Though the developer was aiming to evoke the NES with Demolition Crew, it has a bold and bright aesthetic, which is a contrast to the more muted colour palette on Nintendo’s 8-bit console. Demolition Crew feels, to me, like a Master System game – especially given the lovely Sega-blue sky we see in the levels. The soundtrack also evokes memories of arcade ports on Sega’s Mega Drive/Genesis predecessor.
That’s certainly not a bad thing; those of you who know me are well aware of my enduring love for the 8-bit era and the Master System specifically, given that it was my very first console. Demolition Crew feels like a hybrid in some ways; the look of a Master System game with the feel of a game such as the early (and oft-forgotten) Mario game Wrecking Crew, which – given the similarity in the title, the demolition theme and the look of the main character – I’m sure is more than just coincidental.
Though there are a few more modern touches here in comparison to a game such as Wrecking Crew – multiple power ups, simple environmental puzzles, switches and objects, for example – it’s still a pretty defiantly old school game. In essence, you’ll be performing the same basic task over and over again, albeit in a variety of ways: make your way through the building on each level, in order to reach the top and ring the bell.
Along the way, you’ll encounter a number of environmental hazards as well as some unexpected antagonists such as a very angry balding man or a mummy (no wonder these buildings need to be destroyed – they’re cursed!). You’ll also get to use snowballs, power yourself up with double jumps, spin attacks and more. You’ll smash your way through a variety of blocks, walls and ceilings – sometimes with the aid of bombs (which can prove fatal to you, as I found out to my horror at the very end of a level!).
Levels are brief and – thankfully – there’s a level select so you don’t have to continually work your way back from the beginning when you die. Your character has a life bar, which means he can take a bit of a pounding before he expires – and there are items to be found that’ll restore his life too.
There’s a few niggles with the experience, unfortunately. The level design can sometimes feel a little off; platforms, for example, can have routes which take them far too long to cycle back up or down to where you are – giving you no option but to simply wait where you are while the limited level time counts down.
In addition to your character being able to use them, enemies can use snowballs too – though this shouldn’t be an issue, they’re incredibly persistent and have very long range, which can make their attacks seem somewhat unfair.
I found the iconography used in-game to be a little unclear and inconsistent too; it took me a while to work out that a certain power up would allow me to use a drill attack, for example – and the snowball abilities are just gathered from part of the scenery, rather than as a separate item. Some items are clearer in their uses (hearts and clocks, for example) – but the fact that some power ups are coloured discs, some are objects and some just in game scenery does make it feel somewhat inconsistent in practice.
However, I don’t want those issues to seem too large or take away from the fact that Demolition Crew is a solid and enjoyable experience, especially for those of us raised on the type of 8-bit game it so capably pays tribute to. There’s hardly an overwhelming amount of items to work with and levels are brief enough that the design faults I encountered can be overcome, especially when you consider that there’s a level select option available.
With 32 levels – plus an additional four Christmas-themed levels – included (and, I’m assured, more on the way!), along with local multiplayer, there’s a decent amount of content here for the price and, despite its simplistic and lo-fi appearance (albeit deliberately), as well as the few niggles I’ve outlined above, it’s an addictive, playable and enjoyable game – fans of unapologetically old school 8-bit platformers are sure to have a blast with Demolition Crew.
A big thank you to xirBX for providing the review code for Demolition Crew!
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