Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Hit Man (1984)

Name:The Hit Man
Publisher:Scorpio Gamesworld
Developer:Barry Jones
Genre:Light Gun
Time:30 minutes
Won:Yes (76W/62L)

Occasionally, I put in games from genres I normally wouldn't consider for some reason. I found myself specifically seeking out games for the ZX Spectrum one day and noticed I put down a light gun game for the Speccy, a strange choice. Sometimes it turns out I was just being overzealous when I was putting in games, other times it pays off. This time it paid off.

This isn't entirely a right classification even if the genre technically applies to that school of target shooting, I guess? Hit Man has a lot to it. A lot. It's not just a light gun game. It's got some strategy to it.

Side A on the tape gives instructions while Side B is the actual game. Each mission starts you off being told to take out a target, and you have to use your own money to do so. You start off with £400 with which to choose your method of escape Your method of escape only determines your chance of getting past a mission successfully at the end. There's some very creepy sound design going on here. Like the soundchip is trying to imitate the sounds of a bigger computer. It's weird.

"We're having this conversation in my office for some reason..."

You get to select a weapon. The ones you can use and the ones you see in the intro are different. Ruining the gritty vibe the game has going for it, instead of a crossbow you get a laser gun.

The first section is exploring the city, going into shipping containers to find contacts who will eventually lead you to your target. Each one gives you the general direction to the target. Controls are QA up and down, with OP moving left and right. You just walk into the dark blue part. It works, but it's not great.

Should you not run out of contacts before finding the hideout, you then get to assassinate your target. This is done via various action scenes. At first I assumed this changed based on what weapon you used, but it's pretty much only dictated by the agent you're currently on.

It controls in this first scene much the same way as the regular game, but with M to shoot. Your target pops out from behind various garbage bins. It's a bit awkward, because you have to get right on the guy's head and you don't get a decent amount of time to move your crosshair over to the head. Seriously, it's very slow.

Should you shoot him, you now make a getaway, and it's all done entirely automatically. As such, I'm not really sure if there's a benefit to picking something other than the helicopter as your method of escape after the first mission, since you usually get more than the £500 it costs.

Now, despite the bizarre design of this, I found the game fascinating enough to play. There are problems despite the obvious. For instance, shipping containers are randomly placed, and can indeed be blocked off. Which means if you get unlucky, you're completely out of luck.

You don't get an actual visual of you pointing up or down, no, you have to pay attention to that thing in the lower right.

Agent 2's shooting stage is much more reasonable for a game of this era and system. Move left and right to match the window, up and down to match the floor whenever he pops out. There's still only one target though, so this is a bit too easy.

"...but not their blood."

And from this point on the game is pretty much smooth sailing. The missions are pretty straight-forward and the shooting stages alternate. My bounty goes up as I complete contracts and before long I have enough money to pay for a helicopter even if they had be do the final missions for free. And of course, you know, they're not making me do them for free.

Getting money after taking out all the targets, how nice of him.

Now, I can win the game on the easy difficulty. In fact, it's a bit too easy. The game attempts to make itself more difficult by decreasing the amount of time you have to shoot a target and to decrease the amount of time the target is on-screen before switching locations. And on the contact screen, by decreasing the number of contacts.

The problem is then that the game on medium decreases these a bit too much. You have to anticipate where the target is going to appear, to the degree you seem to have to be psychic to do it. You just don't have the time to reach it. At first I assumed this might be because the game was actually intended to be used with a mouse or something, but trying to emulate one seems to do nothing.

Going for a high score seems weird, since if you go for the cheaper escape options it's more likely that the game will prematurely end. Not the best balance.

Still, it's a cool little game, but it just lacked anything more than a sense of coolness. Playing through the game on easy isn't even 30 minutes.

Four weapons that despite a vast difference in theory, are basically the same. 1/10

It's more about the journey than the actual enemies themselves, they're practically targets. 1/10


Wavering between randomly generated and constantly repeated. 1/10

Player Agency:
Slow and unwieldly. 2/10


A strange, gritty noir-ish kind of game. When it isn't being goofy. 3/10

The full screen graphics sort of make this game. It's not that you get to meet your boss before every mission, it's that you get to see him. And despite a few questionable choices, it looks very nice for the Speccy. 3/10

Kind of loose, the game implies there to be a lot more than there really is, you're just shooting some guys labeled as "agents", but it seems more likely that you're a criminal going after other criminals. 1/10

Very computer-esque sounding, in a strange way, like the sound an actual computer would make loading. Somehow less annoying than most genuine attempts at sound. 2/10

That's 14. It's an interesting game, but it's appeal doesn't necessary apply to things that would help it score here.

Next up, a sudden shift in my priorities, it's the Dynamix game Hunter Hunted.

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