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Crime Busters (aka Crime Busters Featuring Bennie the Burglar)

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Released: 1988

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Players Software

Developer: Michael Blanke / Arno P Gitz

Submitted by: Steve Halfpenny

In Crime Busters, you play a law breaking geezer who goes by the name of Bennie the Burglar. He's a burglar don't you know (the surname and Zoro mask are a dead give away) and so we first meet him breaking into people's houses and bagging stuff that was considered luxury in the eighties like tacky pictures from Boyes and coat racks. Be careful though. Not all is what it seems in this neighbourhood.

For one, instead of your usual stair cases, they are all installed with trampolines, which he's gonna have to use to take him from platform to platform. His mission is to twock all the items before moving onto the next house. Bennie has to be careful though. These trampolines are apparently knock offs from the street's Del Boy type and after so many bounces, they'll snap and poor Bennie will lose a life. He'll also meet his maker if the clock strikes morning and a strict time limit it is at that. But let's look on the bright side here. Bennie was at least smart enough to do this on a late Sunday night when no ones around and it's not like the filth are on your tail.

Wrong! There's a big nosed copper straight out of a Viz comic jumping about as well as a mysterious indentity who looks like he's escaped from Spy Vs Spy! And I think Bennie's already awoken the resident, a battleaxe who isn't afraid to do her bit for neighbourhood watch by any means necessary! If that wasn't bad enough, the house is apparently haunted too as a ghost roams the premises freely! Collision with one of these colourful characters will cause Bennie to go to jail and the crime busters will have saved the day. But you don't want this as you're the bad guy in this one! Bennie has thirty screens to get through before he gives up the life of a rouge but to get even a fraction of the way through them isn't easy. You'll be doing well if you get past the first three!

Not to be confused with the controversial Spellbound clone, Players' Crime Busters may well be fun, frantic and fast paced but it would be easy to suggest that the real criminals are the people behind this classic budget affair. If you're an avid gamer, at first it's seems all too similar to Mappy and there is little doubt in my mind that the programmers came across this old arcade at some point with intentions of turning it into a simpler, single screen adventure. But before you make your final judgement, defence can show plenty of evidence to suggest that there is more than enough original ideas in Crime Busters to set it apart as a unique gaming experience in its own right!

Firstly there's the wonderfully animated graphics. There's bags of character in Bennie and each antagonist that even though every personality has the same abilities, everybody feels like a genuine cartoon character, plunked from your favourite TV show or comic. There's zero relation to any of the mice and moggies in Namco's ancient machine!

Secondly, amongst your usual loot (fridges, gold fish bowls and laser guns (!)) a question mark appears periodically. Collecting it causes all kinds of craziness to the gameplay (such as enemies disappearing or the lights going off). A bonus round is thrown in after every couple of screens too where Bennie has to bounce for bags of money!

Further inspection reveals an original death system that I can honestly say I've never came across before or since. When you lose a life, you'll find yourself located at the big house itself (that's jail to you and I). There are four trampolines, each leading to a window. Jump on a trampoline to enter and then the game will restart. When you lose another life and are presented with this screen again, you'll notice that one of the windows is boarded up. After three lives are lost, they'll only be one window remaining and upon entry, this ends proceedings and leads Bennie back to the title screen. It's little touches like this that makes Crime Busters really different and such work in these usually ignored fields should be commended. But it doesn't stop there. Even the main title screen is set out around a street with a phone box and has the player controlling Bennie to select and alter various options such as the controls. Terrific presentation indeed!

But Crime Busters' strongest feature is the stupendous two player option where the second player takes the role of an enemy (or the good guy I suppose) and gets a choice of either the policeman, the crafty spy, Maggie the resident or even the unconvincing ghoul! When I originally played the game as a kid, me or my mate who bought the game, depending on who took control of Bennie, would turn away whilst the second player would choose their character. Then during the game, player two would try not to let on whom they had chosen! It was always fun to try and work it out, if not exactly hard (as the CPU controlled characters continuously moved, it was a dead give away if one of them was stood still!)

So what's the verdict? Well, if you're luckily enough to come across this old boot and still own a Spectrum, I couldn't recommend Crime Busters more. However, it might be more appropriate to steal it. You see, crime pays apparently… Just on this one occasion though you understand.