoot back. I'm honestly not sure what the appeal of this is. I die a couple of times, but the game offers me the option to continue playing, so I'm not really sure of the point. Sometimes you just randomly get killed in a room because of radioactive air.
An interior, just after a disk load
After a while I find a truck. I guess this is some kind of plot point? Because its locked and I can fill the fuel tank with the fuel I have. This reveals two mechanics that the game has been concealing, perhaps accidentally. I don't have a manual. Firstly, enemies do not follow you, at least not here, they just appear randomly. Secondly, the bars at the top of the helmet actually mean something. If they're green, you can move to another screen. Brown is doors. Now I guess I need to find a key to that truck. Joy.
Oh, no, I died again. Anyway...
Trying to find the keys to the truck proved more difficult than imagined. Wherever they are, the game isn't offering any easy solution. I found my way through two buildings. I really only found more stuff I already had, or more items I had no idea what use they were. New weapons, but those don't make combat any easier. This doesn't lead anywhere, I somehow need the truck to advance. And unfortunately, I am not advancing, the game starting throwing out the radioactive gas message every screen, a sure sign the game was on a strict time limit. As such, I figure this is as good a place as any to quit.
The flamethrower can't even be reloaded, so its useless
I'm curious as to how you'd make this game good. Not in the sense of transplanting the setting to a Doom mod or something, but actually making this a fun and enjoyable experience. Firstly, you'd have to add a crosshair to the shooting, then remove most of the randomization. Without those issues, you've made it much better. And that's not getting into other quality of life improvements like faster scrolling, no graphical glitches and having a map. Which would honestly be a pretty extensive reworking for a game that seems like it was made and then release, and that was that.

The game has at least three weapons, each very difficult to aim, practically indistinguishable from each other, and near useless. Reloading is also a chore, since you need to get out of action mode and into the inventory mode in order to use the ammo. 0/10

Various generic enemies. 1/10


A bizarre recreation of Chicago that seems to be aiming for some kind of realism, but fails miserably. 0/10

Player Agency:
Moving around and shooting feels like its going to break apart at any moment. The menus are slow to get to what you actually need. At least you can switch between the two quickly. 1/10

For a game described as an adventure game by Mobygames, I expected there to be some kind of interactivity. 0/10

Funny, the game started with an interesting cutscene, but then devolved into nonsense. 1/10

Things look like they should, for the most part. My issue is that everything looks flat, and there's the distinct look of tiles not properly linked together. 1/10


One music track and then various crackily noise. 1/10

Somehow this managed to sneak its way to a 5. Not bad for a game that's on the unplayable side of things.

This is it for pre-1988 titles. Those Tandy titles I had found turned out to be some kind of weird text adventures, not really something I felt qualifies as material for this blog.

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