A few years before Mark Turmell went on to co-create such classics as “NBA Jam” and “Mortal Kombat,” the then little-known game developer teamed up with “Robotron 2084” and “Defender” creator Eugene Jarvis and made what would be and still is one of the most difficult arcade shooters of all time. The game was “Smash TV” and, now that it’s on the X-Box 360 Live Arcade with various enhancements like achievements and online leaderboards, it’s better than ever.
While it is still essentially the same game as it was almost 20 years ago, with the addition of achievements, leaderboards and online co-op play, “Smash TV”’s classic arcade gameplay is available at home for the first time. While the game was ported to every system available at the time, the technology forced developers to alter the game so it would be playable on the systems it was being ported to. For instance, anyone who had the version of the game on the NES had to use the directional pad on the second controller in order to shoot. Other versions of the game suffered much worse of a fate, as they weren’t very similar to the arcade original at all.
Now the game has been left intact, in all its arcade glory and can be purchased by itself, rather than on the mediocre Midway Arcade Treasures compilation that was released on the PlayStation 2 a few years ago, right now be the best time to pick it up. And at only 400 Microsoft points, it’s worth every single penny and will provide hours of classic, bloody shooting action.
For those who have never experienced the anarchy that is “Smash TV,” it is the top-down shooter that inspired later games such as “Loaded,” “Total Carnage” and even “Geometry Wars,” and takes place on a reality-TV show were contestants kill various waves of enemies for prizes. Sort of like a closed door “Contra,” the game swarms the player with tons of on-screen enemies to kill and forces you to kill every enemy before you can advance to the next room.
Think the movie “Running Man,” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but only fun.
This description, however, barely does the game any justice, as the power-ups picked up throughout the game range from grenade launchers and rocket launchers to smart bombs and provide the gamer with a means to destroy what sometimes seems like endless hordes of enemies. While the standard enemies can prove to be difficult, the end boss battles are equally as tough and could cost you dozens of lives if you don’t play smart. This kind of challenge was praised in its day and is even more refreshing in today’s gaming world.
Simply put, games like this aren’t made anymore. Any serious shooter fan or retro-gamer that hasn’t played “Smash TV” in the arcade or on the 360 Live Arcade is performing an unforgivable injustice to themselves.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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