by Chris Barylick
August 11th, 2006
First off, I'll admit my time growing up in various arcades probably didn't help anything. No employer ever sought a person who could make it through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on $2.00 or less, much less desperately needed a person who knew every in and out of Paper Boy. And perhaps this was time that could be considered genuinely wasted.
But if some of these games weren't fun, nothing was.
Where Dragon's Lair and Space Ace amused and drove its player base out of its mind (despite including laser discs for full animation - something amazingly cool for its time), the top-down shooters took over. Titles like Robotron and Smash TV proved how fun a good shooter with strategic elements could be and thus became staples that actually spawned and defined a new genre.
RIP: Strike Back, a new shareware shooter title from White Elephant, brings all this and more to the Mac platform. A top-down shooter, RIP: Strike Back allows the player to choose one of three characters and then move into either a story mode or straight-on game mode wherein they have to fight off hordes of approaching enemies for as long as possible. With only one life to play with, survival becomes key.
Moving beyond a generic top-down shooter, RIP: First Strike includes several character-building elements. For each enemy slain, the player is awarded a small number of experience points that help build toward the next level. Once this level has been reached, the player can pause the game to move into a character tree, purchasing new upgrades, weapons and techniques to fight with. Larger enemies, mini-bosses and bosses will award additional points towards this end.
Helicopters and other vehicles can be commandeered to help rain destruction in RIP: Strike Back.
From a strategic perspective, White Elephant has done some interesting things. Destructible terrain allows for cover to be used for a given amount of time before being worn away. Dozens of power-ups such as rocket launchers, plasma rifles, shotguns, energy shields, repulsors (items which plow all enemies away from you), time slowdowns (units which create a Matrix/"Bullet Time" effect that slow opposing units and turrets make all the difference in gameplay.
Where graphics, sound and overall cool bits are concerned, White Elephant has done its homework. An almost cartoonish graphics style pulls the player into the feel of the game, successfully indicating that they should just relax and enjoy what they're taking part in. Alternate firing modes allow for players to use a weapon in multiple ways (for example, an Uzi can be used to snipe from the hip as well as clear oncoming groups in automatic mode while a plasma rifle can fire a single shot or a steady wave). Items such as turrets can help clear out even larger mobs and there's never a shortage of power ups to play with.
Next on the list of enemies to defeat: the mother of all bosses.
If any doubts remain as to whether the game is worthwhile, take the time to grab the dragon power up while facing down an extremely large mob. Within seconds, a screen-wide dragon will fly overhead, bombarding everything on the screen in an artillery-like fashion.
It's kind of hard to go wrong with that.
Unfortunately, there are some bugs to sort out. System stability isn't what it could be (and makes one glad these aren't the OS 9 days where a single application's crash could bring a system to its knees and require a reboot) and the title has yet to go Universal Binary. Crashes were consistent during test play and it can only be hoped that this is rectified in future versions. Still, White Elephant still has something incredibly fun here that at least deserves a look and a test play.
RIP: Strike Back is available for a $19.95 registration fee and is a 20.6 megabyte download available through MacUpdate.com. The game expands to 25.5 megabytes when decompressed and requires Mac OS X to run.
Finally, I'm headed home to Rhode Island to visit my family this week, the current filial debate focusing on what name to bestow on a new puppy being acquired later this month (see the absurd levels of cuteness therein). So far it's been decided that a yellow lab is the way to go and I put the question to you, the readership of a weekly shareware/freeware video game column, as to what its name should be. Clarus has been suggested, but "Grover" seems to be the current favorite to date.
That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,.
Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.
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