Shamus: Case II

This is, by far, the best part of this game.

Review Date: January 27, 2021

Release Date: Unleashed sometime in 1983

Platform: Atari 800

Developer: Synapse

Genre: Completely Revamped Action Platformer (C.R.A.P.)

Anecdotes: So, not every game on the list is a game I played at release. Some I barely played at all. Some I have never played. Then there is Shamus Case II, which I had never even heard of until sometime after 2000. I now know about the game, but now I wish I hadn’t. What a disappointment this game is.

Description: Shamus Case II is a game where you run around, avoid snakes, shoot everything else, and magically teleport upward somehow. After magically moving upward, you can waste more time running around and climbing ladders to nowhere. Then you’ll fall into a pit and have to restart from that floor. The game introduced a concept long before the concept was named: Rage Quitting.

Positives: They kept the opening theme from the first Shamus, which is a variation of the Alfred Hitchcock theme, and they gave Shamus a better appearance, but…

Negatives: …they ruined nearly everything else. This disaster barely resembles the first game. It’s not even the same genre. The first game was an awesome shooter. This one is a platformer, except for the rooms that magically fly Shamus up to the next level. So let’s talk about those for a moment. What’s with this? Shamus can only shoot straight upward or in upward diagonals. Shamus can only shoot two bullets at a time. However, if a shooter tries to fire a third shot, good games would just lock the shooter out until a shot disappears. Naturally, that doesn’t happen in this game. Instead, the third shot gets fired, but the first one disappears. Why do it that way? Most games don’t do it that way. Even the first game didn’t do that.

What is this nonsense? Instead of Snap Jumpers and Spiral Drones, we get snakes, watermelons, and a bat. Couldn’t they have mixed the old enemies in somewhere?

Shamus’ opening screen had eight things listed: Keyhole, Key, Mystery?, Extra Life, Robo-Droids, Shadow, Snap Jumpers, and Spiral Drones. Case II removed half of those and butchered the other half. They kept the Keys, the Keyholes, the Extra Lives, and the Shadow, but let’s focus on the Shadow first. They took the fear out of him. The Shadow isn’t scary anymore. He just swoops down like a bat and shoots bullets. He can’t even be shot, nor is he any serious threat like he was in the first game.

Really. Shadow swoops down, then retreats. Can you imagine Shadow retreating in the first game? By the way, I hope players like dead ends because there are tons of them.

And why does the screen flash the text “IT’S A KEY” when the first game actually showed the key and had a chime when you picked it up? It’s a major step back from the first game, which had images and sound effects for extra lives and keys. Synapse and/or Mataga completely blew the presentation. Instead of improving on the masterpiece that the first game was, they totally obliterated everything that made it charming and fun.

What is this, a silent movie? They couldn’t just put the key on the screen?

The great “levels by color” concept was scaled way down and the wallpaper designs were dropped entirely; there’s a black area and a dark blue area, but they’re extremely bland. A maze of 128 rooms was dropped down to 39. Exploration is minimal and searching for objects was not a challenge, so the thrill or relief of finding what you need is gone. The speed and reflexes need to complete Shamus aren’t required here. You can freely move left and right, but moving upward in most cases requires the game to step in and raise you to the next screen, but it’s never made clear how to make that happen.

So I guess this is Case II’s version of a pod room? I fell three times in here and had to remake my way back here from room 30 each time.

Grade: F

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