Developer: Ocean Software
Publisher: Ocean Software
Format: Commodore 64
The future will surely be an awesome place in which we’ll be able to implant memories, we’ll all be getting our asses to Mars and there’ll be many awesome Mutants that include the likes of a man growing out of another man and a three breasted woman… Or at least that’s the future according to Total Recall or Paul Verhoven’s version of the Philip K. Dick novel and the only version I’m familiar with. As one of the largest releases of the year is coming out in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I was hoping to get a play through of Deus Ex done for review but there’s just too much to talk about and not enough time. Instead we’ve a slightly similarly themed title to play. Yay!
I don’t recall 2012…
If you haven’t watched the absolute classic that is Total Recall – and NOT the 2012 version, you heathen – then go fix that immediately and follow it up with in-depth discussions of the human conscious and the ethics of implanting memories. After you’ve done all that you can take all the fantastic points you’ve debated and then fuck them out the window as the Total Recall game is a 2D side scrolling platforming action game that doesn’t give any shits about the story of the movie except as a mechanism to give the next area a new look and feel.
Unlike other Ocean Software games (the old kings of licenced titles) of the time there’s a noticeable disconnect between the movie and the game which is unusual when you consider that the Terminator 2 and Robocop games, although released later, are very much on point with the movie progression at the very least. Some of Total Recall’s levels look like a trip through the functioning parts of a spaceship despite not being set on one nor having the movie ever take part on one. The first level as an example is like a brown brick warehouse which is never explored in the movie that the title is apparently tied to. It’s like the developers watched a different, lesser movie, than I did.
Total Recall’s claim to fame: bicep menus and arrows on levels
Beyond the graphical features of each stage, there definitely seems to be some visual prowess elsewhere. The characters look and feel right, slightly heavy and clunky for a platformer but kind of works, except when you’ve to do anything of note like jumping, and feels like it should mostly. The bicep laden HUD is excellent aesthetically, very elegant and serves as an obvious reference point of the care the team actually put in before they just gave up and started mashing levels together with gusto and lackluster intent. Also your health is monitored by the size of that bicep!!!
The level design itself is quite neat with most stages being limited in size yet forcing you to zig-zag through them, challenging you at most junctions but being fair enough to literally sign post the direction you should be moving in, something that a lot of older platformers love to take for granted. We’re not all seeing gods of gaming dearest developers of old. How was I supposed to know there was a giant spike pit there?
Not so fair enemies
Remember when I established that the level design was pretty solid for its time? The gameplay doesn’t support such a claim and that clunky jumping system is just the beginning of the cracks. It’s filled with awkward animations that involve you jumping partially through platforms, jumping fixed distances and usually completely destroys the established fairness of the level by adding bullshit enemies at perfect points to shoot you in the face before you even have a second to shout Quaid in your best voice impression of Kuato. The biggest ‘fuck you’ of all that the game throws your way is that you are timed during the whole process. Time is out? You are dead.
After your lizard brain has completely memorized the location of every bad guy waiting to fill you full of lead, you may just finish the first level of all 3 levels. The second of those 3 levels has you driving around with a view point similar to the Miami Vice game – or Grand Theft Auto for the 99% of you who haven’t played the former game. You know what’s great about the driving section? Absolutely, sweet fuck all! It’s horrendous and as a gigantic bonus, this piece of shit is also timed. The Total Recall game is just short of physically spitting on you as it proudly boasts its game over screen.
Life on mars
My time with Douglas Quaid was frustrating and short, not even by choice. You could potentially ace the game in 10 minutes but its so bloody hard you’ll spend a few hours memorizing 30 seconds of meaningful and less-than-fulfilling gameplay. The best thing I can say about Totall Recall is that it ends. When/if you get there, the four splash screens you are treated with as a game over screen are almost worth it…. but almost never got to live out their dream of being a secret agent on mars and instead was stuck at home playing this shit.
My retro review score: