Friday, 4 August 2017

BATTLE BEAST


Until fairly recently, fighting games for computers have had a pretty bad reputation. For some reason, the arcade thrills of a fighter battling it out on the streets or a virtual arena didn't translate so well. That's not to say desktops went without a number of system exclusives in the genre. Battle Beast, a 1995 game for Windows from 7th Level, was one of them. Does it change the tide for melees on a monitor? Or will it continue on the trajectory of terrible tussles?

Well, things look good in the graphics department at least. Battle Beast uses hand-drawn cell animation to make up its visuals and the certainly look the part. With its Saturday-morning cartoon aesthetic, it was beyond any other 2D fighter on the home market at that time. The animation is fluid and consistent with an imaginative design few others could boast. This was the company that would late give us the Ace Ventura game after all.

The story could have come straight from the minds of Cartoon Network. A popular new product is taking the world by storm. Part pet, part robot, the Battle Beasts are sold to be both a loving companion and a vicious, fighting security guard. The evil Toadman and his henchman Wart have broken into the Battle Beast factory and taken the 'bots for themselves so they can take over the world. It's up to those animals not brainwashed by the villainous mastermind to combat his army of toads and save the day. Were there a toy line, you'd know a show would've been green lit.

What separates this from almost any other brawler is the morphing abilities of the robots. Each fighter begins each stage as a cute and cuddly animal but can morph into a mechanical fighting machine and back at the touch of a button (well, two buttons). There are some interesting designs too, even if they all ultimately play the same.

  SPARKY aka SPARTICUS

  According to the manual, Sparky and his robot alter-ego, Sparticus is
  the best-selling Battle Beast. In his non-morphed state, he is adept at
  swinging a hammer, though he's not so good at defending projectiles.
  KULI aka KULAPESH

  This cheerful goldfish is more at home when around H2O. Water
  projectiles have no effect, while plasma inflicts extra damage. The
  fish-hook stored in. his stomach always comes in handy.


  VERMIAN

  This model Battle Beast is so unpopular he has no nickname.
  Who. wants a rodent when you can have a rhino? As a rat, his
  detachable tail makes for. a formidable weapon while his fists
  deal just as much damage in his mechanical state. Hates water.

  TOR aka TORKUDA

  This loveable rhino transforms into an imposing winged creature. In his
  non-morphed state, his horn holds secret attacks. He is not so good at
  dodging fire.

  NICKY aka NASATOR

  There's a reason why this dummy-sucking lizard has been given the title
  of 'Killer'. He may use a milk-filled baby bottle to attack, but it packs
  a punch. As do his kicks when morphed.

  MORTIE aka MORDEN

  The newest model has also been dubbed 'The Kiss of Death'. This turtle
  puts his shell to good use in both forms. Unmorphed it acts as a hammer of
  sorts, while morphed it's best used as a shield. He's good with water but
  hates lasers.

In my brief description of each character above, you'll notice there's something of an elemental theme. Each is strong or weak against water, fire, bullets or laser/plasma. It doesn't really affect the gameplay too much as you'll only ever fight against the same opponent multiple times until you reach the big boss. Sure, it's good to know if you're weak against water but it's no badly implemented you won't know it's there unless you read the manual. The same goes with each fighter's moveset - there's no real variation. In their un-morphed state, a double-tap of button 2 will take out your melee weapon, whether it be a hammer, fish-hook or baby bottle. They all act like a baseball bat with no difference to how they play.

Then again, considering the archaic controls, you wouldn't want to learn multiple moves for multiple characters. For some reason, Battle Beast uses the same type of controls most often associated with older single-button fighters. Except here there's an extra button thrown in. I guess in 1995, most PC gamers preferred to play with a joystick but designing a fighting game around this has always been a terrible idea in my opinion. At least in the era of the micro-computer, this was born out of necessity.

How it works is that moves are mapped to an attack button and direction button combined. For example, a tap of a button on its own does nothing unless combined with an arrow key. It's style of play that takes some getting used to, especially if you're more familiar with the Street Fighter style of input. It's not helped by some terrible mapping on the keyboard. By default, player one controls are F, C, V and B for movement and 1 and 2 for the buttons. Thankfully, they're fully customisable in the options screen but it does go to show how little thought went into how intuitive the controls are.

There is a two-player mode, with player two using the right side of the keyboard, and it does differ from single player. Instead of going through the stages in order, players control a dot on the map screen to race towards the nearest arena. Whoever gets to a location first gets a few moments to tally up some points by attacking small toads. You can even scoop up some extra ammo too. Picking them up is also counterintuitive. It requires the use of a move that can only be performed in your un-morphed state; a solid idea in theory but in practice it's fiddly and frustrating.

What is implemented well is the inclusion of secret areas. In these quiet moments, before the other player arrives, you can look for a part of the background that can be attacked with your un-morphed melee weapon. It will transport you to a secret area where even more point, ammo and upgrades can be had. You see, your projectile attack has a limited number of bullets and your strength depletes over time so finding these areas - and any regular pickups - is a must. It adds a small amount of tactical thinking to the game so it's not just button-mashing. The thing is, you'll be so occupied with fighting and defending, you won't notice any of these extras mid-match.

When it comes down to it, Battle Beast is a handsomely produced fighting game with a lot of interested mechanics that simply don't gel. With more development, these additions could've made for a fun fighter that differentiates itself from the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Instead, it perpetuates the same problems the genre has become notorious for on home computers, but at least it did it in cartoon-form.


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Manual and Quick Reference Guide included. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 102 Mb.  Install Size: 161 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Battle Beast is © 7th Level
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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