Dick Tracy NES review – Classic-Games.net
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Developer: Realtime Associates Publisher: Bandai Release: Genre: Action
Bandai, Bandai, Bandai. If I had to give a publisher a grade they would be a six for good ideas, bad execution. Time and time again I go into their NES library with an open mind and come away disappointed. Not just because the games are bad but because with a little more work they could have been good. Or at least somewhat decent; there is no saving trash like Chubby Cherub. Dick Tracy is a game I somewhat like but I will be damned if I recommend it. It is a failure but at least an interesting one.
The game only loosely follows the 1990 film. As Dick Tracy the ultimate goal is arrest Big Boy. But you will have to work your way up through the ranks of his men for a shot at the big boss. As cool as it sounds the cameos from Dick Tracy’s colorful rogue’s gallery amount to nothing as you merely arrest them with enough evidence. If that were the game’s only flaw I could live with it. But this game has some serious problems.
The game is spread out over five cases with each centering on a different henchman. You begin each case with one clue and list of henchmen and must go from there. There are two halves to the game: the overworld map and the inside of buildings. In the overworld you are free to drive and explore the entire city. You can enter and exit the vehicle at any time although you cannot stray too far. The vehicle controls are sadly stiff. You are forced to stay in the proper lane and cannot turn on a dime. I suppose it is realistic but in practice it is frustrating. The one saving grace is there is next to no traffic but there are an army of snipers that must be dealt with. Unfortunately they are accurate to a tee and lead to cheap hits you cannot afford.
There are a surprisingly large number of buildings to enter at which point Dick Tracy becomes a side scrolling action game. You can use your fists or handgun but bullets are limited. The only way to refill ammo is to trudge back to the police station which is lame. Shooting unarmed men results in damage which is dumb. This means you have to manually switch between fists and guns frequently which breaks the pace badly. This might be the only exciting part of these segments as everything else is awful. There is heavy platforming involved and the controls and collision are not designed for that. Unfortunately this comprises a sizable portion of the game. The game desperately needed more work.
I can respect the ambition in Dick Tracy’s design. It is a proto open world game that tries to capture the feeling of being a detective. Hitting the streets to find clues to eventually nail a suspect can be rewarding when it all works. But those moments are rare. Navigation around the city can be confusing due to the layout as the streets separate and jump a letter. You need to find all five clues in each case before arresting a suspect which leads to tedious driving around the city. By the time you have completed the first case you have seen all the game has to offer as it repeats itself four more times. Even high speed car chases do little to derive any excitement.
Dick Tracy is frustratingly difficult for the wrong reasons. Aside from the stiff controls the game handicaps you left and right. If you interrogate three suspects who have nothing to do with the case it is game over. But there is no way to know this ahead of time. You have a single life with no continues which is flat out stupid. There are passwords but you restart each case from the beginning and with the guaranteed numerous cheap deaths can take a while. Using a password also means all the snipers you killed around the city respawn; good luck slaying them again. First aid packs are rare and by the time you find one you will have to use it within minutes. It kind of defeats the point of having them if you almost always need to use them immediately.
I have already gone over ammunition but the issues reach their nadir in the final case. The game already begins to place gun wielding thugs in cheap positions frequently. But in the final chapter it becomes ridiculous. Big Boys men all sport Tommy guns and with their density the game becomes near impossible. I cheated just to see the game’s ending and I question how and why anyone would put themselves through this shit show of a conclusion. I guess when you have resigned yourself to being terrible you might as well go all the way.
Dick Tracy could have been good. All the elements are there. But the designers completely fumble the execution, leaving the game a mess of ideas that do not gel. This is another in a long line of bad licenses you should avoid.