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Brute Force – Arcade

Brute Force – Arcade

Platform: Arcade*  

Developer: Leland Corporation

Publisher: Leland Corporation

Release Date: 1991 (Exact date unknown)

Genre: Beat ’em Up

Nerd Rating: 2 out of 10

*Emulated through MAME

There are some misfortunes that befall people. These are various happenstances that whether by sheer bad luck, or some weird cosmic alignment, happen  to a person causing temporary suffering.

These occurrences, while bothersome, usually pass quickly and serve to teach us an important lesson that pops up later in life. These are what your mom used to call little blessings in disguise.

Other misfortunes are perpetrated on people by other people. These are much more nefarious because this represents the very worst aspects of human nature conspiring to willfully inflict harm on another human being.

These occurrences, such as robbery, acts of violence, and totalitarian forms of government such as communism, are much more damaging; causing a lifetime of suffering and mental anguish.

Playing through Leland Corporation’s hideous 1991 beat ’em up, Brute Force fell into the category of willful infliction of harm. This is the only explanation that I can think of that would easily explain how such a sorry mess of a game would be released to the general population.

These people wanted to hurt us.

Okay – maybe accusing Brute Force of some de facto human rights violation is a bit of hyperbole, but it’s hard to believe that a company could look at other hits of the genre in the early ’90’s – games like Final Fight, Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, et al – compare those titles to Brute Force, and say that it was good enough to see the light of day.

Playing through Leland Corporation’s hideous 1991 beat ’em up, Brute Force fell into the category of willful infliction of harm.

Brute Force starts of in a similar vein as many other ’90’s side-scrolling beat ’em up’s.

Brute Force manages to ruin an idea like fighting on top of a subway car.

Crime – lot’s and lot’s of crime have taken over your beloved nameless city, and the only thing that can stop it is a trio of vigilante ruffians: Brute Force!

The game is played from more of an isometric perspective, which means you’re not limited to just moving left or right, or in a limited way between the foreground and background. While one would think that this would open up interesting opportunities in the gameplay department, the terrible execution of Brute Force’s combat mechanics actually make this enhanced sense of freedom more of an annoyance, as one tries to wrestle with poor hit detection to actually do damage (or avoid getting damaged by) one of the criminal ruthless ruffians.

Brute Force’s gameplay consists of a single action button that varies between a punch or kick, depending on how close you are to an opponent, or whatever the machine is feeling at the time, and inexplicably, a strange diving/flying tackle button that makes your character look like an idiotic version of Superman. The pseudo isometric field of play effectively nullifies any useful execution of this diving tackle because it’s so hard to line up your character to ensure a hit. This results in a ton of very stupid looking belly-flops onto the street, making your character look like far less of a bad ass, and much more like a person who grew up eating paint chips.

Any beat ’em up worth their salt would have a number of power-up’s to utilize, and Brute Force was no exception.

There are lead pipes, guitars, guns, a seemingly endless supply of cue balls, and even a blow torch that can be found and employed in your quest for justice; however, getting the problem of the isometric gameplay field raises it’s ugly head again, as it serves to render these power-up’s as mostly useless, and in some cases, more of a chore to have to use.

All of this could be somewhat forgivable if the action approached a semblance of fun; however, everything from kicking,

Brute Force’s graphics are nothing short of ugly.

punching, and even just walking around feels extraordinarily sluggish – as if the entire thing is being played in slow motion. This only serves to add to the impression that this game wasn’t actually developed for entertainment purposes, but was instead developed as a punishment to be inflicted upon poor souls caught in some prison in a third world hell hole.

All of this could be somewhat forgivable if the action approached a semblance of fun; however, everything from kicking, punching, and even just walking around feels extraordinarily sluggish

Graphically, Brute Force is simply ugly. So much of the 2d sprite artwork of the ’90’s aged incredibly well – like a visual version of a fine wine that still holds up compared in today’s time of limitless visual wonderlands. Brute Force’s visuals feature a sort of washed out art style that doesn’t give its characters or environments any defining characteristics. Like every other aspect of the game, the graphics are entirely forgettable.

The plot is standard for a title of this era; after all, we didn’t have multi-million dollar budgets and cutting-edge cinematic to rely upon for narrative.

The plot device that is timeless however, is motivation – Brute Force has no motivation beyond the opening explanation. This is because beyond using the device of having to defeat “crime”, there is no cohesion to what it is you have to defeat. There is no overarching criminal organization, no “Mr. Big” or other similarly cheesy ’90’s-style plot device to give impetus to Brute Force’s crusade. While this may seem like a refreshing change of pace, especially considering the dearth of identically themed motivations that would continue through the era, it actually serves to undercut any sense of accomplishment while slugging your way through the game.

The reasoning for Brute Force’s lack of storytelling structure could be found in the game’s level design.

The sadists at Leland wanted to convey the notion of being in a single city, and cleaning that city of its criminal class one neighborhood at a time. While that is an admirable goal, they set out to accomplish this by having your character start off outside his little apartment at the beginning of each level. This means that every stage starts out not only in front of the same location, but also requires you to traverse over the exact same space as you have in previous levels, before you actually reach the new location containing the criminal menace of the day. This adds to the sense of futility that the lack of storytelling already instills.

Brute Force’s visuals feature a sort of washed out art style that doesn’t give its characters or environments any defining characteristics

If Brute Force was a chef, it would probably ruin something perfect and pure – like a taco..

There are seven of these “stages” in Brute Force, with a final hidden eight stage revealed at the moment you think the ordeal is finally over.

These stages each have a different criminal theme ranging from skinheads, Arab terrorists, and of course, ninjas.

While most enemies of the 2d beat ’em up genre were not very gifted in the brains department, Brute Force’s enemies exhibit a shocking lack of evidence for any virtual neurons sparking along in their pixelated craniums. I saw instances where enemies would literally just stand around, or worse, get themselves stuck behind objects.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the enemy/level design in Brute Force is the lack of the classic gaming trope of an end stage boss.

That’s right, no stage bosses and inexplicably, no end of game boss to provide a added challenge, exciting visual element,

Each level just sort of ends without any fanfare or expectation that the stage is reaching its conclusion whatsoever. Thus reinforcing the idea that none of this actually matters.

Like Star Wars: Episode VIII, Brute Force tries to upend some gaming conventions, but offers nothing viable to take their place. The end result in both cases is a giant turd.

every stage starts out not only in front of the same location, but also requires you to traverse over the exact same space as you have in previous levels

While some of the other ideas could be considered somewhat admirable for flying in the face of already established gaming tropes, the implementation of those ideas was done without consideration for what makes those tropes work in the first place.

The result is an incompetent disaster akin to today’s cinematic abortion of Star Wars: Episode VIII; a middling, pointless exercise in idiocy that whether by conscious effort, or the culmination of the lack of skill of its designers, tries to fly in the face of solid ideas established by other games, but fails miserably in the process.

The only thing that Brute Force gets right is the title that Leland Corporation chose: Brute Force. Because it will take the Brute Force of will and determination to force ones way through to the end.

If you are in some sort of North Korean prison, and they’re forcing you to play this game as a form of torture, then I truly wish you all the best.

For everyone else, avoid Brute Force like the plague.

Were you victimized by the travesty that was Brute Force? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by The Watchman

The Watchman

The Watchman is a journeyman gamer who has seen and played a good chunk of gaming history.
He’s also an actor, a reporter, a pro wrestling connoisseur, and some say he’s a cat whisperer.
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One Comment

  1. Clearly it gets its 2 star rating for having sweet character names.


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