Theft for theft's sake

Hudson Hawk logo

OCEAN * £24.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

By all accounts Bruce Willis's whole career has been based around the premise of saving up enough money to be able to make the above film. When he started of in his acting career he handled his own promotion. Calling it Hudson Hawk Promotions, he had a dream of producing a film based around this Hudson chappy that he dreamed up when he was at school. I haven't seen it but by all accounts, he shouldn't have bothered.

Well maybe he should have. Because if ol' Bruce babes hadn't produced and starred in said piece of cinematography, software industry history may not have been made. What am I talking about? I'm talking about an Ocean film licence that is actually damn good, playable and worth the 25 quid.

The game takes the form of a platform style adventure, the kind of thing that features simple puzzles for opening doors and requires pixel perfect leaps and bounds to ensure than an untimely death is not met.

You control Hudson whose only real weapons are his big boxing glove and some baseballs if you hold the Fire button down long enough. These baseballs are crucial for throwing some of the switches to open doors and the like.

Divided into three levels, reflecting the three major crimes of the film - the Auction House, the Vatican and the Leonardo da Vinci museum - the game has a total of 18 big stages. Each of these must be learned off by heart before they stand any chance of being completed frequently enough for the player to stand any chance of finishing the whole game.

The Auction House sees Hudson begin the game on the roof, trying to find his way in, then inside as he dodges the security cameras, dogs, and tourist kids who will try to slow him down by dazzling him with a flash. The style of this first level, while increasing in difficulty with the later stages, encourages the player to keep moving and try and make decisions on the run, rather than slow down and get bogged down in trying to work out what to do. He who hesitates is lost. He who dares wins. He who buys me a pint is a good lad.

The Vatican has a lot in common as far as the idea behind the gameplay goes but is completely different in execution, the behaviour of the enemies, the styles of its puzzles and its graphical style.

Leonardo's museum, though, becomes almost like Lemmings at some times with switches having to be activated at one end of the room while a door opens at the other for later use. It all starts getting very complex but you have to keep moving, because - being a thief - time is of the essence.

Controls are the usual jump and run style thing, but there is a certain amount of inertia built in which means that Hudson takes a while to get going, and he has to skid to a stop or to turn around, This adds another little dimension to the gameplay as you have to be ever so careful of where Hudson is going.

It all ends up as a very good looking platform game with heaps of action, acres of game area, a pile of puzzles and mountains of gameplay. Rick Dangerous had better watch out.

Hudson Hawk logo

Ocean stürzt sich bekanntlich auf jede nur greifbare Filmlizenz - da war es bloß eine Frage der Zeit, bis Bruce Willis seine Künste als Fassadenkletterer am Amiga vorführen durfte.

Das tut er jetzt auch recht fleißig, aber leider stellt er sich dabei eher dämlich an! Warum das so ist, verraten wir später, zunächst sei mal festgehalten, daß sich Mr. Willis hier durch drei Level kämpfen muß; in jedem gilt es, ein wertvolles Kunstwerk zu klauen bzw. finden. Der erste spielt in einem mehrstöckigen Auktionshaus, in dem Sicherheitsbeamte und Wachhunge in Scharen herumlaufen. Als nächstes geht es in den Vatikan, wo man zur Abwechslung mal ein paar Nonnen verkloppen darf; den Abschluß bildet das Schloß von Leonardo da Vinci, das "ganz normale" Gegner, sprich Gangster, Mörder und Ratten enthält.

Die Grafiken im Stil von "Blues Brothers" sind putzig gezeichnet und köstlich animiert, das begleitende Musikgedüdel ist Geschmackssache, dafür gehen die Effekte wieder in Ordnung.

Nur wer sich die Steuerung ausgedacht hat, der hat keinen Schimmer vom ehrwürdigen Handwerk der Fassadenkletterei! Neben laufen, krabbeln, klettern und springen kann unser diebischer Falke Boxen, einen (gegnervernichtenden) Ball werfen und Kisten verschieben. Soweit in Ordnung, aber warum muß die Joysticksteuerung diesen nervigen "Nachlaufeffekt" haben - Bruce ist schließlich Einbrecher, nicht Eiskunstläufer!

Schlappe drei Level, das ist schon schwer zu verschmerzen, aber eingeschränktes Handling bei einem Plattform-Spiel, das tut in de Seele weh. Da sind auch die schönsten Grafiken nur noch die Hälfte wert... (mm)

Hudson Hawk logo

Ocean change tack for their latest film licence, opting for a single game style to represent Bruce Willis' loveable roguery.

Bruce Willis' recent cat-burgling movie Hudson Hawk has been the recipient of universal panning since its release, which is something it has in common with most of the films Ocean have based recent games on (Darkman being the bottom of the barrel, in both movie and game terms). A flurry of poor multi-section production-line jobs form the Manchester behemoth did nothing to increase expectations of something worthwhile coming from this venture either, but with Hudson Hawk Ocean and programming team Special FX (a talented bunch with a pedigree stretching way back to the 8-bits, most notable - as far as I'm concerned anyway - for their excellent conversions of the coin-op Midnight Resistance) have bravely deviated from the norm and concentrated on one game style, in an attempt to put together something with a bit of coherence to it.

Well, an uncomplicated platform romp with very minor puzzling elements thrown in as much as a pacing device as anything, set over 15 levels, each corresponding to various sections of the movie.

Superfluous plot aside, your objective in each case is simply to get to the end of each stage before your time limit runs out, in which you're aided by the ability to swot baddies with a huge boxing glove or throw explosive bouncing softballs at them. The action is depicted in time-honoured cute cartoony graphic style and accompanied by suitably cheesy music and sound effects, and it's all very lovely. Could there be a success in the offing?

The characters and animation are beautiful

First off, there's something which can't be avoided. This game, in many ways, extremely similar to Titus' new Blues Brothers licence (check out the review starting on p46). The look is very much the same, the basic platform nature of the action is the same, but the whole feel is of two games separated at birth. Comparisons are inevitable, then, and the fact of the matter is that Hudson Hawk comes off worst eery time. It's just a bit too big to have the same focus, it relies to heavily on Rick Dangerous-style frustration rather than 'proper' challenge (by which I mean there's ar too much memory-testing and incredibly finicky platform-leaping involved as opposed to genuinely taxing gameplay), but mostly it suffers from one of the most incredibly irritating control systems I've had the misfortune to encounter all year.

Hudson's movement is afflicted with the kind of inertia which makes you feel as if he's permanently on rollerskates, and it makes it incredibly frustrating making the simplest platform to platform leap if you're never quite sure whether you're going to stop near the edge of a platform or tumble right off the side of it.

What it really smacks of is an attempt to make the game harder without really having to change anything, and it's plain and simple laziness. Hudson Hawk drips with character and humour, but it's impossible to really enjoy it because you get so annoyed with the appalling control. For every time something funny happens there'll be a time when your character slides out of control over a ledge or jumps sideways into a baddie form a position of complete safety and gets sent back to the start of the level,and you end up hurling the joystick to the floor in a rage. Not, and this is the crucial difference between this game and The Blues Brothers, a rage at your own incompetence I messing some simple-looking task, but a rage at the surprisingly and un-necessarily weak design of a game which hasn't got the guts to take you on fairly.

Hudson is afflicted with the kind of inertia which makes you feel as if he's on rollerskates

Don't get me wrong, though, Hudson Hawk is easily Ocean's best attempt at a movie licence since Batman, and in some other month might have picked up a rather more favourable mark. The point is, The Blues Brothers has come along and cruelly exposed every niggling little flaw in the design and implementation leaving Hudson a mile behind it in every aspect.

The characters and animation are beautiful, and it holds together better than almost any movie game I've seen, but it eventually gets so annoying that you're likely to give up well before you get to the end.

It would help if it was just a little bit shorter - and it's rare you'll ever find us complaining about a game having too much of it! - or if there was some way of not having to start at the very beginning whenever you lose all your lives, but as it stands you never really feel as though the end is within your grasp. This stands for both the game as a whole and for the individual levels - all too often a stage will be littered with little traps which deposit you miles back within that level (and frequently they're very tricky timing and reaction tests which will catch you repeatedly even when you know they're coming).

Hudson Hawk is a pretty decent game, and one I thought I'd like a lot more than I did, but if the programmers hadn't played so much Rick Dangerous it would have been a whole lot better.

Hudson Hawk logo CU Amiga Screenstar

Amidst the many film licences currently doing the rounds, Hudson Hawk is way above such tawdry efforts as Ocean's own Darkman and T2. The reason for the game's success is probably its simplicity and whilst it is relatively close to the Bruce Willis film's plot, development team Special FX have wisely opted for playability by taking a general view of Willis's escapades rather than a series of scene-related sub-games.

Thus, donning the hat and bald patch of Willis's alter ego, the titular Hudson Hawk, the player undertakes a quest for a shattered crystal's many parts.

The film tells of two ruthless millionaires who have uncovered long-lost plans for a gold-making machine. Created by Leonardo Da Vinci, the machines has since been rebuilt only to find that a series of crystals are needed before it will work. Thus, reformed cat burglar, Hawk, is drafted in to retrieve the shards of crystal in a journey that will take him through a series of pipe complexes, ar galleries and eventually into the Vatican.

However, mirroring the film's plot and having accumulated huge wealth from the bags of gold and goodies scattered throughout the game's fourteen stages, Hawk must eventually enter the building where the machine is held and destroy it.

The many levels that Hudson blags his way through are represented by a narrow area at the centre of the screen, which scrolls in the usual eight directions, bringing with it all manner of strange guards and hostiles - and while I wasn't exactly impressed by the film, surely I couldn't have fallen asleep and missed the likes of dive-bombing Nuns, bike-riding babies, and doddery old security guards. However, patrol the level they do, and they'll sap the Hawk's limited supply of energy if they come into contact with him.

As a World-class sneak thief, Hudson is particularly adept at sneaking past all manner of alarms and guards, and this plays a major part in the game's proceedings. As well as the gun-toting guards, the slaering Dobermans, and the mixed bag of assailants, each of the level's walls are protected by security cameras and motion-detecting alarms.
To avoid detection,though, Hudson can either jump over or dodge them, punch someone out of the way, or stun them with a lob of his trusty baseball. What's more the latter also comes in useful for turning inaccessible door switches on and off with a well-aimed throw.

The game warms the player up with a series of simple stages, which allows them to get used to the simplistic but finicky controls. Hawk can be made to run, jump, push objects, clamber along ropes, and throw his ball, all of which follow logical actions from the joystick.

However, care is needed as the shades-wearing sprite reacts rather too sensitively to inertia, and often slides uncontrollably into danger which is annoying but not impossible to master. Also, precision is needed, because, as mentioned, Hawk is called upon to trip a switch from a distance to open a door or safe, and the sensitive controls often make this harder than necessary.

Although the basic game style never really changes, Hudson Hawk never gets dull. Its platform scenes are horribly addictive with some reaction-testing rooms, and interspersed with these are a number of brain-stretching sub-games, including a neat safe-cracking sequence.

However, the thing that won me over is the sense of humour predominant throughout the game. With flying Nuns dropping on him and Dobermans biting Hawk's by\um this can be sicko stuff, but when it's this playable, who gives a stuff?

The cinematic forays of Hudson Hawk was Bruce Willis's pet project and one he sank over 57 million dollars of his own moolah into. For Willis then, who shot to fame with Cybil Shepard in Moonlighting, the subsequent flop of the film at the Box Office was a massive disappointment.
The film followed the exploits of socially reformed burglar Hawk (Willis), who, after his release from jail, is blackmailed into stealing various artifacts, including a book from the Vatican. Stored within these objects are pieces of crystal that, when fitted together, form the centrepiece to a gold-making machine invented by Leonardo Da Vinci. As the plot collapses around the actors, Hawk falls in love with a secret agent nun, tangles with a rich duo out to rule the world, jumps off several buildings and repeatedly fails to get a cup of coffee. Despite a large budget and the occasional joke the best acting came from the coffee, and the end-credits were a welcome-sight.
Formed as a sex symbol, Bruce Willis is one of a new breed of 'Chrome Dome' baldy actors. During the 70s baldness was a factor that Hollywood just couldn't get to grips with. SO, when such butch stars as Burt Reynolds started to get thin on top, out came the moptops and - lo and behold - a career is saved. Nowadays, though, baldness is more accepted, although several baldies still refuse to give their toupees up. Ted Danson, for instance, is reputed to be ne of the more famed wig-wearers, and heaven forbid if Scotty ever beamed William Shatner down without his! When you think of it, it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "keep yer hair on".