Friday, September 21, 2012

Game of the Day - Screw Loose

If Robotron met Bender from Futurama and they had a love child, it would be Screw Loose. Screw Loose is a goofy dual joystick game sprinkled with a little imagination.  And man, I do love my dual joystick games.

SL plays with the same mechanics of Robotron.  Left stick moves, right stick fires. You are a roboty thing shooting at weird, arbitrary enemies of all types: CDs, reptiles, bees, etc.  There are little colorful light bulbs that circle the playfield.  When you vanquish an enemy, a bulb lights.  Light all the bulbs surrounding the playfield and the stage is over.  This can go on indefinitely, because it is hard to shoot the enemy.

Now, onto the weirdness.  Your avatar scampers weirdly around the playfield and has hands sticking out in up to three directions.  If you are hit by the enemy, a hand falls off (thus the loose screw).  You have to go retrieve the hand before a little pink snakeworm slithers over, picks it up and carts if off the screen.  If he leaves the screen with it, the hand is lost forever.  Lose all your hands and the game is over (unless you can become Edward Scissorhands).  So, if this weren't a robot, it'd be pretty damn sick.

On the plus side, if you pick the hand back up in time , it reattaches.  And as such you could play forever.  In fact, even after the snakeworm has your hand and is heading of the screen, you still have time to overtake him to get the hand back (you can't shoot him, just catch him and it's yours).

There are bonus items (a la Pac-Man) and other types of baddies.  There is a cherry bomb that hops around after your ass.  If it gets you, you immediately and permanently lose a hand.

There's also a secondary problem to losing a hand... As I wrote above, you have to light up all the bulbs to finish a stage (you light bulbs by killing stuff).  However, if you lose a hand, the bulbs all go out and you have to complete the stage from scratch.  I've played several stages where I was close to finishing, lost a hand, had to start over, only to have it happen again.
The gameplay itself can be difficult.  The collision detection of your shots is not very forgiving and it can go a while in between kills sometimes.  Also, just to add a little more to the game, the playfield is actually a little bigger than one screen, go to the edge and it will scroll some.  One last point, there is a super-charger feature that makes you go and shoot faster, this is activated by pushing two buttons.  In the arcade, they were on top of the joysticks.  So unless you are playing with an Xbox controller or have dual buttoned joysticks.  It's gonna be hard to activate it in MAME.

Of course, as with most games, the levels quickly increase in difficulty.  Soon you will have trouble completing stages because you can't kill many enemies when you are constantly retrieving your disembodied hands.

Crazy, cool fun.