Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Front Line (1984)

Name:Front Line
Publisher:Interceptor Software
Developer:Lee Braine
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:1 hour
Won:No (80W/64L)

Another game for that category of top-down tank shooter. Seems like it was quite the thing, possibly because it was easy to develop if you couldn't do a lot of animation. This one actually shows some promise; I have several other games from Mr...Braine listed. (I wonder if that's his real name...?) As seems to be typical, a seemingly familiar classical piece plays in the background, this one a jaunty tune completely ill-fitting for a war game.

Controls are simple but a bit clever. You move with the stick and shoot with the button...only one shot on-screen at a time, but how long that shot remains on-screen is determined by how long you hold down the fire button. Don't be fooled by the low number of shells there, you're not going to run out of ammo in this game unless you're extremely unlucky. The objective is to find all the crates, I think, these restore one point of health and all your ammo.

Standing in your way are the usual assortment of constantly respawning enemies. All enemies/projectiles die in one hit and disappear if they go off screen. There are enemy tanks, but these only show up in dedicated buildings. Most of the time you'll be shooting down helicopters and planes. Yeah. Helicopters move around randomly and shoot a slow-moving but homing attack; Planes go in one direction and spit out bombs. It's hard hitting these guys, for reasons I'll go over in a moment.

Ground objects include a turret which occasionally shoots out cannonballs, the only attack which hurts you more than once. You can't destroy any stationary objects, so you're just dodging them. Landmines, which explode as you go over them, annoying because I found myself carefully moving through them only to crash into some because the controls were just imprecise enough for me to accidentally hit one. It's difficult to move diagonally from a standstill, and you can't shoot them. Then there's this weird thing, brown and black orb, it shoots out fireballs which slowly home towards you for a few moments, then start jumping around like crazy. You can shoot them, but it's tricky depending on where they're at.

What separates this from the earlier chaff is that it has one consistent level. One with the presumable end objective of getting all crates. This is easier than one might usually think, but not by very much. Having health as opposed to constantly dying is nice, but there's no mercy invulnerability, enemies can stack up the hits and the level is designed around making you drive into as many mines as possible.
You start somewhere in roughly the west middle of the map. To the exact west of your starting position is mine city. God, how annoying this section is. I always start off here because there is just no earthly way of getting through this without getting hit. Good luck avoiding planes and cannonballs here.
There's actually a cannon in that graphical glitch, which is a good sign.
North of this is another cramped space, but at least it isn't full of mines. The top left of the map has this weird graphical error, no idea if that affects anything. Southwest is quite similar but opens up just enough to make shooting back at the various planes and fireballs possible.

Most of the central areas are only dangerous by virtue of grinding you down. Cramped areas are not as common as in other sections. Though there are a few with cannons right next to them. This is the most visually interesting, including a town and several tank areas.

I always seem to die when I reach the northeast part of the map. There are two mines here that the game practically decides, oh, you wanted to drive past that? Sorry, you get to drive over both of them. Which is funny, because this section really isn't that bad otherwise.

That more or less ends the interesting parts of the game, the rest of the east is more of the same and I never did reach the end of this one. Perhaps it isn't winnable, you just get parts to prolong the inevitable. Considering the same tune has been playing since I started this game, I'm not going to find out, I'm that annoyed.

A somewhat clever, but still simple single fire attack. 1/10

A wide variety of very annoying enemies. 2/10


A large somewhat nicely designed level, dragged down by respawning enemies and indestructible enemies. 2/10

Player Agency:
Straight-forward but janky. 3/10


Mildly fun at first. 1/10

Not attractive, but everything was clear. 2/10


Typical blips and bloops, with an annoying classical track in the background. Having music and sound together does not necessarily improve a game. 1/10

That's 12. I've spent an hour on worse. I'd have even finished it if it weren't for how annoying the game can be.

Next, game 200.

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