reviews\ Dec 10, 2001 at 7:00 pm

Who Shot Johnny Rock? - PS2 - Review

“Dragon’s Lair,” back in the mid-eighties, impressed gamers and inspired game developers to integrate full-motion video with some sense of control.  “Who Shot Johnny Rock?” and various other games like it were the result.  Now “Johnny” comes to the PS2 and the question gamers and action fans should be asking themselves is why not invent something new for a new age?  Why re-release something outdated rather than try to make a new version using the PS2’s technology?


This game is basically the same shooter that uses a white gun-sight that appears when there’s an enemy to shoot.  Sometimes two suspicious figures would appear and suddenly one of them pulls out a bouquet of roses while another pulls out a shotgun.  Gamers have to be quick and move the sight on an enemy and shoot him.  Other times the bad guys just keep coming at you--and to make things more difficult, innocent bystanders pop out at you as well.  And when an enemy manages to shoot you (which happens way too often), you end up hearing lame jokes from a surgeon. Death means a visit to the mortuary.


Players start with $2,000 and each time you’re gunned down, the money decreases by $400 until you’re out of money (the same as having five lives) and have to continue again.  After finishing a section successfully money could be gained by shooting your lucky number in locations where your secretary tells you to go.  But then again there is no limit to the amount of times you can continue playing.


This game’s major fault happens to center around the gun-sight itself.  The sight jerks awkwardly along the screen and often times it will skip the intended target altogether.  Sometimes--and this happens after a quick visit to the Doctor--the sight didn’t even show up at all.


There are two difficulty settings in the main menu, Ace and Wimp.  Playing the Wimp setting only allows you more time to train the white gun-sight over a target before he or she shoots.  Yet the controls are so awful that either choice proves to be difficult. 


There is also the graininess to the video quality that is quite noticeable especially when you’re in an area with low lighting.  Often times, this is a sign of a poor transfer from a video format to a digital format.  It would have been nice since the sound is decent enough--although the soundtrack is awful and the dialogue is as corny as the characters.


Adding to the problems is the occasional DVD “freeze” which normally occurs to most DVD players as well as the PS2 built-in DVD player.  It literally freezes motion for an entire second, but in this game it happens more often and many times it happens during a gunfight and gives the enemy an unfair advantage.


The story, as weak as it is, has gamers playing the role of a 1940s private eye investigating the violent death of a local Chicago crooner called Johnny Rock.  His girlfriend, Red, hires you to solve the murder and bring Johnny’s killer to justice.  Following a few clues, battling gangsters that get in the way and talking to cartoon-like suspects such as Mumps, Measles, and Lockjaw Lil leads the detective to the killer and his or her reason for gunning down Johnny.


As a game, this title fails to bring anything entertaining or fresh to gamers looking for something different.  In fact, a title like this wouldn’t even be glanced at twice by today’s gamer.  Hopefully there would come a day when game developers figure out how to integrate full-motion video with complete interactive control, until then gamers will just have to wait and look back at games like this that at least sparked the idea in the first place.



Gameplay: 3.0
Moving the gun-sight will prove to be a great nuisance to gamers expecting things to run smoother because of the dual shock controller.  The sight jerks clumsily or skips past the target resulting in many unnecessary trips to the surgeon or the mortuary.  And depending on the difficulty selection setting, you are given very little time to target enemies.


There is also an area selection screen when you can choose the destination, but once gamers choose the location of choice, enemies pop out before you even have time to move the gun-sight.

DVD “freeze” also impedes on the action during gunfights.


Graphics: 4.0
Surprisingly the video is grainy . . . signs of a bad transfer to DVD.  It gets grainer in areas of the game where lighting is minimal (such as dynamite factory and the parking lot outside Johnny’s mansion) and the entire production has a low-budget movie feel.


Sound: 4.0
The type of sound system you have hooked up to your PS2 or DVD player determines how well this game sounds.  Although the cheesy soundtrack isn’t something gamers would like to have playing loudly or the awful dialogue which tries to be funny is worth listening to, the sounds effects of machine guns and explosions isn’t that bad.


Difficulty: 4.1
The game has two settings, Ace or Wimp.  There isn’t a huge difference in gameplay, it just determines the amount of time the gun-sight can be moved over a target and with the jerky controls either setting proves to be troublesome.


There is no real challenge since gamers could simply remember the last location the bad guy was standing before he shot you and leave the gun-sight trained on him before the action starts.


Concept: 3.0
“Who Shot Johnny Rock?” was somewhat innovative in a time when the PC and arcade machines were barely using full-motion video in games, but compared to today’s game standards, it seems pointless to release outdated technology.  And the fact that nothing about this game has changed over the years (developers haven’t even considered revising the material) just shows that American Laser Games isn’t even interested in trying something new with today’s technology.


The story is done in a tongue-in-cheek manner that looses its appeal quickly, especially when repeating the same scenes over and over again after dying or killing an innocent bystander.


Overall: 2.0
I don’t think any gamer would seriously consider purchasing this title based on the fact that it uses video instead of animation and I don’t recommend anyone should buy it because it was--as the box states--”Based on the Arcade Smash Hit.”  In fact, I don’t recommend anyone buy it at all.

Perhaps, in due time, there will be a title that compliments the PS2’s built-in DVD player and the dual shock controller to bring video and gameplay together fluidly and enjoyably.  When that time comes, gamers will look back at “Who Shot Johnny Rock?” and laugh at it.


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