Retro Review: Altered Beast
Platform: Sega Megadrive
Is Altered Beast a bad game? Whenever Altered Beast is mentioned people always seem to say “what a terrible game” or “that game was crap!” My only memory of Altered Beast is that it was bundled with my Sega Megadrive. It had speech, big chunky graphics and you turned into a monster. Surely it can’t be that bad….can it?
Altered Beast is a side scrolling beat-em up set in the time of myths and legends. Your character was once a centurion which has been raised from the dead by the God of Thunder; Zeus. Your mission is to defeat the evil King of the underworld; Neff and rescue Athena.
The first thing to strike me about the game is that your character wears nice pink pants! Maybe there are fabulous boutiques from beyond the grave! The screen slowly scrolls left to right as you’re attacked by all manner of monsters including wolves and zombies that try and punch your head off your shoulders. It’s unusual for games of this type to physically move you forward instead of being able to move at your own pace.
There are no weapons in Altered Beast and you must rely on your hands and feet to get the job done. You can punch and kick and also do jumping and crouching punches and kicks. Your character does have a mean kick on him and I reckon he’d be pretty useful in a local Sunday league football team! Most of the enemies tend to just walk straight into your fist but some are very annoying. When you die or get knocked down there is literally no time to recover and you get hit over and over again, which feels pretty cheap.
At certain times of the game a white wolf will attack you and this is where the fun begins. You start off as a fairly weedy looking character but kill a white wolf and a special floating orb appears. As you collect each orb your body transforms, your clothes tear and you start to physically grow until you end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger! Collect the third and final orb and then you turn into the Altered Beast.
Each level of the game features a different beast with the first being a Werewolf. There is a fairly impressive transformation screen accompanied by a howl that would make John Landis proud.
The other beasts that feature in the game are the Weredragon, Weretiger, Gold Werewolf and the spectacularly named Werebear. Werebear sounds like some kind of freakish Care Bear but trust me when I say that this bad boy doesn’t spread love and joy, unless you count turning people into stone and slamming the crap out of enemies as loving.
Each beast has special abilities such as throwing fireballs or lightning bolts around which makes it even more important to get the power ups as quickly as possible because if you don’t you are going to struggle.
There are some hefty looking bosses at the end of each level with two of them having some of the best names in video game history. Where have you ever heard bosses called Moldy Snail and Crocodile Worm before? In fact there are some amazingly named enemies featured in the instruction manual. Slow Feet, Headless Horror, Chicken Stingers, Rad Boars and my personal favourite being Gory Goats. In all seriousness I do like that Chicken Leg from Golden Axe makes an appearance.
I have to be honest and say that although the graphics aren’t the best, they are nice and chunky and the transformation scene is good. The music and sound effects are ok but what impressed me was the various dialogue in the game. Zeus says “rise from your grave” or “wise from your gwave”, your character says “power up” when he claims an orb, the evil Neff says “welcome to your doom” and laughs when he takes away your powers.
I think the problem with Altered Beast is that it felt old then and it feels even older now. Golden Axe was out the same year on the Megadrive and it would totally blow away the competition in terms of side scrolling beat-em ups. In the arcades, games like Final Fight and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would make Altered Beast seem like a relic in comparison.
Graphics – Decent graphics with distinctive varied enemies and the beast transformations looking good. 4
Sound – The music is ok but the speech adds an extra point to the score. 4
Playability – Altered Beast is very basic indeed but the gimmick of turning into various Beasts gives it something different to other side scrolling beat-em ups….just. 4
Re-Playability – Although it was interesting to go back and see what Altered Beast is like today, I can’t say it is a particularly good game. There are far better beat-em ups out there. 3
Overall – I suppose if you put it into context this game would have looked and sounded impressive to a small child in 1990, but it was quickly overshadowed by better games in the genre. I still don’t think Altered Beast is the worst game ever, but it definitely isn’t one I would recommend that people must play. 4
Review by Chris (co-host of 60 Minutes With and The Same Coin)