Knucklebuster / Melbourne House 1986
Screenshots: play/stop

This game is set in the paranoid near-future, a well-taken path for a lot of futuristic shoot-em-ups and platform games. In this version of the future, you are a fugitive on the run from android guards, who only want to have a chat with you – with their fists. It seems they're more than a little annoyed that you escaped from a laboratory and sabotaged the city's Central Computer, which will self-destruct in 17 minutes. You've got you find your way out of the maze of the cell blocks and the city before this time runs out, or you're going up along with the rest of the city.

The game is essentially a sideways-scrolling beat-em-up on three levels. You can jump up and down between levels, and press SPACE to go through open doorways. Going through the correct doorway takes you further towards your escape – but the correct route isn't known, so there's a lot of guesswork.

Hindering your escape are android guards, who run around aimlessly until you jump onto their level, at which point they run straight towards you, and start punching your teeth out at the earliest opportunity. You have the choice to run around like a big girl, or fight them – like a big girl. Yes, although you can punch and kick them, it takes a lot of hitting to finally destroy the guards, by which time they've already punched seventeen types of snot from you.

There are also boxes with question-marks on them; when hit, they reveal Power-Ups (increase your energy), bonus points – or could contain an adroid guard ready to open up yet another six-pack of whup-ass on you, or booby traps – which take energy from you.

You begin with five lives, and a certain amount of energy per life. Getting hit by the androids or booby traps takes energy away, and when the energy reaches zero, a life is lost.

Playing Knucklebuster is painful. Not because the guards are trying to pummel your nose into your brain at any given moment, but because the playability leaves a lot to be desired. Finding the right doorways to get to the escape is frustrating, gameplay is simply too fast to take proper control and your player is so hopelessly weedy that you very quickly lose all your energy. The graphics, although basic, have a nice bas-relief effect to them and are made up of a basic multicolor blocks.

The only saving grace – and the main reason that people got this game instead of the actual gameplay – is the music by Rob Hubbard. Very futuristic, with electric guitars playing over a metallic drumkit. At seventeen minutes long, it's an epic!

Overall, a very unremarkable three-platform beat-em-up; the only upside being the sound.

Reviewed by Boz.

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Melbourne House 1986
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