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Gangster (Commodore 64)

The reviews on this site are the text versions of the videos on my YouTube channel. The text based reviews use (if at all) very little pictures. Please follow the link to the corresponding video in order to see in game graphics.

Gangster was made in 1989 by Animated Pixels for the Commodore 64 and the Commodore 128. It was published by Mindscape Int packed as part of the Light Fantastic bundle. The player is a downtown cop who is assigned to prevent an escape from the local prison.

The game consists of 3 stages which reoccur in 5 levels of difficulty. The first stage is said prison escape scene. In the second stage the player shoots cars in which gangers are fleeing while avoiding other vehicles. The game calls them police cars, while the manual calls them ambulance. The third stage is a hostage situation, in which the gangsters have to be shot quickly as they shoot the player otherwise. Getting shot will increase the escape counter. In every stage a trial ends if the player is running out of ammunition, the escape counter exceeds a threshold, or non-enemies are shot. The player has two continues. After those the game starts over.

The music is adequate. The graphics show a fair amount of animation for an early 8 bit microcomputer game. Sadly the game does not play very well. In particular the hit boxes are badly made. In the car stage gangster cars may take a hit without dying whereas non gangster cars may get hit by shots which are rather far away. The third stage seems to be the most broken one. Often shooting a gangster is counted as shooting a hostage, which ends the game. I had the nasty suspicion that Animated Pixels was told to include this mechanic as the game would have been too easy otherwise or to hide a glitch.

Doing recordings for the video version of the review there is no doubt that on many instances false friendly fire is detected. To investigate this further I decided to emulate the game to access the a quick save functionality. I have found out that on some instances the whole screen will be filled by gangsters which mustn't be shot, even though they are shooting the player and thus propelling the escape counter. In reality one would beat the game with a ton of trials in which random brakes would be necessary in which a whole set of villains is spared. This is in fact possible. I did it. Beating the game uncovers why the annoying mechanic was implemented: The game glitches out and goes to the title screen which remains black. If the player shoots, as one would do normally, a glitched version of the game starts. Beating all 5 levels of the glitch version will finally cause the game to crash.

Things like this annoy me. I wouldn't mind having a game which glitches at the end as unsatisfying endings aren't seldom and don't make a good game bad. But working in reality I can imagine a situation in which artists and programmers are forced by the management to pull off such stunts against their will. Therefore I am not angry towards Charlie, who programmed this, but once more reminded of Howard Scott Warshaw the creator of Yars' Revenge. For all those reasons I strongly dislike this game.

The cover of the game is gorgeous. It is well drawn and makes great use of color, light and shadow.