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Adventure. Excitement. A cowboy craves all of these things. Fortunately for Konami’s Iron Horse, you get to take advantage of both of these things. Iron Horse is a little-known Konami gem that is, at its core, a clone of Rush N’ Attack. Running from one end of the level to the next, your cowboy character is on a train trying to stop bank robbers from looting the train. After stopping the train robbers, you save the cash, get the girl and save the day.
Though very similar to Rush N’ Attack, Iron Horse introduces new elements that involve heavy memorization and strategy. Playing Iron Horse is similar to a Mega Man game, mainly because there is very little variation in what appears. The games biggest draw is focusing on how to get through each level the quickest and easiest way. Though the game has some broken elements, it still retains an overall fun feel. The main character has the ability to pick his weapon: gun, whip or fists. Fists give double the points (2000 instead of 1000 for either whip or gun.) Enemies run towards you either hurling fists, knives, bombs, whips or firing guns. While the thieves are trying as hard as they can to upstage your cowboy, they go down relatively easy, most with one attack. The real challenge, however, is maneuvering through the levels.
Traversing through the train can be frustrating, mainly due to the character’s slow speeds when dodging obstacles. Though it feels less like the game’s fault and more the way the hardware makes it communicate with the software, sliding up and down on the same path to avoid bombs and bullets can prove frustrating. There will be tons of “I didn’t tell it to do that” moments when dodging. However, Iron Horse adds an additional level of movement by giving the cowboy an option to climb on top of the train’s frame. This adds to the choices the player has, providing more dodging abilities. Ducking is the ultimate way to score big in the game. Most bullets and lassos can be avoided by holding the duck button. As the levels go on, the game becomes more about memorization and less about the strategy aspect. It’s not a negative part of the game, just makes it lose a bit of its charm.
Music and sound effects are quirky. While there’s very little music in the game, the sound effects often make the game have its own soundtrack. Horses gallop while you rush across the train in search of the end, and their movement gives the game a sort of rhythm. It works well for the game, and gives it a feeling of realism. A better soundtrack would’ve been nicer on the ears, but ultimately it is a refreshing choice.
At heart, this is an old school arcade game, relying on boosting your high score. It’s surprising that this game isn’t as popular as Rush N’ Attack because it really adds to the formula of run and gun on many levels. The game has been considered slightly rare in its original arcade format, which is a shame because the title is worth hunting down, high prices or not. This is a game you’ll want to chase after, so giddy up and hunt this one down.