The second attempt at a Lethal Weapon game by Ocean Software did not come about for another year. This time, development was passed to another British software house, Eurocom Entertainment Software, a company that also has a prolific reputation for w*** tie-in games. Their version of Lethal Weapon went in a completely different direction and was released on the then extinct Nintendo Entertainment System and the, still spritely, handheld Nintendo GameBoy. Whereas the contemporary consoles got a rubbish action platformer, the NES and GB received a wonky, overly difficult, mediocre shooter/beat’em up.
It’s a single-player experience and the game’s manual, again, boasts that there strengths and weakness to the two main characters. Where this differs is that Eurocom actually delivered on that boast. Riggs is much more agile, he can jump higher, uses a weak ‘Martial Arts’ kick as his melee attack (or balancé to use ballet terminology), and can pick up and throw knives. Murtaugh, on the other hand, is slower and cannot jump as high, but has a strong punch melee attack, plus he can pick up and throw crates (as he is the Hulk). Riggs can jump over some obstacles and Murtaugh has to punch his way through the same obstacles (again, Hulk. Are Eurocom deeply confused?).
Eurocom also, slightly, redeem themselves with the character switching mechanic which is actually quite useful. To switch between the two heroes, the player walks to the left screen and can continue with a revitalized character at full health, while the unused character rests off-screen. This is a godsend, as the game is brutally hard from the get-go, even on the lowest setting. Game companies would often do this in the early days of gaming to remind gamers they were nerds and did not deserve to play their products. This does, however, serve to further remove the ‘Buddy Cop’ aspect. As it makes the dynamic of the two characters feel like a wrestling tag team rather than being crime-fighting partners. This may explain why Murtaugh is more Hulk Hogan than middle-aged Danny Glover. While this may be excusable on the GB for its limited hardware, it is inexcusable on the NES, which had more complex two-player co-op games like the Contra series, released years before.
Riggs’s ‘balancé’ kick can down a default enemy in five or so hits, but Murtaugh’s punch can defeat an enemy in two to three hits. Both characters have limited ammunition for their guns and enemies tend to go down after one to two hits. This is all exciting on paper, but the combat is quite dull and repetitive. Like most beat ’em-ups, the goal is to move forward and stop periodically to fight some bad guys. But there is no nuance, variety, or weight to the combat or enemy types, as they’re all the same apart from the weapon they wield. To add to this lack of variety, they have no strategy or attack patterns. They come at the player like mindless tanks, taking damage until they collapse, all while swarming the player. The experience rings hollow, and it’s even more unfair as you are likely to take massive damage in the process. Plus, there is no way to dodge and player’s hitboxes are very large.
Occasionally, a helicopter will show up to add spice to proceedings, but it only takes two extra hits to down – it also leads to a hilarious moment where Murtaugh can punch a helicopter to death! That should have been the cover and the manual should just have that sentence on every page! The box should have read ‘Lethal Weapon: Helicopter Puncher Edition’. Apart from that moment of glory, The bosses are also deeply unoriginal, for example, a fat man, a kung-fu guy with no shirt, a man in a suit, and they act the same as regular baddies, just with more hit points. They also have no attack patterns or weaknesses for the player to exploit.
The music is serviceable. The title screen theme sells the idea that you are the disco detectives, and you are there to clean up the mean streets in a bombastic dance-orientated fashion. But it does not feel like a Lethal Weapon film – it would be extremely difficult to replicate the film’s soundtrack on the NES and GB sound chips (and the previous games also didn’t even try), but it is a great tune nevertheless. The in-game music, however, is very generic and tends to wash over you like white noise. It does have a fast tempo that complements the action but lacks an identifiable hook to make it memorable.
Like the other efforts, the graphics are cartoony in style, although the character sprites aim more on the side of realistic, and they are less exaggerated like the other versions. Both the NES and GB versions use the same sprites and backgrounds, but the graphics look nicer on the NES because of the bright colours (yes, we like pretty pictures). The GB version ends up being preferable because the view is so zoomed in and in monochrome, the sprites and backgrounds tend to blend together better. Whereas the colour on the NES version can be muted in the majority of sprites but garish neon colours for the background. Rather than, say, the subtle tones of Data East’s better looking RoboCop.
The NES game is comprised of three levels, split into three stages, whereas the GB is split into five stages that are a small mix and match of the NES areas. Again, the plot borrows ideas from all entries and turns them into single missions. For example – the second stage of level two involves terrorists attempting to move Krugerrands out of the country via the docks, mirroring plot points from the second film. Only on the third level does the game borrow much more concise plot details from the third installment. with the inclusion of defusing bombs in a car park, as well as the game’s final boss. Apart from that, most missions are made up of generic action movie tropes from the era.
At the time of release, both versions received very negative to mediocre reviews. The game was criticized for shoddy collision control and for not capturing the feel of the films in any way, shape, direction, orientation, or form. It was one of the few NES and GB games that Nintendo Power awarded low scores to (and they would have loved HPV if you stuck a Mario hat on it) – the NES in particular version scored the lowest with a two out of fic. While better in conception than the Ocean Software version, Eurocom’s Lethal Weapon falls apart in execution. It’s a terrible representation of a great franchise of films and is best left forgotten, along with the rest of the mediocre tie-ins that were spawned as cash grabs in this era.
A Sega Master System version was also planned but cancelled. The only known evidence is the existence of the soundtrack composed by Jeroen Tel. It would have probably been awful too.
|PLATFORMS||Nintendo Entertainment System / Nintendo GameBoy|
Blast Processing does not recommend any of these games. No awards for participation either as even though the GameBoy is younger than the NES, it still should know better than to stick this into itself!