Saturday, May 26, 2018

Switchblade



Switchblade was released in 1989 by Gremlin Graphics and programmed by Simon Phipps. Yes, he of Atari ST classic Rick Dangerous. Okay, we are Hiro, a dude in a bandana who must explore the UnderCity to locate sixteen broken fragments of the Fireblade to reap revenge on today's evil entity, Havoc. This beast has been on a savage rampage, after being dormant for 10,000 years, so it's time for us to save the day - once again!

  
The first nasty is quite dumb but it isn't long before we're up close with something bigger!

We begin on the surface before taking the leap (fall) down into the orientally inspired UnderCity. This labyrinth is made up of lots individual rooms and exploring each is brilliant but tread with caution because you never know what baddies might materialise from out of thin air. Your path through is completely free-roaming, which I loved so much.

Look out for dodgy blocks that might crack with a single kick: these can unveil health and weapon power-ups or may even lead you on into hidden rooms of goodies. Boss characters appear regularly, the first is easy to kill whereas later ones can be quite frustrating and beaten only with patience and lots of well-timed jumping. The only negative is the immense size of the map which isn't visually diverse - so I often needed to backtrack after getting lost.

  
Somebody always leaves boxes conveniently lying about. Hang on, what is THAT down there?!

Controls are superb with all the usual movements like running, jumping and climbing ladders but there are also three kinds of attack. Tapping firing allows you to punch like a weak Arnold Schwarzenegger but you shall also notice a white combat meter along the bottom right of the screen. This helps perform two kicks: holding the fire button for a mere second (so the meter isn't at full strength) will perform a high kick Jean Claude Van Damme would be proud of. Finally, holding it down indefinitely performs a powerful Chuck Norris sweeping kick. Superb mechanics!

  
Some metallic rocker is chasing me! They can't see me but they can still shadow my movements...

Visually, I doubt Hiro will blow your socks off but it's clean and well-designed. Underneath the unassuming exterior is a rather cute system with nice level details, cool-looking characters and, as you explore, the game will self-map itself in a similar fashion to Ranarama, or even Rogue I guess. Switchblade has killer audio with brilliant chiptune bleeps from Ben Daglish or the choice of sampled sound effects and I love both equally!

  
Some of the nasties are a pain like gargoyles and the metallic jellyfish thingies!

Overall, Switchblade is awesome. It has a great adventure element plus the lack of a linear structure is excellent, thus keeping you enthralled throughout. This is one of the few games I've completed and I'll definitely come back to it again (and again). As with Rick Dangerous, this is most certainly one of the best platformers for the Atari ST.

  
The level guardians are either daft or just plain awkward to hit - I wish they would keep still!!

Fancy picking up the gauntlet to help Hiro find the scattered fragments? It will involve deep exploration, fighting lots of silly monsters and several freaky boss dudes? Of course, you'd be mad not to!! So grab yourself the floppy or hard disk installable games right away. Tip: you might find these maps useful to fully enjoy this beautiful retro game.

2 comments:

  1. Don't think I ever played this yet I played the sequel. Too bad in my opinion that the graphical style chosen doesn't fit the plot. Looks like a dwarf is going to save the world from evil. :)

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    1. Danny Devito in a bandana! lol

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