A general rule of thumb for 8-bit games based on movies is to stay away. While once in a while you manage to get something decent or even extraordinary (Sunsoft Batman comes to mind,) but usually games based on movies tend to be crappy rush jobs slapped together at the last minute to make a buck. Dirty Harry the movie however came out nearly 20 years before this videogame based on it was even considered. Thus I can imagine this particular project wasn't staring down a movie release schedule, which gave the developers a little more time to make a better game. Too bad they didn't do that.
The game plays like a straightforward side scroller but with a lot of adventure elements mixed in. At first it may look like the object is to walk left to right and shoot things but you find very quickly a kill everything strategy gets you nowhere fast. The problem is however that everything seems to get you nowhere fast.
Harry has a few decent platforming moves at his disposal. B button throws a punch, A + B jumps. Up + A executes a swift kick which can break open cabinets (as well as a bad guys' nuts.) Harry can also climb up ladders and shimmy hand-over-hand on overhead pipes. A button uses whatever item is currently selected on the pause screen, which defaults to Harry's famous .44 magnum. Other items include explosives (to open safes,) Hot dogs to regain energy, and grappling hooks to swing across chasms. Some items are used automatically, such as flashlights, gasmasks, bullet proof vests, and crowbars (to open locked doors.) Harry can also pick up the occasional trash can lid and use it as a shield to stop thrown objects from above, although it's much easier just to shoot the bastard.
This is one of those games where the enemies constantly regenerate, so you have to keep moving. The scarceness of ammunition and the fact that it's easy to take down any particular bad guy means you spend most of your time in fisticuffs with constantly regenerating generic thugs, a crime in a game about a cop who's famous for blowing dirtbags away that big gun of his. Nearly your every step is dogged by these red and green coated buffoons who seemingly come out of nowhere - popping up out of the sewers, dropping nets on you from rooftops, sniping you from doorways, even spontaneously generating out of furniture, for Godsakes. This is also one of those games where any animal you come across instantly wants to kill you also - rats, cockroaches, snakes, etc. I wonder what Harry Callahan did to piss off the cockroaches so much.
The adventure aspect of the game does somewhat redeem the title, problem is there's absolutely no indication of what the hell you're supposed to do next. There's a part where this big bouncer guy won't let you in a room unless you get a white suit from this pimp in another building. He doesn't give you the suit though unless you jump next to him, which you'll probably figure out by accident. Once you get past him there's a woman in a room who seemingly does nothing - later on after digging up a FAQ on the game I find out she's supposed to be a hostage, and you're supposed to be "rescuing" her (even though she doesn't leave the room) and she gives you extra lives. But you wouldn't know any of this from playing the actual game unless you just happen to stumble upon it. There's no visual or audio cues, no guidelines, no nothing, Pretty bad game design there fellas.
Overall the game isn't a complete loss. Is is pretty fun to shoot some punk or kick him in the balls a few times and see him comically fly backwards, literally blown out of his shoes. The platforming and adventure elements are somewhat decent. But the cheap hits, repetitive regenerating enemies, and utter lack of any coherent discernable storyline knocks the game down more than a few notches.
Graphics: Simple and bland, but they get the job done.
Sound: Good digitized sample of the famous "Go ahead, make my day" quote at the title screen, not much else after that.
Gameplay: The game would have come off a lot better as a side scrolling action of even first person shooter (ala Operation Wolf or something.)
Good stuff: Good difficulty progression, decent animation for the main character.
Bad stuff: Bad guys regenerate and keep coming, lots of cheap unavoidable hits, no visible indication of what to do at any given time.
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