Video gaming, to me, takes itself far too seriously nowadays than it once did. When story was once just an excuse to blow up aliens, now it's essentially what defines the rest of the product. The inherent violence is being clouded other by casual friendly games and the violent games querying their actions by going is violence really the answer to this struggle and painting things grey. But come on, sometimes you just want to get a flamethrower (why not?), hop on a camel (what's stopping you?) and mow down some Nazis, y'know. Can you find a better excuse for violence?
Jail Break, following this pattern to the fine print, has a lone cop out on the streets mowing down every escaped convict in his path. What caused this? They broke out from prison and killed a couple of unmoving guards in the process. Why are you killing them? Because they're packing heat and apparently have hostages. And that is all you need to know to justify this orgy of pixelated bloodshed. Well, deathshed, since there's no blood. Don't believe me? Then watch.
'Why look, Ben, here comes an army of prisoners. They sure look unhappy! I wonder who gave them those rifles and--'
"The warden has been taken hostage - free him! I'm afraid you'll have to walk."
That is, quite literally, as far as it goes.
You play as this fellow here. He's a decent enough guy, saving the city on his own without the need for someone to nag or a spouse to rescue or anything. He can walk in eight directions, shoot in sixteen directions, and requires one mere scratch to be sent hurtling backwards towards death.
No, your car is not used at all during the game. That brief five second appearance in the intro is all you see.
These guys are the titular jail breakers, prisoners out on the run with a severe bloodlust. They come in several different flavours, from left to right:
The Crazed Shooter. These guys shoot at you with bullets. Coming from their guns. Frustratingly, if you shoot them while they're preparing to shoot, their bullet will still fire as they die, often killing you both. Sneaky devils.
The Shirt-Wearing Grenade Man. He struts about with his sexy self and lobs grenades that kill you. He's barely menacing. When he dies he loses the shirt, for whatever reason.
The Invincible Power Walker. He apparently has no need for a shirt, as his body has been toned so hard that he merely needs to march into you to kill you outright. It's a good thing that despite his confident posture, he'll die on contact with bullets just as easily as everyone else.
The Manhole Assholes are the human embodiment of the moles from those Whack-A-Mole arcades. They pop up and down from manholes and occasionally take pot-shots at you, and just like the moles, they love to ignore your death-supplying armaments half the time.
The Window Folk, quite simply, sit in windows and fire at you. Constantly, and without end. They can only be killed with the grenade launcher, but if you don't have that, the most you can do is run for your life and hope you don't have to slow down.
The Van needs no prefix. The Van will run you down. The Van, with its four man crew and invulnerability to the pistol and grenade launcher, halts for no man. Should you avoid The Van, a hail of bullets will make sure you don't get far. The Van is a force to be reckoned with.
Crazy Motorcycle Bastards are strangely elusive. Out of all my play-throughs I had never seen them, and it was only when I stood around with the emulator sped up did they appear. I assume they're like Baron Von Blubba from Bubble Bobble, an enemy who appears when you dawdle to keep you on your toes. They're seemingly invincible, remarkably fast, and not even water stops them in their tracks!
These red, cylinder shaped objects are commonly known as barrels, or if you want to be less video-gamey, drums. They do nothing but get in your way, but if you destroy them...
Sometimes they turn into a superhero. The game likes to mix things up.
These are the hostages, consisting of a motionless crying girl, a builder who runs up and to the right, and a mother who runs downwards. They also like to get in your line of fire. If you save them (via bodily collision), you get a gun!
This is you with a gun.
You have access to three guns, the Bazooka and Grenade Launcher you get via rescuing people, though you start off with the pistol. Let's get the 411 on them.
The pistol is really just your average video game peashooter. You've got just about no limits on the amount of shots allowed on-screen, so although lacking glamour, it works wonderfully for basic screen clearing. It doesn't work against barrels, vans or window people, and the manhole assholes like to completely ignore reacting to the bullets, but it works beautifully on your average goons.
The bazooka is the heavy hitter of the lot. You can only have a couple of rockets on-screen, but they'll slice through a line of mooks like a rocket-propelled knife through a firing line of butter. It's the only thing that can destroy barrels and vans, but the window folk are still just out of its range.
The grenade launcher is the technical one. Sometimes it homes in on enemies, sometimes not. It kills window folk, but leaves barrels and vans untouched, and works quite nicely on the manhole dudes. On the subject of the window folk, sometimes they die when they're shot (quite understandably), but sometimes...
They turn into naked women. The perversion potential of these grenades is phenomenal.
But what happens if you 'accidentally' shoot a hostage?
Say goodbye to your bazooka and grenade launcher! You'll have to rescue more hostages to reclaim them again. Bummer.
With that out of the way, let's beat some games!
STAGE 1 - Broadway
I originally started this section with: "Your epic quest for burning justice begins in a nondescript city," but it's only after you complete the game that you hear the title of this level: Broadway. Broadway is a real place! The problem is that there's like fifteen million Broadways, and my geography skills are notoriously horrendous, especially when trying to decipher what specific Broadway these 8-bit graphics from 1986 are trying to convey.
Regardless, your epic quest for burning justice begins on the streets of somewhere, where prisoners are running riot. 'Nuff said.
Being an introduction to the game, it's pretty straight-forward. It also introduces you to every single enemy in the game. It throws three vans at you and a couple of manholes, but that's about it. The final struggle is against a shower of gun-toting doodie-heads. Interestingly, you don't even have to kill all the enemies in these segments to progress to the next level. You can just wait for a minute or so, and it'll skip to the next screen, though since that requires you to stay alive for that amount of time it's probably an unwise tactic.
After every level, you see your copper haul four punks away to a van (how anyone survived his onslaught of bazookas and heat-seeking tear gas is beyond me) while a voice announces "thank you, you've saved me!" I don't know how that, the text and the imagery work together, because there's no one to rescue at the end of a level until the final one, and whoever's shouting the text at the top eludes me. You could theorise that it's the hostages you rescue, even though the sole male hostage doesn't speak, and you could very well have shot every single one of them and get the same message. If the game actually had an engaging story (or actually had a story) this might be worth examining further, but it's not, so let's smash some more heads.
STAGE 2 - Valerie Park
I'm sure researching the name of every level could reveal there was an absurd amount of effort regarding American geography put into the game that would put it up there among Gunsmith Cats and other works where that fact is the most interesting thing about them, but, really, what are the chances of that?
This level has a revolutionary feature: branching paths! Like, two entirely different paths but inside the same level!
Okay, it's just a little patch of flowers in the middle of the pavement. It does nothing to break up the monotony besides limiting your movement, making it harder to avoid projectiles.
The climatic battle here is against a bunch of people in manholes. Here's something I didn't mention earlier - when the manhole enemies die, the entire manhole vanishes. This seems to imply that they're not popping out of real manholes, but are using the same trick Dick Dastardly does, painting a circle on the ground and having it magically become a hole, or something. If that's not the case then I've no idea why the park has six manholes so close together.
STAGE 3 - The Navy Yard
Seriously, that's what the announcer says. You can make your own joke about sloppy translation ("oh, a Navy is a ship, right?") or the YMCA.
It's set on a pier, and if Undercover Cops has taught me anything, there is no reason to have a pier stage in a video game unless you throw people into the ocean. Since you can't even touch anyone in this without dying, it's just a slideshow of wasted potential.
It does have people shooting at you from the side of a ship, which just involves running for your life. That isn't anything new from the game, so, yet again, a wasted effort. And the big ol' fight at the end? It's not even against manhole people, in which case it would allow me to make gags about how they can pop out of manholes when they're likely to just fall through into the ocean; it's just some regular gun goons. About the only positive aspect is that gas station there. It's awesome.
Okay, I like that guy too. He's just a terrorist hanging out in the ocean, having a grand ol' time. You can kill him if you want, and he'll try to kill you, but... come on, swimming at a tense time like this is just enviable.
STAGE 4 - Manhattan Bridge
These two screenshots are what you will be doing for the first thirty seconds of this level. With no change. Honest to God.
Compare and contrast to the bridge level of NARC, wherein you're driving a car. There are muscle bound freaks on the road, as well as your usual common-or-garden trench coat druggies, not to mention lots of dumpsters in the middle of the road, and your car can shoot bullets. It's fast-paced, exciting, and completely absurd.
Here, you're slowly jogging down the road and blowing up vans before they run you down. In reality it would be intense, but in comparison it just seems weak.
And after that it's more or less the same, except there are enemies, barrels, and the vans come in from different parts of the screen now. Doesn't even compare to NARC.
The fight at the end takes place with a brick wall background, though! That totally makes up for the same background throughout the whole level, right? Wait, no it doesn't.
STAGE 5 - Vangkok Prison
Okay, I've no idea what the announcer says. The Japanese has B and V interchangeable, so by that logic it would be Bangkok Prison... except that raises the issue of why, if you've been in America for the past four stages, you would suddenly appear in China, and why this army of prisoners would go so far out of their way simply to find a good place to hide the kidnapped warden. If you want to stretch things a little, it could be "Banged-Up Prison," but, yeah, I'll just stick with Vangkok. It's nice and nonsensical.
For whatever reason, there's a lot of kids in this prison. You could be a boring person and simply say it's because they're the only hostages that are motionless so there's no risk of losing them, but I like to believe that year's Take Your Child To Work Day ended in disaster.
This level features the totally innovative feature of people coming out of doors. See those doors at the top? Sometimes gunmen walk out of them! Dangerous shit.
The final battle takes place against this prettily decorated wall. I should be focusing on the "WELL COME" text written in blood, but it's the dinky little painting of a hillside at the top right that intrigues me the most.
I'm also sad to say there are no manhole enemies in this level.
After the first wave are taken care of, a siren blares and enemies pour out of the doorway. "Don't hit the warden!" the announcer bellows at you.
If you do that, instant game over, bitches. Never mind my seven extra lives, no one's laughing when you shoot the warden.
If you don't fail at life and kill the enemies without harming the warden, the two of you exchange what I assume is meant to be a handshake, but it looks quite inappropriate. "You've saved Manhattan!" He announces, and the credits roll. Yeah, I don't understand them either, but all I know is that Housewife Azusa pulls a really convincing impression of a single mother caught in prisoner warfare.
And then it's back to the beginning!
I've learned a lot from this experience.
● Whenever Manhattan has been taken over by rampant prisoners, there's no need for the army, a SWAT squad or even a car; if one man has a bazooka and a pistol with an absurdly fast rate of fire, that's all he'll ever need.
● The warden is the most important person in the world. Ranked higher than the police chief, the mayor, the president; ranked higher than God. If he dies, the world dies with him.
● Manholes are made of magic.
● Every disgruntled sniper has a Playboy model inside them wanting to get out.
● Groping a man's crotch is perfectly fine if you've just saved his life.
● Also, more rectal examinations in prisons, for the love of God. I don't know whose anus they shoved all those guns and pipe bombs into, but it'd save us a lot of trouble if we know about them beforehand.
Dedicated to the memory of Ben and Jeffrey, who were in service from 1982 to 1986.
Lest we forget.