Co-Op Classics turns the calendar back to 1991 this week, when the co-op brawler was king. Double Dragon and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had paved the way, and dozens of new beat-em-ups were released each year. Robocop 2 was a fine example, featuring two-player co-op, over the shoulder shooting, and racing game-like bonus levels.
Robocop was a strange choice for an arce game series. The first film was brutally violent, rated R, and had some genuinely disturbing scenes. A video game tie-in, with obvious appeal to children, is a bit perplexing. The first Robocop game was single player only, but still a fair game despite being sanitized for youth consumption. When Robocop 2 came along, though, adding in a Robocop clone for Player 2, fans of co-op had a memorable experience in store.
I should say a brief word about Player 2, which we always call "Roboclone". Player 1's model is rendered in silver and gray, just like in the film. Player 2 has a strange purplish hue that makes him look a bit like an armored Easter bunny. On the scale of worst palette swaps for another character, "Roboclone" ranks right up there with the brown-haired, red- and gray-suited clone from the Superman arcade game, otherwise known as "Captain Boring".
Robocop 2's gameplay is fairly standard, and loosely follows the plot of the movie. Robocop shoots, body-slams, and punches his way through the streets of Detroit. Various and sundry thugs, some wielding rocket launchers and heavy machine guns, bar his way as Robocop searches for Cain, the big bad guy from the film. The firing controls were a bit different, with dedicated buttons for firing left and right. Robocop and his partner could pick up weapons to replace the standard (yet awesome) pistol, though these new arms had surprisingly low ammo levels. The side scrolling brawling was solid, if not innovative.
More interesting were the over the shoulder sections. The scrolling would stop, and Robocop would turn and face down an alley, with a targeting reticle that the player could move. Baddies ran across the alley, tossing grenades, shooting bullets, and what have you. A nice change of pace, for sure.
A similar mechanic was on the bonus levels, where the perpesctive change to one like Pole Position. Robocop raced along the road, in pursuit of enemy trucks and helicopters. These levels were brief, but very fun, and really make Robocop 2 stand out from the crowd.
The final boss in Robocop 2 is notable as well, requiring players to "defeated" him several times, all in a row. Each time his health bar is depleted, he runs away, and comes back with new powers such as windmill arms, guided missiles, and tougher armor. Just as you begin to question whether you can defeat him before your credits run out, he falls for the final time. It's quite satisfying and you don't feel let down at all by the final fight, as was often the case with such games.
Robocop 2 holds up fairly well today. Anytime I play it with my kids, they enjoy it, but there is one thing about playing the game that I dislike. As soon as we get done, my youngest always asks to watch the movies. I usually put him off, or try to change the subject as quickly as possible. The first two Robocop movies aren't appropriate for him at all, and it would be bad parenting for me to let him see them at such an age. The third, while rated PG-13, is so terribly awful that I've never actually made through the entire thing. I'll play Robocop 2 with my kids any day, but I draw the line at suffering through Robocop 3 with them!