Friday, March 29, 2024

The Hunt for Red October (Game Boy, 1991)


Another game from the Game Boy Player's Guide. This one has Sean Connery! ...on the box!

So this entire story is somebody's dream sequence, got it. I don't want to get fact-checked by social media companies here. Their only allegiance is to the truth, dammit! The one approved by the suits.

It's a shoot 'em obscenely hard shoot 'em up. You move this very ponderous submarine and shoot it out with other, usually smaller ships.

You start out with 3 lives, which isn't even enough to get through stage 1 much less all eight stages. And of course, game over means you start back at the VERY BEGINNING. How did we enjoy games like this?

One particular menace is these ships that coast on the surface and rain missiles down on you.

Occasionally you see an aircraft carrier, they don't seem to do much though. Just launch helicopters that can be a problem but usually they end up just scrolling off and disappearing.

First boss...and the boss in like half the levels. Wasn't sure what the heck to do here. It's pretty simple, just take out the four things spiking out diagonally.

::Lord of the Rings walking music plays::

So are we Red October? Are we hunting Red October? Are we the commies? We seem to be heading towards the US. I don't know, I didn't see the movie.

So the key to victory in this game is missiles. They home in and one-shot most enemies. Considering how a lot of the enemy subs duck and dodge like a boxer, the homing missile will knock them off fast. Regular bullets travel straight and do probably 1/3rd the damage or less.

You also get this cloaking device that I think makes enemies less likely to see you, but anything already aggro'd on you still knows where you are, so I didn't find it very useful.

It's very quickly apparent that this game is nearly impossible to even get out of stage 1 on, much less progress the game, so I reached for CHEAT CODES.

The problem is that you basically have to stand and trade shots with enemies once you're out of missiles, and that happens so often that you're going to lose lives no matter what you do.

Not one to cheat any more than I have to, but these codes are necessary for beating this game. The 25 lives code is a requirement to even beat any levels (on average it takes me anywhere from 7-12 lives to beat a level, good luck doing it with 3). This is a game you basically have to die your way through unless you get really lucky, and grab every missile powerup in sight.

Also the stage select code is a must because you're gonna run out of those 25 lives every 2 or 3 stages as well.

Nice island back there. Can we get a zoom-in on that island?

"You are one with all things Highlanda!"


Some of the bosses are basically just walls of guns where you have to take out a couple of particular spots to win the "fight". Usually it's weird things like panels, while the actual guns don't matter.

Sometimes enemy subs chase behind and just obliterate your health meter with almost undodgeable attacks. Need to fire a missile right away. Missiles track enemies behind as well, only problem is in close quarters sometimes the missiles go up and overshoot since they travel in an arc. Well, they got underwater torpedo physics right.

::Lord of the Rings walking theme::


Wait, why is there a boat at the bottom of the ocean? Maybe that's the Titanic. I should check for Leo DiCaprio's corpse.

Here's some kind of underwater ruin. Wait, are they suggesting Atlantis is under the Bermuda Triangle? Now that's a theory I didn't expect to pop up in a random Game Boy game.

Another stage, another gun wall boss. There really isn't much to this game. It's actually a cool game, with good controls. It very much feels like an underwater shoot 'em up. If only it wasn't so ludicrously hard to actually get through.

Here's what I'd change:

1. Unlimited continues

2. Raise the lives from 3 to 9. Nine lives would be enough to get through any of the levels, though some of them are gonna require quite a bit of practice to pull it off (the ones that took me 15ish). So you're still going to get a lot of gameplay out of it and you'll still have to git gud, but 9 lives would strike the right balance where the game would be beatable with some practice.

3. Double the amount of missiles you start with and get from missile pickups. You're totally reliant on these to defeat your foes and fairly helpless when they run out, which they do constantly.

4. Make the cloaking ability actually do something useful, like drop aggro with everything onscreen temporarily. Considering you only have 3 uses of it per life, it should be more of an actual boon.

It's always nice when you get an angle to the side of something where you can shoot without being hit back. The submarine can fire on diagonals too which is pretty cool and unusual for a shooter in this era.

Break time, let's see what the guide says about this game. I remember this was one of the few things that the guide didn't do much to get me excited about.

Player's guide coverage! Is being able to finally play all of these things I read about as a kid really all it's cracked-up to be? Well...ehhh.

Looks like there's a multiplayer mode. Which is great if you find someone else with the game. ....which is probably about as difficult as finding the actual Red October.

Level maps...for all of the straight-line levels. This game may be nearly impossible, but the guide does a good job telling you where things are.

Look like this level is indeed the sunk ruins of Atlantis. An interesting thing to just drop in the middle of this game.

Here's the worst room in the entire journey, where you constantly get pushed up into spikes by these weird bubbles. Once one hits you, you're basically stunned and stuck to it while it pushes you all the way up. That's right, you can't even move off of them.


Here's something most players will see a lot. In level 1. For the hour or so that they play before they bring the game back to the store and try to get a refund.

AAASSSSS! That's what I think about this game!

"Do not give up Highlanda! Rememba your home! Rememba...Zeist!"

Yeah I'll get to Highlander 2 soon enough. Get outta here!

::Lord of the Rings walking theme::

Finally, stage 8 lands us in the gulf coast. I guess we're bringing the submarine back to port, and all these foes along the way were trying to stop me?

Stage 8 is a mess of pipes and oil rigging. Hasn't British Petroleum done enough damage?

This particular spot was kind of ridiculous. You can move past the dark pipes (they're in the background) but for whatever reason it's very difficult to manuever through the tiny space to the right. I kept getting stuck on everything and blowing up. Started wondering if there was some other route through the level and I wasn't supposed to go that way.

A bunch of lives later, I arrive in the very last section, which is basically that part at the end of Mega Man 2 where shots rain from the ceiling at random intervals while you try to run through.

Final boss is...this wall. It shoots at you. It's kind of obnoxious.

Good time to mention that the screen-in-screen map at the bottom is especially good in this game. It's accurate and shows a lot more area than the main screen does. You can almost just play the game like that, using the minimap to steer around.

There's only one screen for the ending in this game. No credits, no text, no NOTHING. One of the hardest games I've ever seen (without codes) and this is the ending. A guy waving at you.

...and then he fucking flips you off!

I changed my mind, this is a PERFECT ending. A game this brutal SHOULD end with a single screen with a guy just flipping you off.

"Because fuck you that'sh why!"

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