Review by marshmallow
"Guns, time-travel, and drooling alien insectoids bent on world domination. What a lovely combination..."
Body Harvest is a game that I honestly think should have been a million seller. But sadly, due to the fact that the gaming industry today revolves around how much hype a game can generate via graphics and the amount of money going into advertising and name brand appeal -- not the quality of its actual gameplay -- this has been a sleeper game that little have heard of, let alone played. A pity, too, as I haven't found a single soul who dislikes this game...not at all.
Body Harvest, like most of DMA's creations, is a nightmare for those who like to fit video-games into categories, or genres as most people call them. Sure, it's easy enough to call it Action and leave it at that, but this game offers so much more...let's try Action/RPG/Shoot Em Up/Adventure/Puzzler...that should do.
Thousands of years ago an advanced civilization, consisting of little more than drooling insectoids, planted mankind on a small blue planet in a small solar system, with intentions of coming back for dinner.
The entire alien race lives on a spaceship fitted to look like a titanic comet, and everytime it comes near the Earth, a part of the planet is totally isolated from the rest of the world by these odd blue walls that are impenetrable from anything known to man. The aliens beam in and harvest each region until not a single human is left alive. Then the comet leaves and comes back in 25 years.
The year is 2016, and the Earth is left in ruins, a small band of scientists on board a space station hatch a last-ditch attempt to save the human race. They have a group of genetically engineered soldiers who will go back in time and change the past, therefore altering the future. However, (as shown in the rather nice opening sequence) the bugs invade the station and the soldiers killed, except for one named Adam Drake, who boards the ALPHA 1, the time traveling ship, and escapes as the station is destroyed. It is up to him and him alone to save the world. His success depends on your skill...
Considering the game took two years to make, and the original design plans go back to 1995, the graphics turned out rather nicely. Don't be deceived by the first level, with huge amounts of fogging and repetitive textures...the levels later in the game give Zelda V a run for its money. But, you don't have to take my word for it...
Excluding the first level, graphics are clean and crisp, and the game only slows down enough to affect gameplay once in the entire game, in the Siberia level, where there are roughly 50 insects on screen AT ONCE. That was kinda scary, though.
But of course, for all graphic tarts, the most important things in a game of this type are: blood, explosions, and the bugs. Well, the blood is nice and gushy, and there's plenty of it when a bug explodes. Speaking of which, there are many explosions, and some of the bug's deaths seem to be a bit dramatic (which turns out to be a plus, especially when fighting a boss, with all the electricity and the circle of flames...you'll have to see that one for yourself). You'll love it when a Harvester runs around with a gaping hole where his head once was, leaving a pool of blood. And of course, the insects themselves are very detailed, with very creative designs late in the game.
The only thing that really turns me off are the people you have to save...nasty little sprites...
In all honesty, the music rocks. This is a game that takes full advantage of the cartridge format, having a ton of real-time changing music.
For example, while walking through the sprawling overworld you will hear one of the many overworld themes (there are about 10 or so, and they are randomly switched to after coming out of a house or from coming near an enemy). Get near a group of buggies, though, then it will quickly shift into an upbeat, military-style that urges you to pump them full of lead.
Good quality, great composition...nothing much more to say here!
GAMEPLAY & FUN: 9/10
Brief Level Descriptions:
Greece, 1916 - With its rolling hills and scenic oceans, it doesn't look like there's any alien invasion going on...most boring level, not to mention ugliest.
Java, 1941 - Go through tropical jungles and fresh waters, solving the mystery of the odd weather.
America, 1966 - It's groovy, man, as the aliens are in full force, the first very difficult level! Sneak into an Area 51 rip-off and talk to real aliens.
Siberia, 1991 - Why are there Zombies? More importantly, why do they keep saying "moo"? Even more strange, why would aliens attack this deserted wasteland?
Alien Comet, 2016 - The strangest level, not to mention almost insanely impossible...unless you use the special weapons. Find out the mysteries behind the Man in Black.
Remember how I said this was almost impossible to put into a category? Let me explain how it fits each of the genres I listed at the start of this review.
Note: If any of this sounds like fun, its because IT IS. All of this is executed flawlessly.
Each level is vast, taking up about 10 virtual-square miles. In all honesty, if you could (you can't) walk across each level, it would take about 20-30 MINUTES. Don't think I'm exaggerating, it would take that long. Thankfully, though, there are dozens upon dozens of vehicles in each level, and they each fit the time-period. In Greece you fly bi-planes and simple cars with a low gas tank, while in America you can break into a military base and fly helicopters fitted with rocket launchers. Some vehicles are lying around, others require doing something to find, while others require puzzles or performing something for someone.
If you don't believe there's not a ton of things to explore in each level, you are fooling only yourself.
Fly through canyons in a gyrocopter, or smash through walls in a schoolbus. Heck, why not make a death-defying leap over a huge gap? This, and more, is included in Body Harvest. A very small list of vehicles: fire-truck, tank, humvee, edsil, helicopter, dumptruck, fighterplane, semi-truck, bomber, flying saucer, jeep, ice-cream truck, APC, six-wheeler, locomotive, nuclear train, combine harvester, scud missile launcher...God, this could keep going until my fingers bleed, but that's just a small list.
Shoot Em Up:
Since the alien creatures do not have a developed vocabulary and would rather eat people than talk about a peace agreement, you'll need to kill them using whatever methods you can find in the environment they have chosen. Shotgun, machine gun, hunting rifle, rocket launcher...anything that can kill can be used. Even if you're running low on ammo you can simply run over the smaller ones! The battles with the aliens themselves will yield gobs of fun, especially in the later levels as you must develop a good strategy, because they get almost too powerful for a simple "boom-boom-drop-dead" way of thinking...
What really adds to the fights are the way you aim. By pressing the nice R button, you go into an over-the-shoulder view and get the control of a gun-sight, which flashes red when something is in range, and green when there's nothing to shoot. Plus, by pressing C left and right, you can roll in those directions to avoid gunfire, and if something is behind you, press C down to do a nice forward roll and find your gun in their face. Very, very nice controls.
After saving a local village from the six-legged monstrosities, go inside the houses and listen to the people inside. Admittingly, this adds little to the plot, but you are almost required to talk to everyone to get clues to advance within the levels. You can also take books off a bookshelf and read whatever's inside, and believe me, if you're illiterate than you won't enjoy this game to its fullest extent. Then again, if you're illiterate, how are you reading this?!
A big part of the plot, though, is the mystery surrounding the Man in Black, who appears in the first level and plagues you from then on, blowing up bridges and stealing nuclear weapons and trains, he's quite a busy little bugger. Trust me, you won't know the truth about this fiend until the very end...I thought this guy added a lot to the game, in my opinion.
This is a HUGE chunk of the gameplay, which is basically getting from point A to point B, or saving someone.
One of the best examples is found in America, where you must save several children. Their school is being attacked, and you must take them to the local church. Hmmm...there's a schoolbus nearby, but the children seem to run away when you get near them with it. Ah, but behind the school is an ice-cream truck called "Mr. Lolly." With its hilarious tune, you can lure the kiddies away from danger...if that's not original, I don't know what is!
I don't consider that spoiling anything, as there is a countless amount of puzzles.
All in all, Body Harvester delivers on every possible level concerning the gameplay. The only thing that gets under my skin is the way they handled the water, as it kills you almost instantly. Oh well...you won't be swimming that much, so no worry. Another thing that might turn people off is the way they handled the saves. You can only save after killing a Processor (big, bad leader bug), and there are only a handful of Processors per level, so if you die and have played for hours without saving, tough cookies! Luckily, unlike Turok II (another review in itself), it won't take hours to get back to where you died, because most of the time is spent figuring out what to do. So if it takes you hours to find out how to go over a mountain, for example, then it will only take you a few minutes to do it again after getting killed.
REPLAY VALUE: 8/10
Each level has three Alien Artifacts, if you find these (nearly impossible) then you can fight the Boss whenever you want by going to the Replay Level screen. The bosses are very fun to fight, if only for their overly dramatic death (poking fun at graphic tarts). There are also three Weapon Crystals in each level, when they are all found you can assemble a weapon of massive destruction. Those are some very good incentives to get you playing again...
This review has come from a man who has played the entire game from start to finish. I'm not still stuck on the first level, unlike some of the other pathetic players who are struggling with Greece and have the nerve to write a review for a game they have only played for a few hours. When I finished the game, it said I took 21 hours to beat. I knew right there and then that it only saved the amount of time from my saves, because if it counted the amount of playing that ended up in death, it would be up in the hundreds of hours, there's no doubt in my mind about that.
A must buy for people who enjoy a game because of its gameplay.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/07/99, Updated 12/07/99
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