War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
The chances of an article that in some small way has a connection with war having that as the opening line is probably around the 95% mark. So, in an attempt to avoid following the crowd and conforming to convention, I’m going to simply start this piece with something totally different, like......
Shit. Shit. Shit.
A typical Warzone in the UK.
So, war games then. For me, war – videogaming war at least – will always be about the Commando cab down on Margate seafront at the pubescent age of around thirteen. Space City was the arcade and the usual suspect for eating my silver coins was either Super Pacman or Galaxians (which gave you a two player game for 10p) - but on the odd occasion that both of these machines were already taken, I’d wander around the arcade searching for a new slot to pop my coinage in. Sinistar? No, game was over too quick and I was used to at least half-hour on Super Pacman or Galaxians. Dig Dug? Moon Patrol? Same problem – I struggled to make the game last long enough.
Then I’d spot Commando.
The thing with Commando is it looked quite easy. If you watched someone who can play it well blast their way through seven levels then the game looked like it was a piece of the proverbial urine. Push up and the screen scrolls down while you weave your soldier back and forth firing single pixel bullets at enemy soldiers firing single pixel bullets back. Chuck in the occasional hand-grenade lobber and there’s your game.
A nice spinner on the off-stump
Well, no. At least it never was for me. I could play the Star Wars sit down cabinet game for an hour - storming through ten Death Stars. I could keep Mr Man in pac pills for ages or avert an alien overthrow from outer galaxies long past the last school bus home but BUGGER ME IF COMMANDO WASN”T AS HARD AS NAILS!
Just getting through the first bridge was a real battle. Then came the first and only boss gate area I ever made it to. The screen was simply awash with little white squares all destined for my soldier sprite and, with the screen refusing to scroll back up again, certain death was almost always upon me. Okay, so very occasionally I might win the war against the blighter but it was rare and a typical game of three lives was over in a couple of minutes. At the age of thirteen a couple of minutes could easily be spent in far better activities - my silver coins were being wasted. But, whenever I was at a loss as to where to spill my pocket money - Commando seemed to win. I never got any better at it and, even now, when I fire the game up in MAME I still struggle past that first boss.
FFS. I could clock Time Pilot 84 and Nemesis, but Commando had me beat everytime!