Retro Review: Cyborg Justice

I’ve been feeling guilty that I’ve just been reviewing lots of games that I happen to like. I no longer feel guilty. About anything.Let’s quickly get the story out of the way because it’s wafer thin at best. The opening scene shows your spaceship crashing into a colony, during which you’re killed. For some reason, your mind is salvaged, erased and put into a machine to work on the colony as a cyborg slave. Unfortunately the memory wipe hasn’t worked, so your human brain takes your robot body and tries to get its cyborg ass out of there.

Your cyborg body is actually something you decide upon at the start of the game. You’re given a choice between torso, arms and legs with around six or seven alterations between them. This lets you mix and match your cyborg appearance to suit your needs, as it also affects the armaments you go out into the field with. You could equip Big Foot legs for stronger kicking power, a flashy looking flame thrower to melt the faces of cyborg baddies or even tank treads to charge along at full pelt into metallic shins. There’s even kindly a Rocket Punch of sorts, although once it’s been fired you need to pick it back up again or lose it forever.

How do you fight with only one arm? Quite badly, which is why you’re able to tear off the arms of any ‘borg you come across and replace it as your own, or drain their torso for extra health. The regular stages play out like a bog standard beat’em up, but the fights take a strictly 1-on-1/1-on-2 format. This is because the method for fighting is actually a lot more complicated than something like Streets of Rage. B is used for just regular combo attacks, which is easy enough, A is for power attacks and C is for special movements. The way that it works is that you hold down a button and then immediately press a direction, which changes the outcome of the attack. For instance, holding A and hitting up launches an uppercut, and hitting down lands a stunning downwards smash. C can be held to do either evasive somersaults or for guarding, which also allows for guarded backstepping should the going get that tough.

If this sounds a little too similar to The Immortal to actually work out, then you would be absolutely right. It definitely controls better than that undiluted madness, but it’s still incredibly uncomfortable to try and control the characters, especially when your being attacked by enemies who are capable of everything you are. The ‘charm’ of this game I guess is that all the enemies are built up of the same things you arm, which does initially lead to some interesting configurations, but eventually you start seeing the same parts over and over again. It also doesn’t help the case that some parts you can equip are simply better than others. The flame thrower has incredibly tiny reach, the tank legs lead you to run into danger more often than to victory, and I have no idea how you’re supposed to clear the first stage without the aid of the somersault legs, because there’s a bloody great chasm you have to jump over and it costs you an entire life every time you drop into it.

Which also leads me to the worst part of the game. Not only do you have to contend with the intriguing but unfortunately convoluted controls, and some real bastard AI (with human brains, mind) but the game features a ‘Hurry Up’ feature. Some games used to punish you in the old days for hanging about in one place too long, like the ghosts of Spelunker. Some simply encouraged you, with a time limit like Streets of Rage. Cyborg Justice shoots missles at you. Worst of all, it doesn’t even wait until you’ve been idling for too long.

If at any point you kill the enemies on the screen and have finished harvesting their parts, missles will start firing immediately, and each one does a staggering amount of damage. They will kill you without hesitation, and having to dodge them is an art you will have to learn very quickly. Oh yeah, and remember that chasm I was talking about? They fire at you there too, so trying to initiate the combination to pull off the correct jump IF you’re wearing the right pair of legs WHILST being attack by unstoppable rockets is pretty much the worst situation you could possibly find yourself in. You’ll meet this situation head on at about two minutes in. You’ll switch the game off afterwards.

It’s got a bunch of nice ideas, and I hear that as a VS fighter the convoluted controls actually work to the game’s advantage, turning it into a slower paced more technical fighter, with a decent amount of attacks and the ability to tear off your opponents weapon and use it against them. That aside, the game is just too much of a chore to get through, and the production values aside from that don’t really encourage yo to push on. You will never see a new interesting looking enemy until the final boss of the game, the environments are incredibly bland and troublingly reminiscent of Battletoads on the NES, and the music is… actually I quite like the music. It’s trashy synthy sort of drivel, but seeing as it’s a bunch of enslaved cyborgs battling it out on a mining colony, the overly mechanical audio actually does suit the world quite well.

It’s worth a play, especially if you’ve a friend to duke it out with, but I would be hugely surprised if you ever came back to it.

Not so bad that I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist, but if anyone ever asks if I’ve played it I’ll probably just stay quiet. C+

  • Phos

    To clear that first big chasm, you just need to jump and then do a forward kick.

    The Big Foot legs make you immune to floor hazards, you can exploit this to get your enemies trapped or to deal some free damage.

    That’s part of why I like this game, there’s so much strange depth to it.

  • Nice review!

    Yeah, this game definitely had its flaws, but I liked it overall. It really didn’t take long to get the hang of the technical controls, and once you did, it was pretty fun bashing the crap out of the enemies, switching parts and kicking their remnants into dust. And nothing was more satisfying than ripping the first boss’s laser arm off and blowing him away with it. Nice.

    But it was pretty much the SAME DAMN THING for every level, maybe with a slightly different background. You have to REALLY like dismembering robots to enjoy it the whole way through.

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