Crack Down - Top-down shooting with the Sega touch.
If you’re a modern gamer, the name Crackdown may be synonymous with open-world 3D run-and-gun action. Crack Down, however, is an arcade game released by Sega in 1989, featuring tight controls and goal-oriented shooting gameplay. You play one of a pair of special agents, Ben Breaker or Andy Attacker. Yes, those are there actual names. Hopefully they are code names. Your job is to track down and stop a doctor-turned-mad-scientist who is on a biological crusade to wipe out humanity. How do you recognize the doctor? Well, apart from his tendency to use video screens to threaten you, he also kind of looks like the repainted Ecce Homo if you squint.
Putting an end to the doctor’s plans isn’t as simple as apprehending him. In a rare feat of brilliance, the agency determines that the only way to fully stop the threat is to destroy the entire facility - no salvaging that could later go horribly wrong. Over the course of 16 levels, you’ll plant numerous bombs at specific locations and then escape before their timers run out. The locations of the bombs (as well as weapons and other useful info) are helpfully pointed out on an area map visible at all times. The combination of stalking, shooting, navigation and planning put this in a different class than games like Commando or Ikari Warriors.
Graphically, Crack Down is an interesting case. Your actual playing area to move around and act in is quite small — about one-third of the screen for each player — with the remainder taken up by the map. But there’s a surprising amount of detail contained within the small images, with well animated characters and easily discernable features, such as child’s drawings on a rooftop or the words on a turned-over sign. Between levels, the story will be advanced slightly with some graphics showing your inevitable progress through the complex.
There were at least half a dozen official artworks for the game, ranging from somewhat bland to downright crazy. None of them fit the needs of what I was looking for here, so I pieced together a pan from the final stage of the game. It’s probably a massive spoiler, but Crack Down is not a game you play for the spectacular ending; it’s about the journey, not the destination. And you have to admit, a gigantic cyber-demon on a lab table makes a heck of a splash.