Publisher: Players
Compatibility: BBC B, B+, Master 128 & Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #68

I've seen some nonsense on the Electron in my time but for a machine code game, Shanghai Warriors by Players takes some beating. The inlay sets out rather a strange scenario about Mercenaries taking over a submarine, and this and the Asianesque title, kinda makes you think you're taking the reins of Steven Seagal. The reality however, could not be more different.

Firstly, you are restricted to a monochrome half-sized screen in Mode 4. Whilst you cannot have colour in this Mode, you can have very detailed graphics. Yet the graphics in this game, showing a deserted dock with a sunset and cranes in the background, are badly designed, and leave a great expanse of white in the foreground. Sprites of the hero, and those of the characters who proceed to try and beat the crap out of you, are very small. They cannot move off the white expanse and therefore you are really being restricted to only a very small area of the screen in which to manoeuvre. A large area of the screen is unnecessarily 'fenced off' to the right, just to provide a six-digit score line. However, anyone who would want to play this til their score went over triple figures would surely have only a small Acorn Electron games collection.

What basically happens is that your macho man appears in the centre of the screen. A thug appears in the top left hand corner and a thug appears in the top right hand corner. Left-hand man plods towards you and takes a swing and each time he connects with you there is a 'bup' sound. If you thump him back you get a VDU7 beep and he falls over. If he lands enough punches on you, you too fall over and lose a life. After a while right-hand man also wakes up and does the same.

Having played a number of retro games on other formats, it is clear where Players got the idea for Shanghai Warriors from - Renegade on the Spectrum. This also has the idea of two guys attacking you and, in Renegade, they work together; one of them seizing you from behind and holding you in place whilst the other guy pummels you into oblivion. In Renegade therefore you have to constantly use your skills in dexterity, to avoid being 'cornered' by the two guys. It seems sure that Shanghai Warriors was aiming for the same territory, but it just doesn't cut it in anywhere near the same way.

As I said, you are firstly only attacked by the one cap-wearing dude. He is relatively easy to finish off with a few kicks to the head. Simply put, you have five moves; he has two and, on top of that, the computer's AI is terrible. His mate stands idly by, but, should you tire of beating the first dude up, you could always walk all the way across the screen (slowly) and pound him instead. If you do so, as mentioned earlier, he 'wakes up' and fights back. If you don't then he just stands there for a good few minutes. Then he comes to get you.

Finish him off and two guys show up with baseball bats. However, the formula is exactly the same. One stands twiddling his thumbs top-right and the other comes at you top-left. The difference with these two however, is that it seems no amount of rough stuff ever results in their demise. Seriously I kicked one of them about thirty times in the face (over five minutes of play time) and he was still getting up to fight back!

Another irk is that some of the moves you perform change depending on the direction that you are facing. If you are facing left, X and RETURN results in a punch to the face left; but if you are facing right, X and RETURN does a punch to the face right. Even though you sort of leisurely pace towards your opponents rather than charge at them, it is more that a little frustrating to have to remember which direction you are walking from before you try and attack with your fists. The alternative move in both circumstances is an elbow in the opposite direction!

Also, the opponents can land punches on you even though their blows fall short of your sprite. This is by no means acceptable collision detection - you can actually hear it happening because you get the 'bup' sound, and will find you are incredulously sitting by watching a foot fly up inches from your face yet being treated as if it is hitting it.

You get five lives and can be hit five times before you cave and lose one of them. When you do so, your sprite flops to the ground in two frames of animation. Truly, with such a mediocre scenario and such futility in actually playing, Shanghai Warriors has few saving graces. The only really good thing to say about it concerns the sprites. These animate very well and can perform a number of moves. You, for example, can headbutt, elbow, kick, punch and flying kick by using a combination of the fire key (RETURN) and the movement ones (ZX*?). Your opponents can also punch, walk and kick you and some even attack you with baseball bats, which they swing over their shoulder at your belly. But whilst, clearly, a lot of memory is presumably set aside for these pretty animation moves, equally as clearly, games like Way Of The Exploding Fist manage to do everything that Shanghai Warriors does with colour, more sprites, more frentic handling and even a two-player option.

Whilst I don't wish to labour the point, it's also very notable that Shanghai Warriors bears rather a noticeable similarity to Subway Vigilante, which is equally as poor. The cynic might even be tempted to say they are exactly the same game, but with the sprites and background redefined; something that probably took Players all of an afternoon's work. Dressing up the packaging as some sort of 'Under Seige' movie therefore seems a particularly low move, even though the game only retailed for £1.99. Hence, this really is one of the worst games you could ever invest in.