Alf Yngve is an accomplished game designer behind numerous games built of the Shoot’Em Up Construction Kit (SEUCK) platform with his more recent efforts utilizing Martin Piper’s SEUCK Redux engine with some additional collaboration with Richard Bayliss. Alf continues this approach with his upcoming commercial game for the Commodore 64, to be released through Psytronik Software, titled Precinct 20: Dead Strange.
The backstory to Precinct 20: Dead Strange is based on a series of short stories under the same title, which happen to be authored by Alf himself and are available to purchase from Amazon. You play the role of police detective Innis Garris who is on the case to chase down several killers that have made the streets unsafe at night. Rumour has it that the killers may not be human. So it is up to you to go through street gangs, wild dogs, sewer rats and supernatural entities lurking in the shadows while looking for clues relating to these murders.
The game starts of with a couple of pages of text setting the scene before Detective Garris starts his patrol in search of clues. But any notion that this is a low production title is immediately blown away as Alf delivers some of his best graphical work to date. Alf does a great job in portraying the streets as a gritty and dangerous environment with effective use noir visuals and shadows being cast across the landscape. In particular, I quite like the effect that makes Detective Garris partially visible when walking behind various foreground objects.
Another nice touch is when the game landscape subtly changes to denote that something supernatural is about to appear. Throw in a great horror inspired soundtrack from Richard Bayliss, and what you end up with is quite a moody and atmospheric game that has the player sitting at the edge of their seat.
Precinct 20 is actually split into two parts. In part one, the game area is a spread out over several different streets, alleys, parks and other locations. You must locate all the clues scattered around these locations, which are depicted in the guise of a skull, book or a crucifix, while fending off various hordes of enemies, some of which can be quite large.
You initially start of with a flashlight as a short range weapon but will have ample opportunity to upgrade to a knife, gun or flare found either on the streets or the numerous shops found throughout the game world. Note that the gun and flare come with limited ammo.
Detective Garris will intentionally move at a steady walking pace but whenever he picks up a clue or a weapon, his motivation increases and he is able to move around at a faster speed. Every time you are injured, your morale goes down, slowing you down back to walking speed while at the same time you lose your weapon upgrade, leaving you with the flashlight.
Precinct 20 utilises a health energy system, depicted by a bloody face in the lower right corner. There are no health power pickups in the game but it your health does increase with every 10,000 points obtained.
The game moves at a smooth pace for most part. However, the game scrolling does start to glitch a little when there are a vast number of enemies on screen. Also, as the game is using the SEUCK Redux engine, it can only scroll in the left direction so if you have missed an entry or exit on a particular section the only way to go back to it is to go the long way around as if you were walking around a block without being able to turn in the other direction.
The shooting action is good with the different weapons having different characteristics in terms of their range and coverage and enemies have different weak spots. Your Detective is able to shoot in 8 directions but at times it can be a little awkward to work out whether your shot is on the same pane as the enemy character but once you get used to this, it starts to become second nature.
When you have reached the end of Part 1, you will be told as to whether you collected all the clues and given one of two passwords. You will then be instructed to load Part 2 separately.
When part 2 has loaded up, you are prompted to type in the password you have acquired, which will determine whether you get the good or bad ending, and then it’s onto straight out shooting action whereby you need to make your way back to the precinct by killing everything in sight and running for your life.
Part 2 forms what has become Alf’s trademark, which is throwing everything at you right at the end as you are faced with insurmountable odds. The very last battle scene is marred by glitchy scrolling, making the job of eliminating all the enemy even harder.
Get past this and you find yourself back in the precinct where the end cutscene plays out.
Psytronik Software will be releasing Precinct 20 via their website on June 29. In the meantime, you can find out more about the game at the video link below.
Despite the shortcomings of the development platform used and the obvious jerky scrolling in a couple of areas, Alf has done a tremendous job to put together what has to be his finest release. The visuals and sonics of the game go a long way to make this his stand out game and there is plenty in the level design of Part 1 to keep you engaged.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Runs the Retro Gamer Nation YouTube channel and is a contributor to RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Komoda & Amiga Plus magazine and various other publications.