Please don’t judge this game by… whatever’s happening here.
GENRE: Shooter – Light Phaser
RELEASE DATE: 1988
Forget Rambo III‘s full-throttle annihilation of mankind: Rescue Mission is the best war-based Light Phaser game, if only for its purity of purpose. Your goal is to protect a brave medic as he rescues/treats wounded soldiers on the front lines. Enemies appear in attempts to sabotage the medic’s efforts and it’s up to you – the invisible assassin from beyond the television – to keep him and the wounded soldiers safe. Such uncompromising selflessness is rarely seen in any game. True, it’s surrounded by a high body count (of your own making), but at least you’re fighting for a worthy cause.
The general demands that his platoon salute high quality Cut-Rite wax paper.
The medic moves across the stage via a handcart on a train track that twists and turns around the entire level. When he reaches a wounded soldier, he’ll stop, treat the soldier, and move on. Thankfully, the game controls the medic for you. All you have to worry about is protecting the medic from enemies. There are three types: the Infantry (white), the Air Troopers (white, with jetpacks!), and Special Forces (red). Despite the different types, they each only take one shot to kill – which is great because there’s so many of them. The Light Phaser is incredibly responsive here. Later levels unleash hordes of red and white soldiers, but it’s never any trouble taking them all out. The enemy projectiles, however, have a mind of their own and can easily wound or kill your medic if you don’t destroy them first. Keeping track of all the action on-screen is surreal and overwhelming, but when you escape from a war-torn village relatively unscathed, the sense of satisfaction is great.
Can’t shoot what you can’t see, jerks.
Rescue Mission provides three medics, with each one functioning as a life. Mike is classified as a Beginner, which means he’s slow moving the handcart and takes his time treating the wounded. He’s the first person the game gives you to use, so don’t be surprised if he gets killed quickly. Steve is defined as Lazy, since he’ll stop using the handcart at inconvenient intervals. His medical skills are second to none, though, so you take the good with the bad. Finally, John is Honest. He rocks the handcart with no slowdown and he patches up the flesh wounds somethin’ fierce. As funny as it sounds, giving names and personalities to the medics makes you want to keep them alive. You won’t necessarily weep when they die, but you’ll feel a slight twinge of guilt. The guilt adds to the replay value: “I’ll avenge your death, Mike!” you’ll shout. “Sweet comeuppance will be ours!”
Poor Mike. Killed by a stray balloon.
If the medic gets hit directly by something large like a bazooka, a land mine, or a bomb, he’ll die instantly. Otherwise, a stray bullet or a boomerang takes only a hit of damage. Each medic can sustain three hits of damage before giving up the ghost. As you rescue soldiers, they’ll provide items like First Aid Kits or Protectors. The Kits will restore a point to your life if you need it, but if your life is full, they’ll act as a screen-clearing bomb. Protectors shield you from the weapons of the Special Forces troops, but not regular bullets. If you accidentally shoot the wounded, however, forget about getting any aid from them. Folks don’t take too kindly to getting killed by friendly fire.
The enemy has jetpacks and John’s stuck with a hand cart?
By the time you reach the murky swamp (the second of five increasingly intense war zones), Rescue Mission already feels like all-out war – against one man! The Air Troopers and Special Forces unleash a torrent of bullets, bombs, and boomerangs on this poor medic who’s just trying to patch up his buddies and get the hell back to base camp without losing a limb himself. The sincere desire to keep your medic alive coupled with the furious amount of Phaser shooting results in one of the greatest 8-bit light gun games ever. Rescue Mission is simple, noble, and true – and a helluva handcart ride.