Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal DOS review

The culmination of 10 years of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally arrived at the cinemas with Avengers: Infinity War. And to celebrate such occasion, let’s take a look at the only game released for PC featuring the Avenger that started the MCU: Iron Man (and some other character from Valiant Comics)! I’m talking about Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal.

And yes, I know that Capcom made two games based on The Infinity Gauntlet comic (which inspired the Infinity War movie): Marvel Super Heroes for Arcade and Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems for the SNES/Super Nintendo. But those games were never released on the PC, so they won’t be featured here at Retro Freak Reviews (but they’re awesome BTW!).

Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal (what’s with Marvel-licensed games and long titles?!) is an action game developed by Realtime Associates and published by Acclaim. It was originally released in 1996 for DOS, Game Boy, Game Gear, Playstation and Saturn.

Due to the success of the MCU, everybody and their dog knows who Iron Man is, but unless you’re a big Valiant Comics fan, you might not know who X-O Manowar is. He’s basically an ancient viking who was abducted by aliens, got his hands on an experimental alien armor (called X-O), used it to come back to Earth, but due to time dilation, he came back to modern times. So he became a reluctant superhero while fighting aliens and other supervillains. I love you Tony, but a viking wearing an alien armor it’s just about as cool as it gets.

But before looking at the game, let’s look at the cover:

112457-iron-man-x-o-manowar-in-heavy-metal-dos-front-coverThis cover looks a bit weird in my opinion. Here we have Iron Man and X-O Manowar looking menacing in a typical superhero pose, but what makes the image weird is the background perspective. It looks like both heroes are standing on the side of a building with two other characters behind them (and apparently also behind the glass window where they’re standing on). But then I noticed that the heroes are actually flying towards the two female characters and the background is actually the reflection of said window (still a very confusing perspective).

And the back cover adds to the confusion, even though it makes more sense:

112458-iron-man-x-o-manowar-in-heavy-metal-dos-back-coverIn here, it looks like the females switched places with the heroes and are now standing in front of a window (which is reflecting the heroes this time). The perspective in this image is a lot better than in the other image, that’s for sure. The two females pictured above are Mistress Crescendo from Vaillant and Titania from Marvel. Mistress Crescendo is one of the main villains in the game, which justifies her presence here but Titania isn’t (she only appears once as a boss), although one might assume that she’s a main villain, based on this image alone.

But as always, it’s time to boot this sucker:

I found the intro very lacklustre (although rocking a hell of a theme music) but to find out the backstory, one has to read the manual, which has a rather good comic to explain all of it: Mistress Crescendo and Baron Zemo (not a traditional Iron Man villain by the way) joined forces to try and reform the Cosmic Cube (imagine a Macguffin and a Deus-Ex Machina combined into one) with the goal of using it to take over, not the world, but TWO worlds instead (Marvel and Vaillant). A pretty standard backstory for a superhero game, but it serves the game adequately.

A small disclaimer: I have only played the single-player mode. I have no idea how’s the co-op mode.

You choose between Iron Man or X-O Manowar and have to go through several levels and face down several villains from both comic universes. You go through 7 areas divided in about 3 levels for each area with most of them with a boss (always a supervillain from the comics) at the end of each level. Both heroes control more or less the same; with a melee attack (two for Iron Man and a energy sword attack for X-O), a range attack, a recharge attack that spends one weapon bar and temporary flight (by pressing jump twice). Although both characters move at the same speed, X-O has a little more trouble dodging attacks because he’s bigger (but he can block attacks).

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“I AM IRON MAN!”

Surprisingly, the melee attacks are more powerful than the range attacks, even after fully upgrading them. But at full power, you can even get a seeking attack that automatically targets the nearest enemy, which can be very useful. However, if you lose a life, you’ll also lose one upgrade. The armor bar (which is basically the life bar) doesn’t replenishes between levels, but at least, you keep any upgrades you caught previously. There’s also boost upgrades that extends the flight period, which can be used to reach high platforms or simply fly above dangerous areas (or enemies).

And although you can only move in four directions, there’s a background plane from which enemies can came from but luckily both heroes have an attack that targets specifically the background. You can even blow up background objects to get upgrades and health items.

And speaking about the levels, they’re probably the best part of the game. With great graphics, good design (although the later levels can be a bit labyrinthic), good variation of enemies and no time limits (except for one awful boss battle). And although the game’s in 2D, there’s a pseudo 3D perspective as you move along and even a zoom effect during the boss battles (although it tends to pixelate the bigger enemies when zooming in). The levels can be a bit small, but there are so many of them, that the game is quite lengthy.

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And the boss battles are in their vast majority great. With challenging and not too frustrating bosses (except for the one I mentioned before).

But unfortunately there’s also some drawbacks: the sound effects are okay and the soundtrack is actually quite good (for a game titled Heavy Metal), but the music themes are short and on a continuous loop, which can become a bit grating after awhile. But for me the worst part are the controls (which are both bad, whether you’re using a keyboard or gamepad, although I recommend the latter) and the animation, which is too slow for most of the game. It only speeds up when the screen’s empty. And for such a fast-paced action game, these two elements’ quality should be above all else.

And it’s due to these two elements that Heavy Metal is one of the hardest action games I ever played on a PC. Bad controls and slow gameplay make this game unnecessarily tough, even in the easiest setting.

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Playing with X-O Manowar

So in conclusion, I don’t consider Heavy Metal a terrible game, even with its drawbacks. Yes, the controls could be better and the animation more fluid, but the graphics and level design are good. If you’re a comics fan (especially of these  two characters), you might want to give it a shot, but there are better action games out there.

I haven’t played any other versions, but the Playstation version seems faster and more fluid in comparison with the DOS version. And apparently there’s also an entire mini-series that tells the story of the game (probably where the comic in the manual comes from), but I also haven’t read it.

So, are you excited to see Avengers: Infinity War? I know I am! And I know these two reviews weren’t very positive, but the next review is from an action title that was requested a few months ago by a watcher from my Twitch channel. And I promise it’s a much better game than these two last. Until then, keep on playing!

Dr. Doom’s Revenge review

With the new Spider-Man movie in the theaters now, I’ve decided to take a look at one of the earliest Spider-Man games ever made for the PC. And since the new movie is part of the MCU, I think is fitting that I review one of the few Spider-Man titles more integrated into the Marvel Universe that I know of (a crossover title). I’m talking about Dr. Doom’s Revenge.

The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America in Dr. Doom’s Revenge (definitely a contender for the largest game title award) is an action game developed by Paragon Software Corporation and published by Medalist International. It was originally released in 1989 for the Commodore 64, DOS and ZX Spectrum and it was re-released the following year for the Commodore Amiga, Amstrad CPC and Atari ST.

But before we take a look at the game, let’s check the cover, shall we?

196457-the-amazing-spider-man-and-captain-america-in-dr-doom-s-revenge-dos-front-cover

Cap: “Gee, take a look at this guy, will ya?”

The cover looks just like a comic book cover, with our villain looming threateningly over our heroes. Very fitting for a game that features classic superhero imagery and artwork. I suppose you couldn’t ask for more.

But it’s time to boot this webslinger:

The title screen, despite being colorful, is kind of ugly, artwork-wise. It has a nice music theme though. About the backstory, the game comes with a comic made by Marvel explaining why our heroes are facing Dr. Doom. But about the comic itself, maybe I should someone else properly review it:

(Video courtesy of Atop the Fourth Wall)

Thanks Linkara! And don’t worry, I’ll handle the game review from now on.

The game starts right after the comic ends, with Spider-Man and Captain America splitting up to cover more ground, so the game alternates between both. It starts with a comic panel featuring Captain America and then changes to a side-view in which you control the character against a robot. Then after defeating said robot, it goes back to another comic panel to continue the story and then back again to the side-view where you need to avoid some traps. And then it goes to yet another panel but now featuring Spider-Man. And that’s practically the entire game, with both heroes facing enemies and avoiding traps with comic panels serving as sort of cutscenes, telling the story as it happens.

But it’s during the action sequences that the game turns ugly. From terrible controls, to awful animation and pitiful sound effects. This is not a fun game to play!

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I didn’t know that Danny Trejo was part of the MCU!

The main view depicts all the action and characters, while the bottom screen depicts pictures of said characters along with their names and health bars. Spider-Man, however, gets a second bar reflecting the level of his web-fluid. And during the stages where you have to avoid traps, a “Super Hero Challenge” image appears at the bottom, next to our character’s health bar.

The graphics aren’t anything special, with very ugly (but colourful nonetheless) sprites during the action scenes and the artwork in the comic panels range from ugly to acceptable. At least some of the backgrounds during the action levels are somewhat nice and detailed.

There are only three music themes throughout the game: at the title screen, at the game-over screen and at the ending screen, after defeating Dr. Doom. There’s no more music during the rest of the game. And the sound effects are as basic as possible with a lot of screeching noises.

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Arch-nemesis?! The Red Skull isn’t going to like that.

But perhaps the worst part of the game are the controls and the animation. The animation is almost non-existent, with the characters moving extremely slowly. And as far as the controls go, I actually recommend the keyboard over a joystick or a gamepad. The controls are limited to an action button and directional arrows and it’s easier to use the numeric keypad over the keyboard arrows. You have to press the action combined with a direction in order to attack your enemies and the distance between your character and your enemies determines which attack you’ll use. So you have to be far from the enemies for your character to use their signature attacks (Captain America throwing his shield and Spider-Man using his webs). There aren’t any special or particularly strong attacks, but some of the latter enemies do have special attacks that can drain your health bar.

But what makes the game particularly hard, it’s the fact you only have one life and no way to recharge your health bar (and neither Spidey’s web fluid). And also there are some traps that are insta-kill and if one of the characters dies, it’s automatically game-over. Even in the easiest difficulty setting! And then it’s back to the beginning of the game.

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“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does everything a spider can”

Depending on your skill (or luck), the game isn’t very big, but a tremendous amount of patience is required to finish it. And after finishing it once, there’s virtually no reason whatsoever play it again. Despite the fact that it features several villains from both characters’ rogues gallery.

So, the only good things I can say about the game is that it has a good title theme and some of the backgrounds are well detailed, but the gameplay is just dreadful. The comic book that comes with the game is also quite good, but avoid this game, even if you’re a diehard Marvel fan.

I haven’t played the other versions, but the Amiga version seems to have better animation though. If you want to give it a shot, you can play it right here in your own browser.

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“When Captain America throws his might shield”

And if you want to kick Dr. Doom’s ass with Spider-Man, Captain America or any other superhero, there are several other games out there, each one better than this one.

So, what’s your favorite Marvel game and/or hero? Comment below and let me know. And I think I’ll go the cinema and check out Spider-Man Homecoming. Well, see you around and keep on swinging and playing.