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On planet Draconia lies an assortment of enemies for you to blast away in your space ship. Collect power-ups to make this task more effective and particularly useful for the end-of-level bosses.
A Time To Re-menace
A different type of review comes to you today as it's the one where I have absolutely no recall of this 1989 game whatsoever, no siree. Twenty-seven years later I finally get to give it a run through! Of course, being part of the old CPC brigade, I wouldn't have had much opportunity to lay my hands on this C64-only game (in terms of the systems under review across this site). It really was the case that I was the "Whizzer" to the Commodore crowd's "Chips".
With its roots firmly planted into the R-Type archetype, 'Menace' treads very familiar ground indeed but with less of the grandeur. You take flight at the controls of a space ship that's moving ever towards an easterly direction; a vessel with an onboard gun that has an even slower reload time than the computer the game was placed into. Don't worry, that's just a general slight on all 8-bit tape-based computer systems! Thankfully, you can upgrade your ship's cannons by collecting containers that appear after you wipe out a complete wave of enemies. Collecting the container provides you with a bonus score of 1000 points (cue Brucie mugging the camera enticing the audience to gasp, "ooooooohhhh")! Shooting the container before passing over it allows you to toggle through the various add-ons you can get for your ship, which includes increasing your maximum speed and arming the ship with lasers, side guns and a force field amongst other things. You can also gain an add-on to replenish your shields, which get reduced every time you take a hit.
Your mission is based on a planet called "Draconia" (the original title for the game until they found out it was already taken), of which you blast your way through six levels of peculiar-looking species who also probably want to get back to their triangular shaped wives by 6pm for tea. But no one thinks of the poor aliens' families and what it'll do to their life insurance; we're just here to trounce everything that stands in our way.
From the off, you'll recognise all of the similarities to bygone games that did this type of thing, and better. Menace's graphics are a step up from the soulless "Chronos", but still pale in comparison to games such as Armalyte. For reasons known only to the developers, many of the foreground graphics in Menace are bordered in thick black, which screams out, "amateurs"! Each level is also dealt in a certain shade of monochrome to excite perhaps only the loneliest of colour chart collectors. The only taxing aspect of the graphics is a nice "Ming the Merciless" type effigy that attacks, er..., mercilessly, and some rotating cubes that cause a little slow-down on the gameplay.
But let me not leave you with the idea that I dislike this game. I actually really do like it. It's not a classic, or a game that I'd come back to time and time again, and it's wholly derivative. But there's a happy-go-lucky, charmful quality about it. And a lot of that has to do with the music. You see, as far as I can tell, this game's got some of the most joyful music I've ever heard come from an 8-bit computer's speakers (or even a Windows 10 computer running a Commodore emulator's speakers). It sometimes sounds a little sluggish at points, but it still has a brilliantly motivating quality to it that makes you want to charge on.
Each level tends to repeat the same waves of enemies twice, and there's some strangely long breaks of absolutely nothing happening in-between each enemy wave. Right at the end of the level is the obligatory 'boss'; a generally alarming spectacle of a creature who'll use some sly and deft moves to run rings around you and give you the knuckle-sandwich of the century. Yeah... well... no he actually just sits there completely still shooting out some naff shots as you inflict some easy damage on the beast.
The aliens for each level are an odd little collection; very much of their time, but also quaint with some nice touches here and there. The 'rookie' difficulty level is not challenging, so you're advised to get straight onto the 'expert' setting for something a little bit more rock 'n' roll.
Side-scrolling shooters were still very much at their peak in 1989, which is quite remarkable when you think about the arcade hit Defender steamrolling its contemporaries way back in the beginning of the same decade. Menace might not be right there at the top of the list for me, but its heart is warm and cheery, and we need that kind of thing in the world! It's nice to see a game bring back that 80s feel-good vibe once more.
Very ordinary graphics. Some alien sprites have nicely animated touches in later levels.
The music is joyous and adds a wonderful tone to the game.
Some repetitiveness in the gameplay with recurring aliens. Long bouts of nothing happening at all.
'Menace' is a game that could have been so promising with a little bit more polish in the graphics department, and perhaps a few kick-ass explosions here or there! Even with its likeable character, it pales by comparison behind the many other imitations of the R-Type formula.