We like inexpensive games here at NZGamer.com, so we headed to the PSN store to check out what was on offer - our next cheap thrill was to come from an 8-bit classic from 1984, which seems to have withstood the test of time...
In 2007 it was reworked and ported to PS2, PSP, DS and Wii, and more recently has been added to PSN’s stable of downloads as a mini. Impossible Mission costs $7.90 and for your investment you’ll receive the modernised remake with its enhanced sound and graphics, plus the original C64 version. But wait, there's more! How about a third version - a hybrid of the two? A 3-for-1 deal sounds pretty attractive, even if one of the three might only appeal to the 30+ set. Now, there are plenty of retro sites paying homage to the original platform puzzler, so we decided to see how the newest version measures up.
Both story and setting remain unchanged: you play a secret agent whose mission is to infiltrate the multi-layered stronghold of Professor Elvin Atombender. The nefarious villain is hell bent on unleashing a nuclear doomsday, and you are all that stands between him and the missile launch codes. Scattered throughout the base’s many rooms are puzzle pieces which, when correctly assembled, will arm you with a code to stop him in his tracks. It’s no straightforward intelligence operation however; most of the rooms are guarded by killer robots, and on top of it all you have a time limit… so it’s a race against the clock as well. The map layout and puzzle placement is different every time, which definitely adds some replay value.
The game is extremely unforgiving of mistakes. There are occasions where, if you don’t get your placement pixel perfect or misjudge the timing slightly, you’ll end up dying in one of several horrible ways. Every death is punished with a 10 minute time penalty, so it pays to keep your agent alive at all costs. The time honoured tactic of ‘save and reload’ is invaluable here.
Contact with – or electrocution by - a robot means instant death, and there are several varieties of the nasty little buggers. Some will simply sit and do nothing; others will patrol a set path or follow you around, even putting on a burst of speed as they approach. Robots aren’t the only hazard to worry about though. Misjudge a jump and your agent will fall to his or her death, accompanied by a blood curdling scream (you’ll hear a lot of this… get used to it). In addition to puzzle pieces you’ll also find the occasional passkey, which can temporarily immobilise the robots or reset all lifts in a room.
Searching rooms and dodging robots comprises only part of the game. Once you’ve found all the puzzle pieces you then have to put them together, and there are nine in total. Laying out, orienting and matching the puzzle pieces can take a while to master, but after you’ve completed the first few you’ll be solving puzzles in no time… which is just as well, ‘cos once you have the code you’ll need to hustle over to Atombender’s hideout and shut him down for good. Be aware that controls can be a bit twitchy when logged into your pocket computer, and the pointer must make solid contact with the icons or puzzle pieces to register.
It wouldn’t be Impossible Mission without the distorted, digitised speech that was groundbreaking stuff back in the day. Each cry of: “Destroy him, my robots!” will draw your attention to the countdown timer at the top of the screen. Sound effects are sparse and fairly basic, but not to the detriment of overall game play. Menacing incidental music serves to highlight the underlying tension. The new and improved graphics are simplistic but easy on the eye, managing to retain the look and character of the classic without those migraine-inducing monochrome backgrounds, and chunks of colour.
Granted, Impossible Mission is not for everyone. It’s frustrating and fiendishly difficult in places, and you may be tempted to write it off after the first few minutes. However with a bit of perseverance, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth of entertainment, plus a real sense of achievement when you finally beat the game. Take a well earned caffeine break, and then give it a whirl on the higher difficulty setting. Go on… we dare ya!