Armed Police Unit Gallop - Irem

Gallop - Armed Police Unit

1991, Irem

Reviewed by O. Hakubi.

I played a lot of R-Type Final. No, I mean a lot of R-Type Final: Thirty-five hours in two weeks, and that's with a full-time job and other obligations, like eating and sleeping. When all was said and done I had all the ships in the roster and a burning desire to play the original games so I could see just how faithful the R-Type Final versions were to the original.

After playing Gallop I'm sort of regretting it.


In Gallop you play as a member of the Armed Police Unit of the same name, tasked with patrolling the futuristic planet you call home and defending it against "mad cars," which I suppose would be the combination of automobiles, sentient AIs and road rage. This usually involves flying through said city and shooting down whatever is in your path. Sort of like Armed Police Batrider, only with less flying motorcycles.


Gallop is one of those two-button shooters that you see all over the place for some odd reason. The first button fires the main guns (as you may have guessed) as well as a secondary weapon that manifests itself as one of three types of explosive ballistics. You start off with a single stream of shots, but by picking up flashing "P" balls that are floating around the various stages you can fire up to three shots at once. Likewise, you can grab floating spheroids with "M"s on them to acquire either slow-dropping bombs with large blast radii (red), fast, rapid-firing ground-scouring mini-bombs (yellow) or large missiles that fly straight ahead (blue). They come in handy, but they have a tendency to fall off of your craft if you bump into any solid surfaces.

The second-button fires an automatically-aimed laser. No, I don't mean a turret that points towards whatever enemies are onscreen and fires slow-moving shots that never hit; this sucker draws a straight line between you and them and proceeds to zap the crap out of them. Much akin to the ship's normal guns, you begin each life with the ability to fire a single laser, gaining an additional beam (to the maximum of three) by snagging "P" balls. Unlike the ship's normal guns, you can't just use this all the time: Firing the lasers requires energy, which can monitored with both the energy bar conveniently located at the bottom of the screen and the color of the lasers themselves. The energy recharges fairly slowly, so you've got to be prudent in your use of this weapon. Luckily you can grab floating "L" orbs for a complete refill of energy. I'm not joking in the least when I say that this thing is necessary to get through some sections of the game.

The joystick controls the movement of your ship, naturally, but unlike 99% of the shooters out there your ship's position onscreen affects the speed at which the stage scrolls. For example, hanging out on the right side of the screen will cause your ship to speed through the tunnels and terrain at Mach Holy Crap, whereas hanging out around the left side will slow things down to a more manageable pace, handy for when you need to shoot your way through a series of steel barricades. It's like Shippu Mahou Daisakusen, only turned to the right ninety degrees.


Speaking of speed, your primary methods of getting a high score (aside from shooting stuff) involve being fast: Each stage has a set of time rankings, with quicker times getting you more points. It's a decent amount of points, too: Making the par time will usually net you at least thirty or forty thousand. In a similar vein, in the lower-right corner of the screen is a bonus counter that quickly counts down when you encounter a boss. The quicker you defeat the boss, the more points you get to keep.


Irem is known for including a lot of detail in their games and Gallop is no exception. The ships are larger than the standard shooter norm, which allows for a greater level of detail: Cockpit seams on enemy ships, the little dings and dents on the side of your ship and trails of flame that emanate from your foes just before they explode. The stages are similarly detailed, with plenty of high-tech urban backdrops full of all the decay you'd come to expect in the nihilistic world of tomorrow. All in all it's just about on par with R-Type II. That's good, though a good majority of graphics seem to have a brownish tint to them. Now I understand that The Future (TM) is going to be dingy and dirty from rampant pollution and urban decay (damn those corporate lobbyists! DAMN THEM!) but really now, would a little more color really hurt that much?


The background music, while overshadowed a great deal by the explosions and gunfire, is actually pretty good, fitting the theme of each stage quite well: The first stage has nice jazzy tune which goes well with the dusk cityscape, the sewers have a mechanical/industrial-ish theme and so on.

The sound effects, however, are slightly less impressive. There's some good ones, just not a lot of great ones. Pretty standard all-around, really.


The thing about Gallop is that it's hard. Very, very hard. Hard as in, "the only way we could get your money quicker would be to rob you" hard. This game likes killing you. A lot. Several times a minute, if it can manage it. There are many, many parts - practically entire stages later on - where you will end up dying swiftly and horribly with little idea as to what caused it and no idea as to how to get out of it. When you do figure out how to get out of it (usually spending several lives or continues in the process) you'll end up dying horribly again once they spring another crazy trap or field of enemies on you and then not only do you need to get through the first part, you need to figure out how to get through the second as well. It'll take several lives, if not several continues to figure out just what the heck you need to do in a certain section and there really isn't a feeling of accomplishment when you pull it off so much as one of relief. This is a far cry from R-Type, where dying when you get caught in a tough scrape was less the fault of a deathtrap-filled stage and more your own for being careless.

The actual area where you can be hit - extend the top and bottom of the front of the ship backwards and you've got it - is smaller than the ship's actual sprite, but that's not going to save you from a series of violent and ignoble deaths at the hands of missiles and lasers that move faster than you can dodge and groups of ships that quite literally come out of nowhere. The Armed Police Unit must have one heck of a PR campaign to keep recruiting people because they must get their men killed faster than the AD Police.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's just not fun. The game looks and sounds good, but playing it is like smashing yourself in the groin with a brick. Masochists, hardcore Irem fans and people who think that playing Dragon Blaze on the hardest difficulty is a walk in the park will get a kick out of this in various degrees. Everyone else should stay far, far away. How far away? A four out of ten far away. Yeah, that far.



When you start a new game you get this nifty console where you enter your initials. For each letter you enter a part of the console lights up, like the ship's computers are booting up. Cool stuff.


A shot of the laser in action. Against the big tanks like these you can move up and down while firing the laser to sweep their missiles out of the sky.



Urban Renewal

There's also some parts where you need to shoot your way through stone walls or iron girders. This is where that whole "slowing down" thing comes in handy.


Flashing "Danger" signs are usually there for a reason...




...such as warning you when there's flying tanks about.


The first stage boss is a- ...what the heck is that, anyway? Whatever it is, it enjoys firing dropping drone ships in its path while firing lasers at you every so often. Stay directly behind it and keep firing; the lasers will pass over and under you as you shoot down the drones and damage the boss.



Part Deux

Shoot out the drone pod with your main guns and it turns into a fifth laser gun. At this point you can just pull out your laser and neem him to death.


See what I mean about large bonuses? Twenty-eight thousand for the stage and up to fifty thousand for the time. Being quick really pays... literally! HAR HAR HAR.




The second stage takes you through the wonderful environs of a city sewer system, where you will be subject to getting slop dumped on you. It doesn't kill you, but it does slow you down a great deal in addition to removing whatever missiles or bombs you may have at the moment.


Here's that girder-shooting section I mentioned earlier. Hey, did you ever think for a second that maybe, just maybe you weren't supposed to go through here?



Target Practice

Later on you'll encounter more sewage pipes that you need to shut off by shooting the little yellow lights. This is one of the few parts of the game where you don't die if you mess it up, so get your practice in while you can.

"Wasn't he from...?"

The stage 2 boss looks downright R-Typeian (new word!), doesn't it? It likes firing off those laser rings in odd flight patterns. When you see the laser ports warm up you should probably move up to somewhere around the ten or eleven o'clock position above the boss to avoid them.



Depth Charges

Just be mindful of those flying balls he chucks out, both when he's on the surface and underwater (as shown... or not shown, as the case may be). They're fast, hard to dodge and the source of much frustration.


You go from sewers to cityside in the third stage, flying through some sort of network of tunnels and girders, periodically flying out of them to face off against ships such as these fireball-shooting ships that are not at all based off the R-9 series.




About two-thirds of the way through the stage you encounter these annoying little drones. They die pretty quickly when you hit them with the laser, but their real purpose is to draw your fire and move you further forward while other, more durable enemies come at you from the front.


Here's a little tip: When you encounter the boss, going through the top passage will get you killed ten times out of ten, where as going through the bottom one will only kill you seven times out of ten.




This boss marks the end of the "we've got your attention" part of the game and the beginning of the "give us your money" part. Narrow passageways, slow-moving shots that pin you into spaces you don't want to be, homing missiles AND smaller enemies that shoot at you and draw off your laser shots? Yes please!

Structural Obstruction

...and pulling stuff like this doesn't make it any better. It's much worse when you're in motion, believe me. After continuing about seven or eight times I was this close to just drawing an MS Paint shot of me beating the boss and calling it quits with these screenshots.




Then I decided to mess around with the DIP switches to see if I couldn't get an easier difficulty setting, and lo and behold. It only took one continue, too. Oh, don't give me that look. I value my blood pressure more than I do my integrity. At least I know I've got one of them...

Irem: If you have the time to play this you have the time to play one of their other games, like In the Hunt. Or R-Type. Or R-Type II. Or R-Type Final. Or...


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie