Armed and Dangerous is an original squad-based shooter inspired by the legend of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. Set in the distant future, the game stars a confident gang leader named Roman who decides to overthrow an oppressive king with the help of his three-man crew, dubbed the Lionhearts. Players will guide Roman and his team across 21 missions taking place in five regions of Planet Milola. Roman and company will be hounded throughout by a motley assortment of humanoid beasts, fanatical monks, relentless droids, and other freaks of nature.
Each member of the Lionhearts specializes in certain tasks, including demolitions, magic, and muscle. Players will journey across three continents on their way to defeat evil King Forge, each of which offers such varied terrain as mountains, tundra, forests, and cliffs. To help guarantee safe passage, players can use the Cyclops Sniper Rifle to defeat multiple foes in one shot, the Vindaloo Rocket Launcher to fire four simultaneous missiles, and two types of bombs: Sticky Bombs, which can be attached to any surface (including enemies), and Topsy-Turvy Bombs, which literally turn the world upside down for a short time to shake up enemies.
We expect nothing less than pure zaniness from Planet Moon Studios. In 2000, the developer unleashed Giants: Citizen Kabuto to the world. A combination shooter/RTS, Giants is best remembered for its bizarre imagery and daffy sense of humor. Imagine a cross between the old Warner Brothers cartoons, Monty Python's Flying Circus, King Kong, and a pro wrestling extravaganza. Now Planet Moon is back with Armed & Dangerous, a streamlined old-school action game that lacks the diversity of Giants but shares the same sense of silly fun. The only problem is that the fun grows old quickly because of the game's simple, repetitive levels.
The ESRB rating on the back of the Armed & Dangerous box sums things up nicely: "crude humor" (sticking a blind midget up a dinosaur's butt), "mild language" (insults bandied about during cutscenes), and "violence" (everywhere you turn). Technically, Armed & Dangerous has a story. Someone even took the time to write a couple pages about it for the manual -- some nonsense about onions, Scottish mines, an evil king named Forge, and the Book of Rule, an all-powerful artifact. What the game's really about is sitting back and enjoying the silly cutscenes (with hilarious send-ups of Star Wars, among others) and then blowing the crap out of anything that moves (or sits still) during the missions. This game doesn't aim for sophistication; it aims for headshots.
You control a master thief named Roman from a third-person perspective. His buddies Jonesy, a short-tempered moleman, and Q, a highbrow robot, tag along, helping you fight. Rexus, a diminutive and perpetually stinky seer with googly glass eyes, also tags along, riding inside Q's chest cavity and sipping tea from a convenient dispenser onboard. Rexus rides along for comic relief, so all you really need to concentrate on is Roman, Q, and Jonesy. The latter two are controlled by the AI and basically just follow your moves, helping you blast bad guys. You can also issue two simple orders to them: move to an area to guard/attack, or move back to Roman. Like Roman, Jonesy and Q each has his own health bar, so you'll need to keep on eye on their status during fights.
Fights are what Armed & Dangerous is all about. It's very much in the vein of Serious Sam; like that game, A&D even keeps score for you. Hordes of orc-like troops and masked commandos with German accents descend on you in droves from every direction, firing from windows, running out of convenient barracks spawn points, and jetpacking after you. All you have to do is blast these goons back into the Stone Age.
On paper, this may or may not sound exciting depending on what you're looking for, but in practice it's decent fun, at least until the cookie-cutter missions start to drag you down with their repetitiveness. You get tons of ammo and lots of wild weapons you pick up at village pubs. Along with a basic rifle and a machinegun, you get weapons like the Cyclops sniper rifle (range="very far away"), the Gurner personal mortar, which looks like a tuba with a trigger, and the "land shark gun," which launches a shark that plows through the earth and pops out to snack on hapless enemies. Then there are all your secondary weapons, like sticky bombs, which let you watch enemies run around in horror before they explode; the Topsy Turvy bomb, which turns the world upside down and sends bad guys flying; and the World's Smallest Black Hole, which sucks enemies into oblivion. You also get to use a cool jetpack/glider in a number of missions.
While it's nice that you get these goodies early on in the game, the flip side is that there's very little to strive toward. Every few levels, you also have to blast massive waves of enemies from a defense turret, but these levels in particular highlight a major shortcoming of the game: it reuses the same ideas over and over. The first time or two is fun, but eventually it just becomes monotonous.
Armed & Dangerous obliges your dark side by making almost everything destructible. Shoot part of a pipeline, and suddenly the whole thing is engulfed in an explosive chain reaction. Blast a waste barrel at the base of a guard tower and watch the tower explode into a million fiery bits and see the guard sail over you to his death. Bomb quaint buildings to pieces, evaporate trees, shatter fortress walls. Detailed graphics with a cartoonish sensibility bring all this to life -- nothing cutting-edge or even particularly imaginative, but attractive nonetheless (except for the horribly grainy, antiquated-looking cutscenes). Humorous voiceovers keep the comedy working, and thundering sound effects draw you into the action. The game boasts a quirky, eclectic soundtrack, too, with bits reminiscent of Scottish folk music, for example.
Armed & Dangerous can be fun, but it's a one-trick pony. There's no depth and the PC version lacks multiplayer support. All the missions are slight variations on the same basic themes, and you can finish the game in a day. Still, Armed & Dangerous is fast-paced, has plenty of funny moments, and lets you indulge your appetite for destruction with glee.
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