Vice Project Doom is a hidden gem on the NES that I discovered over the past six months. It’s a game that I had no idea existed, but I’m happy to have found it. It’s basically a PG 1980’s action movie platform game in 2D pixelated glory!
The story is interesting but a bit hard to follow! You play as Detective Hart investigating the disappearance of your partner Reese. The investigation leads to the B.E.D.A corporation, which turns out to be run by aliens that have been on earth for hundreds of years and have been selling a new street drug called ‘Gel’ to the underworld! I didn’t quite get it either, but the game uses really awesome and cheesy cutscenes (just like in Ninja Gaiden) which help flesh out the narrative.
In terms of gameplay, there are various level types, including driving and shooting stages, but the primarily type is action/platform levels somewhat similar to Mega Man. In these levels, Detective Hart runs and jumps through levels using his laser whip, handgun, and grenades to dispatch his enemies. The controls in these levels are fantastic and very responsive. Besides the regular movements like running and jumping, Hart can also duck and even run while ducking, which makes it much easier to get in close to enemies while they are shooting at you! This is by far my favorite level type.
In the shooting levels, you take on a first-person perspective like in Operation Wolf and just shoot enemies as they come up by moving the shooter indicator around the screen with the D-Pad. They are fun but few and far between. I would have rather been able to use the NES Gun, but it is not supported. The last level type is the driving levels where you take control of Hart’s car from a top-down perspective like in Spy Hunter. In this mode, you can move in all directions on the screen like a top-down shooter and blast whatever comes at you. These levels are simple but also a lot of fun and have very responsive controls. Overall, in terms of gameplay, I really enjoyed the variety which really makes it stand out from other similar games.
In terms of graphics, the game looks fantastic for a later release on the system. I am mesmerized by how cool the first 2D platforming level looks with the skyline in the background! In terms of music, it is so-so – none of the tunes really stuck with me. I did find the sound effects satisfying though – especially with shooting and slashing enemies with Hart’s whip!
Despite its obscurity, Vice Project Doom is a great NES game that combines the spirit of a campy 1980s action picture with a wide range of enjoyable gameplay options. The visual style fits the tone of the game perfectly, and the cutscenes provide necessary context for the otherwise confusing story (the weakest part of the game – but not really relevant to how fun the game is). Contrary to my expectations, I’ve returned to this game more frequently than any of the Mega Man titles.
When compared to other games, Vice Project Doom does a fantastic job at balancing all of its moving parts. The game’s many level types in Vice Project Doom feel well-designed and interwoven into the game, unlike some other games that try to alter up their gameplay. Never did I feel like I had to suffer through an unenjoyable type of level just to get to the ones I liked.
Nonetheless, Vice: Project Doom is lacking in a few key areas. As said before, the game doesn’t do much to make sense of the tale, which can be confusing at times. In most cases, I preferred skipping the cutscenes altogether to the effort of attempting to figure out what was going on there. In addition, the music and sound effects, while serviceable, fall short of the standards set by other legendary NES games.
Overall, I would highly recommend Vice Project Doom to anyone looking for a fun and challenging NES game. It’s a hidden gem that deserves more recognition and attention than it has received, and it stands out from other similar games with its unique blend of action, platforming, driving, and shooting gameplay.