Review by King Broccoli

"Step into the shoes of the red dirt, and destroy the brown infidels!"

Hi. It's King Broccoli here, and as a king I have all kinds of women at my disposal. To me they're little more than temporary playthings (I'd never dream of using one more than once, how revolting), or decorative pieces that talk and spend far too much. This lifestyle of mine offers me a little more copulation than the average man, and that might just explain why I find games like Rival Turf so utterly confusing.

Why should I care if my girlfriend has been captured by a nasty guy named Al? It would be much easier finding myself a new permed floosy than beating up a few hundred nasty dudes. Taking down an international gang is an awful lot of effort just to rescue some ugly dame, it's a lot of effort for the sake of ANY dame. Unfortunately the hero of Rival Turf - Jack Flak - doesn't share my point of view, he seems to have some kind of weird connection with this unfortunate looking woman, and thus a new side-scroller is born!

Harbouring the same beat-'em-up style most famously used in the Double Dragon series, Rival Turf puts the player in the tightly-laced boots of police officer Flak, and his best buddy Oozie Nelson (obviously the owner of two VERY thoughtful parents). What this game is going to ask you to do, if you bother to turn on your console, is walk sideways across six stages and use a limited array of moves to punish a horde of enemies. Games of this ilk tend to be advocates of enemies with vitality similar to that of a cockroach. This enables the player to quickly dispose of their foes and subsequently recieve a fluent path through the game. The challenge generally stems through weight of numbers, with gaggles of these usueless foes trying to overwhelm your meagre defences. Rival Turf's creators have obviously taken a look at these tactics and had a big hearty laugh at their femininity. Well sorry fellas, but the last laugh is on you!

Rival Turf instead has adopted a ridiculous "what are you doing getting hit in the first place" approach to its action. Now not only will the enemies be ganging up on you, but they'll be wielding numerous bars of health and an array of punishing moves! Consistently pitting you against enemies with better speed, strength and reach than the likes of Flak and Nelson may make a more realistic "KILL 1000 PEOPLE FOR NO REASON" game, but not a fun one.

There are a veritable swarm of such nemeses just waiting to unleash their zombie-like fury upon you, and they've been given 6 stages to do it in. You start at the local Police Station, with little more than your fists and a hunch as to which direction you need to go (invariably it's always to the right). This two-dimensional adventure soon heats up though, as exotic locales such as a bus, a stadium and a warehouse are visited. That was sarcasm. Slightly more interesting come the targets of your pent-up rage! There are tall guys, fat guys, skinny guys...actually there's only 8 or 10 different guys and you're going to be sick of the sight of each of them by the end of your journey. Around half that amount are original creations, the other half are merely carbon copies with a contrasting colour scheme. Joy. Despite their lackluster looks these guys are going to come at you with a ferocious amount of tenacity. Wielding powerful kicks, wild combos and some nasty explosives, each one of these enemies is going to prove a potential killer.

Beware. You're going to be besieged! And the attacks are going to be coming at you from different heights, from different angles, at a range of speeds....it's going to be hellish for you. If you get in the thick of things and start throwing punches everywhere, as the game intends you to, you are going to die. And despite the five original lives and five extra continues at your disposal you are going to receive a great deal of GAME OVERs due simply to the cheapness of the countless brutal assaults.

Being a strong supporter of fairness and justice, a crusader such as myself would generally baulk at the idea of ANY human competitor using cheap tactics. However in the case of Rival Turf I am of the opinion that its mechanics provides little alternative to a penny-pinching plan of attack. Not that pinching any of the enemies is going to do anything to them, your only choice is really to rain down punishment from loftier heights. Sad to say, any side-scroller that sends you racing for its jump button simply as a survival option is just not worth anyone's time. When it comes to action, Rival Turf provides it in stilted, monotonous, frustrating clumps.

The major problem with this game seems to be that it's less fun than a fizzy enema. At no time does the overall goal come into your mind, it's more a case of constantly asking yourself "Why am I beating all of these skinny guys up; is it really necessary?". Perhaps the prospect of an occasional boss fight, or a few choice weapons lying around might lift your spirits, that is until you realise these hasty inclusions do little more than trivialise the game further. The sole redeeming feature of this title is its "Angry Mode" where a battered Jack Flak gains temporary invulnerability and gets the chance to give some of his namesake back to his attackers. This solo jaunt through unwelcoming territory is unfulfilling and terribly frustrating, a much poorer cousin to the Double Dragons of the world.

Yes, there is a two-player mode. You're given the unusual choice of a cooperative match or a versus match, neither proving to be overly compelling. The only real excitement from these extra modes stems from seeing who can piss off their pal the most with the "friendly damage" option switched on. If you do decide to take on this game perhaps it's best to leave your friends out of it, you'll only be boring two people instead of one!

Graphically Rival Turf is very bland, using dull colours and unimaginative backgrounds for much of your travels through the game. Grey is a favourite, with plenty of brown thrown in for good measure and occasional diversions by a murky green. Once I thought I saw yellow - a bright, interesting colour - for a second, but it turned out to be a banana. The sound doesn't fare much better. Up-tempo tracks with maximum shrillness and repetitiveness rear their heads, the term "listening pleasure" was obviously holidaying overseas when they were composed. And there are sound effects. All of the characters grunt, but somehow they all manage to sound like one another (except Oozie Nelson, he's a REAL man dammit!). These effects do little more than typify the sparse nature of all facets of this game. Avert your eyes and ears children!

Don't buy this game. I don't know why I did, but I'm sorry it ever happened. Hopefully the rest of you can all learn from my grievous error! Rival Turf is nothing more than an irritating version of the better side-scrollers on the market. There's an awful lot of them out there, and this one is no doubt vying for the dubious distinction of being the worst. There is just too little fluidity and too much repetition for any living organism to come out of this game feeling more entertained than they did when they went in. It's best leaving that girl in the clutches of evil, it's best leaving the gang in charge of the world. Don't we have the FBI for things like that!?


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 02/28/03, Updated 07/17/04


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