Bio Menace (Apogee, 1993)
Lately I've been playing all these old games using DOSBox. It's been like a time warp back to one of my formative experiences as a video gamer. I can still remember playing my first PC games when I was 8 or 9 years old in the early 90s. My dad worked for a company that contracted long-term network projects for airlines and airports, and he worked with the kind of dudes who always had some shareware (or more) sitting on bootleg floppies waiting to be spread like a plague. One of the cooler software companies back then was Apogee, who eventually split into id Software and 3D Realms... but when they were all still on the same team, they made some great games. Duke Nukem actually made his first appearance in an eponymous side scroller, and most people have heard of the Commander Keen games, at least second- or third-hand. Apogee developed several other titles, less well-known now but every bit as good. My mind wanders to one particular strain they developed... one called Bio Menace.
Bio Menace is a platformer when you look at it from orbit, but up close, I prefer to describe it as follows: It's a lot like Contra, except you've got a life bar and a lot more shit to do than just shoot things. You control Snake Logan (whose name is pretty obvious in its inspirations), a CIA agent who crash landed in Metro City while doing recon to confirm reports of it being overrun by mutant monsters.
Well, let's just say you've confirmed them. The thing is, now you're stuck here, so you figure you might as well see who's behind the plot and give them a good machine gun spanking, right?
Gore abounds as you explore various locales looking for survivors and vengeance.
The levels are part action/survival, part puzzle, as you navigate the ruined and mutant-flooded parts of the city looking for a way out of each one. Many times, this involves finding some kind of crystal or keycard to free a survivor stuck behind a forcefield. For some reason, these people usually hold the key to the level's exit. In the spaces between, you're usually either blowing bad guys apart or opening doors that contain items. Sometimes the item inside is even the key you need! Snake can also find power ups for his gun, as well as different kinds of explosives and even a flask that makes him impossible for monsters to kill.
And the monsters will definitely be trying to kill you. There's an alarming variety of mutant creatures; from little blobs to big dino-men to little horned acrobats on fire, you'll see enough different kinds to keep you wondering what's around the next corner. The bosses of each episode are no joke either, and in fact are as dangerous as they are visually impressive:
The graphics, for their time, are a really fun compromise between detail and cartoony fun. It's especially cool that even though most of the game is represented in a low-resolution VGA comic-book style, the gore you see is fairly on-the-spot. Some of the larger things (like some boss monsters) have a surprising amount of detail. The music and sounds are 16-bit (AdLib/SoundBlaster of the time period) but the soundtrack is pretty addictive.
Once all the mutant blood is hosed off the streets, I give Bio Menace 8/10. Some of that's out of nostalgia, but some of it's just a hand up to a great DOS game that not enough people hear of. It will hook you once you get into it, though... you'll want to get to the bottom of the evil plot.
OH, ALSO... If you want to play Bio Menace, 3D Realms made it freeware a while back. Here is the link. Consider it a holiday gift from me, because I was too cheap to get you anything!