Abadox: The Deadly Inner War Review

Developer: Natsume Publisher: Milton Bradley
Release Date: 1989 Also On: None

Ah, the space shooter, here we go again! There were many plays on the genre, some of which came out just awful, others caught onto something unique that stood out and became almost instant classics. Twin Bee, for instance, created what was known as the ‘cute-’em up’ while others went for this strange, biological schema. One of the greatest, if not the one that started it all as far as I remember, was Life Force, otherwise known as Salamander depending on what version you’re looking at. A few years after this was released Natsume decided to create a title with a similar theme, Abadox: The Deadly Inner War. It’s not the greatest shooter ever, and though it has one of the worst box designs in history it’s definitely worth a look.

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Graphically, Abadox is a pretty impressive looking game. It comes with a decent opening story and ending as well as some lush environments. The parasitic, monstrous lifeform you enter gives an interesting set of worlds to go through, though I must admit sometimes they seem to stray from the theme. The manual suggests it’s a living being, but the second to the last level is a mechanical world, which hardly suggests the ‘intestinal channel’ mentioned in the manual. I thought that stage seemed way out of place, as well as parts of the final level. However, when they stuck to the theme the game looks great. You have interesting, creepy, biological creatures and obstacles as well as excellent animations. Sometimes, though, the bosses don’t really make any sense and almost feel like they were just thrown in there for something ‘creepy’, such as the first boss. Considering you’re supposed to be inside the mouth of the giant parasite, I’m not sure why I’m fighting a giant head with its own set of teeth and eyes, but I guess since none of this is real anyway you could make whatever you’d like. Didn’t seem to be right, though, seemed almost too, I don’t know, like an almost exact copy of a certain boss in Life Force just to look similar. Later there is a giant robot shooting lasers. What is he doing inside a living planet? Oh well. Your character, Lieutenant Nazal, was put together beautifully in this supersuit, so good idea there, I like when shooters try to be a bit different and have you controlling something else other than a spaceship. There is occasional graphical flicker and slow down though not enough to bug me. In general Abadox looks good. Could have used a bit of work in some instances, however, or more thought to the presentation.

The sound is generally good as well, but could have used some work. Abadox has a great soundtrack that fits the tempo and action of the game, as well as throwing out some great incidental effects here and there for atmosphere. However, there are instances when the themes seem almost childish or, how to say this, sarcastic. It’s very hard to explain, but it sometimes has this really silly sound to it that kind of ruins what’s going. For example, fighting the naked breasted, biological beast woman at the end, I would figure the boss track would be intense and frightening, not the same thing they’ve been using the entire game. In addition, the parts of said song that don’t fit make the battle almost comical. Reminds me of some pinball game I played awhile ago, and trust me it wasn’t about saving the universe from a giant, parasitic mass. The tracks for each level are great, but I had some issues here and there where I felt the programmers really didn’t think or give it their all.

Now for the gameplay. It’s really hard to come up with something new when a format is found that really works. Abadox, for the most part, pushed the envelope in certain areas, but it still had to rely on the tired-and-true methods found in pretty much every space shooter in the 8-Bit era. To start off, you control a character instead of a ship, with the goal of infiltrating the innards of a giant parasite that devours planets. Pretty cool plot, though they throw a ‘save the princess’ shtick into the mix that’s unnecessary. So you go inside and face six levels of the beast, concluding with a short section where you have to exit the monster while saving the princess in your arms, dodging obstacles as the screen moves faster. Abadox features a variety of cool weapons and upgrades, but most of them are typical. You have some interesting weapons, but of course you have typical features like little options that float around you to protect you, missles and a force field, nothing too unique. The two most interesting elements here are the fact that the game switches back and forth between horizontally scrolling levels and downward scrolling levels. The downward levels are interesting, but really nothing too spectacular. They even seem to be a bit harder specifically because you have less screen coming at you before you get a chance to see enemies, but it was a nice touch, can’t say I’ve seen it before. The next part is the final segment, where you have to get out of the parasite before it explodes while holding onto the princess. This is hardly unique in itself, but it mixed up the game a little and gave it something to end on. However, you know what it is since I already mentioned it, you have to navigate the Lieutenant through a bunch of barriers as the screen scrolls faster and faster. If this section was actually difficult I might have found it a great addition, but it’s pretty pathetic in this aspect and most gamers will beat it without any practice. The stages like this in Battletoads, now that takes some skill.

So as I hinted at above, the first problem is that they don’t always stick to the story when they designed the levels. You have some robotic environments that really don’t make any sense, as well as some pretty silly looking enemies and bosses from time to time. The robot boss, for example, looks so out of place amongst the rest of the game it isn’t even funny, not to mention he has one of the most pathetic patterns I think I’ve ever seen, you don’t even have to move to defeat him when you find it. Poor loser just sits there moving his arms up and down and shooting out the same, lame laser streams over and over. Why is he here? If I were the giant parasite I would have digested his sorry existence in a second because he clearly can’t defend the core. The second problem is the odd difficulty curve in Abadox. Simply put, there isn’t one. And I mean there isn’t one in the sense that it isn’t a curve, it’s an awkward, very clumsily arranged roller coaster of difficulty. That’s my main gripe with Abadox and what I frequently see people complaining about. Let me explain in detail. The game starts out easy, gets a little too difficult too quickly, gets easy again, gets difficult again, but mainly due to the fact that you have to maneuver through spaces so small I’m pretty sure you’re not even making it unless you have your shields on, easy again and then finally a level so difficult it’s almost not worth the effort. The main difficultly with this level and any other spots in this game that will drive you insane are due to one important problem.

This problem is something found in almost every space shooter from the 8-Bit and even the 16-Bit era. Heck, it probably still exists today but I can’t think of any specific titles. Anyway, the problem is that as you progress, the game gets harder. That’s fine. However, real genius in programming is being able to get over the central flaw of all shooters; when you lose your power-ups later on, you almost have no chance of getting anywhere. Abadox is unfortunately full of such instances and the final stage is the best example. Sure, it’s the final stage, I get that, but what I don’t get is why they programmed it so you essentially have to find one special path to follow and memorize exactly when to shoot. It’s one thing to memorize the best path, but it’s another to couple this with the fact that you can only shoot at certain times, otherwise things happen and you die. If you lose your power-ups on this level, you have to be an absolute god of video games to beat it, because it’s not going to happen if you do. They really should have tweaked this because Abadox is probably the worst example of this shooter flaw that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen some bad ones, but this is intolerable.

Abadox does have some creativity going for it, but not that much. Natsume simply borrowed some key ideas from Konami, which is fine, but I can’t give much credit for it. In fact, I’d have to say that Life Force/Salamander is much better in this respect because their usage of the biological theme makes sense throughout the game. Abadox has moments where it doesn’t make any sense and where they seemed to have simply copied ideas directly without really doing anything different. The similarities are subtle at times, but they’re there. However, it does have some features that make it stand out, enough that it’s one of the few shooters from the time period that everyone seems to remember. I had a friend who was obsessed with this game.

As for replay value, however, I don’t think I’ll play this game again very often. It was sort-of fun running through it for the first time, but due to the tedious nature of some of the levels and the harsh memorization you’re required to pull off to make it anywhere later on, I really don’t want to waste my time doing it again and if I even decide to play it I’m definitely using the hidden cheat feature so I have all the weapons I need. But playing like this isn’t very fun, so that’s kind of ruined as well. The game length is actually surprisingly short for this kind of game, especially on the NES, and you’ll find this out when you beat it without dying too much. I think it only took me around fifteen minutes to run through it when I got good enough at it. That’s a little too short for my tastes.

In conclusion, I must say that Abadox is generally an average game. It looks good sometimes and it plays good, but most of its features are generally the same as any other shooter when it comes down to it. Most of the variety is superficial, and when you have enough experience or have seen enough games like this and know about the history you see that it’s more of a footnote than anything else. It has its moments and can be quite entertaining, but it’s also somewhat marred by a poor difficulty curve and some pretty silly graphic and sound combinations. I definitely suggest it to NES fans nonetheless, but with a bit of caution.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 5
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 4.5
Final: 5.1
Written by Stan Review Guide

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