David Yun David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-02-08 22:52:38

Abuse - Rank B

Developer: Crack dot Com (ex-id Software guys who made Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Quake)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Date: 2/29/96

Abuse is a generic looking Contra clone. Nothing about the art direction or level design is particularly noteworthy. Side-scrolling action platformers like these are a dime a dozen. There's some cockamamie sci-fi story about medical experiments causing a prison riot, and the protagonist looks vaguely like the Predator who kills monsters that look vaguely like Aliens. The game takes place in dingy faux-futuristic metal corridors, filled with blast doors, elevator tubes and gun turrets. Abuse consists of straightforward running and gunning with some light environmental interaction.

The reason I'm covering Abuse here is its brilliant control scheme. You move with the arrow buttons and shoot with the mouse. "Duh!" you might say. Douglas Adams wrote that Isaac Newton's greatest insight wasn't figuring out universal gravitation or calculus, but rather the catflap. It's a door within a door, you see. It might seem obvious, and that any idiot since the domestication of the housecat could've invented it, but it literally took a genius to think it up. "It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious."

Until Abuse, you moved with a d-pad or stick and fired with a button. This meant that you were forced to move in the direction you wanted to shoot. Many side-scrollers required you to jump repeatedly in the air to shoot downward, and dodging enemy fire often meant relinquishing the offensive initiative. In Abuse, you have free range of both movement and fire. You can backpedal away from an onslaught of enemies, while shooting them up. You can jump and fire in any direction you need.

This control scheme is also tailor made for dual stick console games. Imagine a new Contra or Metal Slug game using this design - it would allow for decidedly more frantic action sequences. My hope is that some indie developer will take note, and release a "dual stick side-scrolling action platformer Contra clone" over Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network. Would anyone be interested in investing a significant sum to help me launch Direman Games?

You can snag a copy of Abuse here.

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