Over the years what I’ve come to appreciate most about the Genesis library is its large range of arcade ports. More specifically Sega arcade ports. I don’t think most of us truly understand just how deep their arcade library is. Sure most of us remember Golden Axe, Outrun, and Virtua Fighter but there are legions of titles that flew under the radar. Crack Down is an awesome top down shooter that will forever live in the shadow of the Xbox 360 game. Those looking for something a little different should seek this out.
The first thing you’ll have to adjust to is the user interface. Busy barely describes it. The user interface is crowded with information displaying both players remaining lives, and weapon ammo among them. In the center is the map which is the most important. If you are playing in coop both players have their own separate screens. Solo players have to make do with a mere quarter of the screen. It’s an odd choice and one I’m not entirely happy with. I appreciate the rundown of enemies in the level and their abilities. But that isn’t so important that it needs to be present all the time. Once you accept that the game was designed for two players you can accept it.
The object of each stage is to plant a set number of bombs and reach the exit within the time limit. Each stage is a miniature maze and is populated by varying soldiers for hire. The bomb locations are marked with an X, leaving it a matter of simply reaching each them. Your only weapons are a machine gun and missiles. If you’re in a pinch you can let off a smart bomb. Although ammo is limited it is readily available, although you have to weigh seeking it out against the clock.
Crack Down is more of a stealth action game than a run and gun marathon. Although the level design focuses on narrow spaces to force enemy encounters your moveset allows you to ably dodge or sneak up on them. You can press up against walls to dodge bullets; a cool move that wouldn’t be seen in a 2d game again until Metal Gear: Ghost Babel. Doors can be used to block bullets and you can even sucker enemies into shooting each other. The game is split into four distinct zones and each brings new enemies and obstacles. The variety keeps the game fun as it is a bit long at sixteen levels.
Crack Down is enjoyable solo but truly comes alive with two players. With a friend you can split up to plant all the bombs separately or team up for a united front. Initially the maps are pretty simple but they do become more complex in short order. New elements are introduced such as electrified walls and conveyor belts that make the ordinarily meek enemies that much more dangerous. That being said it is still enjoyable alone but truly shines with a buddy.
Sadly you will probably blow through it in short order. Despite featuring sixteen levels Crack Down is a bit too easy. The time limit is very generous and not much of an issue. While the levels do become more densely packed most enemies don’t actively follow you. Although it is easy to die from a sudden gunshot or fall the generous scoring will net extra lives regularly. There are no boss battles to break things up and while the game doesn’t need them it would have added another element aside from planting bombs.
Crack Down wasn’t a looker in the arcade and the Genesis version is ugly in comparison. The muted color palette grows old fast and the sprites are smaller. Even worse there is some terrible slowdown that honestly should not be present. The cool animations are still present and it’s still pretty cool to see how smoothly they roll behind cover or press up against walls. The map has taken the largest hit and it does affect gameplay. In the arcade it was pretty detailed and showed enemy positions on top of the bomb locations. That it’s been so simplified just seems….wrong.
Its butt ugly but this port of Crack Down still excels in the gameplay department where it counts. There really aren’t many games like it and there probably won’t be again. Its cheap as hell at this point and more than worth the time.