Reviewed by Malc


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I like my shmups hard, fast, exciting, violent and rewarding. The sheer pleasure in flinging a spaceship around, wantonly wasting bullets and watching those alien scum fry can be a hugely satisfying experience for any man, woman and child. It's in our blood and culture to destroy anything green and alien, and be joyful that you were born in the Age of Videogames.

Image Fight 2 then. Coming from Irem, purveyors of arguably the best shootemups in existence including one of my faves - R-Type, is quite unsurprisingly a followup to the original vertically scrolling Image Fight.

While I desperately wanted to like this game, I must admit that it's not even as good as its predecessor. The original had its flaws, and IF2 makes no effort to correct them. Instead, it seems like a graphically upgraded extra level pack, with some long and predictable 'flick-anime' bolted on.

The main problem I have with it is that it's not much fun. It takes real perseverance to play, being hard in the extreme, and unfair with it too. The graphics have a lot to so with this. They have a similar style to the original, and it looks as if at least one of the artists on R-Type 2 had a hand in the design. There are two planes of graphics - background images you can't hit, and ones you can - and it's very difficult to tell them apart, with the absence on any parallax scrolling to help. So time after time you'll gather a nice set of weapons, negotiate huge enemy ships, and crash into a bloody wall.

The restart points are spaced well apart, which means if you die on reaching a boss (which you will, as they take a lot of learning to beat) you have to traipse through half the level again only to get wasted once more. In fact, I gave up on level 3 because of this, I was just not prepared to go the distance to die at the annoying end of level boss for the twentieth time.

Now it would be different if you were able to accrue some fabulous weaponry which gave you a fighting chance. Well, although many types of weapons abound, you can only pick up one at a time. So, if you're stuck with a stupid weak laser, you've used up your slot, and can't grab any of the others floating around until you die. Who the hell thought of THAT idea? To help a little, you do get two types of drone ships to collect (up to 3 in total at a time). The blue drones have a fixed forward shot, and the red ones fire in any direction. Handy, but I'd rather be able to pick up more main weapons thank you very much.

Image Fight 2 is very much a learning type of shooter. Go in with your minds switched off and you'll die in short order. Every single inch of screen is gained by being superalert and having intimate knowledge of what's going to happen next. If you position your ship wrongly, then you're history... the over-large craft you control is distinctly unwieldy in tight spots.

Add to this the fact that the CD music is extremely poor and unmemorable, with only a couple of interesting rocky-sounding tracks to relieve the aural tedium, and you have a game from a respected shootemup creator that disappoints.

It's not even one of those rainy-day-nothing-better-to-do games either, as you'll soon become even more depressed and wish you hadn't started playing it in the first place. Irem, get R-Type Delta perfect, or else I'll never talk to you again.

3/10 (and I'm feeling generous)

There seems to be more effort expended on the cutscenes and intros than the actual gameplay itself. It's a bit of a waste of time, as they are infinitely predictable, and could be from any shootemup you care to mention.

Here's the opening story for what it's worth:

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Starting the game, on easy mode (Don't even consider it on anything else!) you'll get about 2 inches up the screen for your first ten efforts. Thankfully, the terrible speedup system has been fixed from the original, letting you use a dedicated button for that. Great, I've picked up a laser, which gives me a few extra inches of screen before I die once more. You have to learn which alien ships do what, and target the nastiest onces first. Once some ships start firing, if you are anywhere near them you'll never be able to avoid the firepower.

End of level 1 boss is dinky, but fierce. This is his first attack mode, which involves spitting out 4 laser bolts. DON'T move in yet, as they change direction and zoom back up the screen, catching out too-bold players. If you can collect some red drones before getting here, you can sit at the side and direct some diagonal fire, therefore staying well out the way.

We'll miss out the second form, which is a boring exercise in avoiding missiles, and again sit in the corner, keeping just out of reach of those blue lasers. Every level end has a long cutscene, which is not worth the effort watching. Why break up the action in the middle? Long intro and end scenes, yes, but not every level!! This is one of the reasons I didn't like the Saturn Macross shootemup much either.

Level 2, and the lack of parallax spoils the vertigo effect. This level is very similar to level 2 of Axelay, except spun around 90 degrees. Bog standard Ring-of-Incoming-Ships plugin used here.

Yep, just like Axelay, exiting the spaceport colony. Now this is frustrating... if you have died and restarted, you can't get those addons as you won't have any drones to shoot backwards at them with. Crashing into them directly does just that! Another memory test. These ships shoot lasers that change direction on coming level with your ship. Just move up and down a bit and wait for them to pass. Tricky, but you can do it every time once you know how.

A static boss that does nothing but sit there. It does fire out a few lasers, using the Laser-Reflecting-Mirror plugin of course, but the whole point is defeated by the fact you can sit exactly there and not get hit. Doh! See? Look!!! Two lovely weapons to pick up, and I CAN'T GET THEM.. cos I already have a weapon picked up!! Absolutely mindstormingly insane! Part of the fun of a shmup is gathering lots of weapons and trying them out!

The large battleship makes a re-appearance from the first game, but proves to be much easier this time. Thank fork for that. And so I gave up. After a long trek from the restart point each time, this brain on a plant proved to be just too frustrating for me to be bothered with. Maybe I'll try it again tomorrow and see if my harshness on the whole game is justified. Sadly, I think it'll rate a 2/10 then.


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie