Back in 1990, a console simply wasn’t a console unless it had a light gun with a couple of games to go with it. The Amstrad GX-4000 was no exception of course, and if you had the mis/fortune of finding yourself equipped with both a GX4000 and a glorious Trojan Light phaser (a weapon that looked suspiciously like light gun bundled with the ZX Spectrum +2 ‘Action Pack,’) The Enforcer is one of the bundled titles you would inevitably have wound up playing. Let’s take a look at it!
After hitting the power button then, the player is greeted by a hard-boiled looking detective pointing a menacing-looking revolver. If the loaned Dirty Harry title wasn’t evocative enough, this title screen explains things perfectly: Playing as an FBI agent sent to clean a dirty (and 1930’s-styled) city, you’re tasked with watching over a number of different single-screen stages in order to blast any bad guys unfortunate enough to appear from out of a number of strategically-placed portals.
Gameplay continues until you either reach the arbitrary score needed to progress to the next stage, or end up as a human pin cushion. Aside from a brief whiskey-blasting bonus stage that appears between levels, that’s basically all there is to it. Blimey.
With that said, the Enforcer is still an intriguing title. Sitting awkwardly next to an all-singing, all-dancing (though, strangely non-lightgun-supporting) port of Operation Thunderbolt, the static screens of the Enforcer feel a bit dated by the standards of 1990. This isn’t helped by the art direction either. Though the Enforcer is one of the games that made use of the full GX4000 colour palette, the scale of the streets is a tad too small. This makes the characters a tad too pixelated, and each stage a tad too busy for comfort.
This is a shame, as the Enforcer does have its fair share of nice graphical flourishes. From the mobster death animations (they turn into skeletons that crumble away) to flashing neon signs, The Enforcer doesn’t give you that sinking feeling that’s generally reserved for games created by developers who simply didn’t really care about the final produce.
Still, nice presentational touches aren’t quite enough to cover up some some major underlying problems. Things might well be different if you play it with a light gun (which isn’t an option for me, sadly) but when played with a controller The Enforcer is a ridiculously difficult game for a couple of reasons:
- The small scale of the street scenes makes them incredibly busy. This has the knock-on effect of making the enemies too small a target and the spawn points too numerous. This would be bad enough on its own, but it doesn’t feel like there’s any logic in place to ensure enemies appear in a beatable configuration. When you’re playing with the controller, if you have two enemies appear on opposite sides of the screen it seems impossible to not be hit by at least one of them.
- If that wasn’t bad enough, the world of the Enforcer is an incredibly paranoid one as it seems almost ANYONE can be a target. It might be a staple of the genre to have the odd hostage mixed in with the villains, but even the Enforcer’s friendly police fellows can suddenly whip out a gun and start shooting at you without any real warning. Combine this with the sheer busyness of the screen, and these two factors conspire to make The Enforcer an absolute nightmare to play: if the player moves their cursor away from an apparent civilian too quickly they’ll likely be hit with a surprise attack. If they dally over an actual civilian for too long, they’ll get shot by someone on the other side of the screen.
Consequently then, The Enforcer is difficult to recommend as far as light gun games go, Sadly. A few nice touches just aren’t enough to cover up for sparse and barely-balanced gameplay.
With that said, though the Enforcer isn’t a brilliant game it is an interesting experience. While most light gun games are empowering experiences (think about Operation Wolf’s Ramboesque gun fantasies,) there’s something about the nagging paranoid world of The Enforcer that makes the gun feel like a tiring burden more than anything else.
You see, there’s no zen-like state of highly-focussed blasting to be found here at all. Playing the Enforcer is more like tackling a chain of carefully planned (and often second-guessed) trigger-based decisions. This leads to an unusual (if somewhat mentally tiring) experience. The world of the Enforcer is worth visiting if you get the chance, then – just don’t be surprised if you don’t fancy staying for very long.