RCI's conversion of the atmospheric platform classic from Crack Dot Com. Reviewed by Richard Goodwin and Alasdair Bailey.
Like a lot of people, I first heard of Abuse when the freeware version made its debut on the Internet some six months ago; this is the all-singing, all dancing commercial offspring of that same code, so anyone who played the "original" will be pleased to know that it's much the same only more so - the full set of levels are included rather than just a couple of hour's worth of shareware levels plus a level editor, all the bugs have been ironed out, the front end has been beefed up and the need for dodgy X-File archives removed.
If you haven't played Abuse before then you might not think that in this day and age a 2D platform game sounds much fun, but this is about as far away from the days of Chuck Rock or James Pond as it's possible to get; the game is dark (so dark you get a nice gamma correction facility instead of having to fiddle with your monitor's brightness controls), with graphics in the vein of the Aliens films, fast paced and with enough firepower and big explosions to keep the Doom crowd happy.
The real difference with this game though is the control mechanism; as well as the cursor keys to run, jump, climb etc. you use the mouse to move a crosshair around the screen, aiming your cyborg's gun in any direction. This takes a bit of getting used to, but then you'll probably spend the first quarter hour with a big goofy grin on your face just moving the mouse around and watching the cool way in which you can run in one direction and fire in another. This comes in very handy when you're faced with a large pack of dog-like aliens with laser weapons - you can just run like hell, firing over your shoulder.
Not that the game is all running and shooting though, you get the old staples of the platform genre in spades - lifts, switches, secret passages, teleports, powerups and end of level monsters. These may sound a little tired and clichéd, but it's all handled with enough style and intelligence to keep you from feeling too much déjà vu, and when you're being chased by a huge pack of aliens it's quite refreshing to find areas where you can flick a switch and see a bank of laser cannon activate and wipe out your pursuers for you instead of having to wade through some impossible shootout, or to shoot the floor out and watch them fry in the resulting explosion. If you do die then there's a very nice save facility that allows you to save up to five positions (with handy datestamp and screenshot so you know which is which) at special terminals liberally scattered throughout the game so you don't have to start back at the beginning of the level all the time.
It may seem a little strange that you need a StrongARM RiscPC to play a platform game, but the game does seem to slow down a bit on an ARM 7 machine when there's plenty going on even in the standard 320x200 screenmode; and even the StrongARM machine will give the same result if you start playing with the larger screen modes. All in all I'm not too sure about the validity of having these larger modes for anything other than the level editor; when you think that the original game was designed to be played at a certain resolution and so the levels were designed with this in mind, it ruins some of the surprise when you can see several screens in front (and behind, and above...) - in fact playing in the largest mode (1024x768) is like playing not in a game as such but in a map screen, with your character a tiny midget in the centre of a huge layout. I suppose it's good that you get the option to use these or not, but personally I'll be sticking to the regular style and play it as it's meant to be played - fancy widgets are not a great selling point for me, although having said that the added ability to exit the game into the desktop and then re-enter the game where you left off is very nice.
All in all a good, fun game - without doubt the best platform game I've played in a long while. It's very atmospheric, with lighting effects, big guns, cool sound effects, big guns, powerups, big guns, funky teleports and big guns. Think a darker version of Flashback with, er, big guns and you're probably about there - a worthy addition to the collection.
Well, there's not much more I can add other than to say that this game certianly isn't your average platformer, the atmosphere it creates is almost Doom like... the screaches heard when a pack of the killer dogs with lasers are approaching scares you to death when you're happily ploding along with only a laser on the 19th level!
Abuse is aimed at the higher-end RiscPCs with StrongARMs fitted but it will run almost equally well on A7000s or ARM6/7 RiscPCs such as mine. The game is perfectly playable on an ARM7 but things do tend to get a little slow when the action builds up and there's explosions all around but don't let that put you off, this game is certainly still worth the £25 you'll pay for it!
To sum up
|The good...||...the bad|