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Developer Jaleco/Genki Options
Distributer JVC 1 Player
Game Type Shoot-em-up Memory Card
Review Date March 1998 Standard Joypad
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Setting the Scene
"It's a fine line that exists between genius and insanity."
Put yourself in the position of Seth 'Wrangler' Beckford.
His gal's been killed by what appears to be self inflicted wounds. The autopsy reveals she had contracted Pickman's Syndrome - a schizophrenia that destroys the minds competence to control the brains destructive ability. Discovered during the 4023 expedition and named after it's first victim, Richard Pickman, it spread rapidly among the crew members creating fear, panic and despair.

Meanwhile, a distress signal has been picked up from Beltlogger 9, a small mining colony in the far reaches of the Galaxy. Brahma Squadron is sent to investigate but just as Operation Kingdom begins something goes drastically wrong. When entering the South Gate of Beltlogger 9 the team comes under heavy fire from the evil Vega's forces. All ships in the squadron are destroyed - except Brahma leader, Seth.

You are all alone and there is no time to send for reinforcements as Vega must be stopped now. Your only contact with the outside world is through a crackly radio. Dare you accept the mission?

Kileak developers Genki have finally got around to translating this Japanese mech-robot shooter Brahma Force into English. Climb aboard a giant robot killing machine and attempt to destroy the evil Vega, who has taken over the mining colony Beltlogger 9.

Viewed from the first person perspective your mechanical war machine is armed with a selection of destructive weapons such as laser guns, grenades and cannons while the playing area is littered with power ups and firepower upgrades. There are 22 multi-levels to blast through with the higher platforms accessible via the use of a jump button on the control pad.

Obviously this will bring to mind other robot blasters such as Mechwarrior 2, however Brahma Force plays more like your standard shoot-em-up. In fact the gameplay falls somewhere within Duke Nukem, Dark Forces and Tunnel B1/Finalist.

The story is relayed via many lengthy sections of FMV. They are tastefully animated and essential to the plot but may be skipped by if you don't give a toss. At least they offer a chance to see the guy you are portraying. He doesn't look like your usual battle hardened veteran - more like the tall blond guy in Scooby Doo.

The opening level sees Brahma Leader clumping around a confined corridor and I immediately thought 'here we go again - a network of mining passageways - door locked - find key in maze - open door - another door locked - activate switch - door opened....'. How wrong could I be.

Within seconds you are out in the open blasting a wide range of enemy robots who attack from both land and sky. All around you are buildings which may be entered and investigated or climbed upon and searched.

Each level appears as a floating island in deep space and to contain you within the playing area it has been surrounded by a domed force field (ala G-Police). This border allows enemy craft to enter but confines you to the task in hand.

The set is predominantly silver/grey with a dark surrounding. Only the occasional splash of color is noticeable which draws you towards a point of interest. This is fine as the enemy robots are all brightly colored and easy to target against such a gloomy background. They appear in many guises, from the flying tentacle thrashing octopus-like creatures and the rapid moving mechanical guard dogs who have a habit of circling your feet making them a bitch to target, to the supreme bosses who appear in monumental proportions.

Displayed permanently on screen is a selection of useful information and equipment such as a radar scanner, weapon select, height gauges and an extremely helpful targeting system that locks onto the nearest enemy and tracks them until they are either destroyed or retreat out of range.

Generally the graphics appear to be quite smooth and it's only when you move right up close to a piece of scenery can any sign of pixilation be noticed. The enemies are bright, colorful and detailed but they do shake a little when trapped in a corner. This shouldn't cause concern as you will hardly want to hang around in this precarious position for too long.

Sounds and Effects
The music is suitable for this type of game being a mixture of screaming 70's guitar rock and your typical 'on the run' backing tracks that can usually be heard supporting a TV Sci-Fi series.

As an enemy draws near a distinct bleeping sound (think cardiac arrest) acts as a warning. This begins as a slow steady beat before rising to a frantic pulse as you come into contact with the creature which certainly gets the blood pumping through your veins.

Bullets from your rifle can be heard (and seen) pinging off the solid surrounding walls before finally finding a resting place with a dull thud. Lasers zip, missiles let rip and rockets are launched with a deafening roar. Most of the sound effects add to the atmosphere of the game although I was slightly disappointed with the explosions which hardly shook the speakers from the wall.

Brahma Force is divided into 22 timed levels of which some are mission based. You basically have to make it to the exit before the clock runs down and to do this you must collect various key modules and vital information on the way.

Before you begin a 3D plan will be shown with your starting point and the location of final gate indicated. This ingenious map system may be accessed at any point during the game and by a press of the select button you may pause the game and actually move around a full three dimensional model of the entire level in play. Unsure what is around that corner? Then check it out in map mode. Obviously enemy robots are not shown in this option but it will avoid an awful amount of backtracking or the loss of valuable time caused by inadvertently taking the long road.

CPU terminals are scattered throughout each level and logging on to these will provide a wealth of information - some essential to the plot, others vital to succeed. Many terminals activate lifts and platforms to reach higher stages, a few allow you to save your progress. You receive regular radio contact from your HQ and care must be taken to digest any knowledge that will be required at a later stage. Should you forget a vital messages that may contain an area pass code, then each broadcast may be replayed via your in-game option screen.

The BRAHMA (Bipedal Robotics & Heavy Mechanical Armor) is extremely easy to control. The directional pad is used to move around while the top two shoulder buttons are set for strafe. This is brilliant in my book because I really detest shooters that combine single strafe buttons with the directional pad. The L2, R2 buttons allow you to look up and down. The face buttons may be configured to shoot, action, raise shield and jump while select is used for weapon change. Because of this thoughtful control set up this game plays like many other quality shoot-em-ups and moving around soon becomes second nature.

Health power ups appear in an unusual form. Each enemy destroyed leaves behind a small capsule. These are collected and stored in the Command Screen. To repair your unit pause the game and select the required number of capsules that are needed to fully recharge your durability and energy shield. Capsules are available in four different strengths - 200 - 500 - 1,000 - Full recovery. Only use what you need.

Weapons may be powered up by collecting WPR's (get it) but the real meaty hardware must be unveiled by discovering the well hidden vaults of which there are 24 in total. Find them all and you will have available an amazing 6 rifles, 6 missiles, 6 lasers, 6 launchers and one almighty 10,000lb bomb.

As you blast your way past droves of robots you soon realize that Brahma Force uses a reactionary method of attack. This means whenever you stand on a specific spot, or turn your back on a set position, a reaction will trigger off another enemy attack. In effect you can never kill all of the enemies within a level, they just keep on coming. There are pros and cons to this style of gameplay. If you find a safe corner and keep turning a full circle then a regular stream of enemies will move towards you. Simply taking them out and collecting the remaining power-up is an excellent way of building up a huge stock pile of ammo. However, waving your gun in the air and running around like a headless chicken will see multiple waves of enemies constantly attack from all directions until your health finally diminishes.

The levels may not be as large as we have come to expect from similar shooters, but if you take the time to look around then there are an abundance of secret areas to be discovered. On one of the levels I accidently fell through a waterfall and found myself in a long corridor that eventually lead me to a stash of power-ups and weapons (take note United Nations palace inspectors). Other secrets may be discovered by blasting down walls or pushing obstacles around.

Value for Money
Brahma Force will appeal to those gamers who appreciate shooters in the style of Duke Nukem and Dark Forces. The game moves extremely smooth which is essential as the enemies are lighting quick. I completed all 22 levels within a week of occasional play but it does have a replay value as completing the game within one and a half hours upgrades your mech to a flying machine where you can now take your time to discover all of the secret areas.

GRAPHICS: 14/20 You will doubtlessly be informed that Brahma Force is a 'Doom clone'. Not so, more of a Doom comparison because you shoot to kill, strafe to survive and you must carry out your missions all alone. That's about it.
Better than Doom?
Dangerous ground as the Williams classic touched a part of gamers hearts (and that sensitive part of your bum) that no other shooter has come close to reach. Let's just say that certain aspects have been improved while that feeling of sheer terror (you know, when you go to pick up the blue key and all hell breaks loose) is sadly lacking.
Enjoyable game but lacks a little atmosphere.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 17/20

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