Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Arcade - Mad Dog McCree

Mad Dog McCree

Back in the early 80s, there was a smattering of games using the "cutting-edge" technology of Laserdiscs. You'll remember them, they were pretty distinctive with their high-quality graphics (compared to what was around at the time), usually using high-quality cartoon animation or real explosions or something, trying to create a new experience in arcades. Unfortunately the games were either too hard, too boring or too broken to be playable for any length of time.

Fast Forward to 1990, and my holiday to Eastbourne. In the arcade on the pier, I found a Simpsons arcade machine to waste 40p a play on, only to find that I was beginning to get a bit squashed while playing... due to the crowd surrounding the latest "hot" game they had acquired... Mad Dog McCree. 

This was Eastbourne, for God's sake. Every gamer for 20 miles must have been there! There was no other explanation! Due to the crowd, I didn't dare try to get near the game until a year or two later when the fuss had died down a little, but this game was seriously popular. What I didn't realise at the time was that this was a machine not entirely dissimilar to Dragon's Lair et al from the early 80s.

American Laser Games resurrected the old laserdisc format, but this time used live action film sequences to string together a wild western themed shooter that allowed you to be the mysterious gunslinger who comes to clean up the town. Various ham actors served up a visual treat of typical schoolyard cowboy "deaths", your story's progress governed entirely on your speed and accuracy with the pistol. A basic concept, using comparatively basic technology, delivering a very basic gaming experience. It's as "on the rails" as you can get in a shooter.

But wait! The game kept you on your toes, sometimes changing the location of the hideout from what was on your map, or changing what to shoot to disarm the booby-trapped mine. So you did need to pay some attention to what you were doing.

Well, yippee-ki-ay. At the end of the day, it was still the same basic premise as Dragons Lair and any other
Laserdisc game, perform an action at the right time, see the next bit of the film. Get it wrong and lose a life and see a different bit of film. Being the first of a line of this style of game, it probably delivered the best experience, later games in this style tried to over-complicate the concept. Looking at some of the best-loved light gun games of all time, it's plain to see that simplicity works best (Virtua Cop, anyone?)

So, has time been kind to Mad Dog McCree and his henchmen? Believe it or not, despite its lack of real depth and longevity, this game is still worth hunting out for a quick credit or 2. It works best in small doses, has a bit of a challenge to it if you're rusty, but I wouldn't say it's a game you must play before you die. It certainly has its place in history, and if I found a working one, I'd play it, but it's not one for the collection. Laserdisc games were often unreliable at the best of times, but for some reason I saw more of these switched off than on after a few years, and those that were on often didn't work for shooting on one side of the screen.

"Looks like it's time to take this old boy to Boot Hill." as the undertaker would say. The final nail in the coffin for this game is the unfortunate release of this game, along with Mad Dog 2 and The Last Bounty Hunter, on the Nintendo Wii. Now, being a big fan of this game in the past, I bought it. Whilst the conversion isn't bad, as such, there are a couple of niggles that have, quite frankly, put me off recommending it whole-heartedly to anyone. For instance, the quick draw showdowns are near-impossible, and very often the timing window for a successful shot "feels" wrong, and there's STILL the baddies you can't see who will shoot you without even being visible (e.g. the Corral scene). This one's for true hardcore retro-fans only, not for those who are thinking about getting into retro.

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