|A typical scene from Altered Beast. Not shown: Boredom.|
|Take that, weird-looking Golden Axe steed!|
Past the window dressing, Altered Beast is a bare bones beat ‘em up, not far removed from its more contemporary cousin Bad Dudes vs. Dragonninja. The armies of the dead and an assortment of mythological beasts are barfed out of the right side of the screen, and you dispatch them with punches and kicks. The stages are occasionally sprinkled with pits, but they’re more effective at robbing the player of quarters than breaking up the monotony of the flat level designs.
On your journey, you’ll sometimes cross paths with packs of Cerberuses... or is it Cerberi? Anyway, you’ll find sparkling white hellhounds hiding in their midst, leading to the game’s hook. If you can sink a fist into one of these beasts before it finds sanctuary at the edge of the screen, it curls up into a shining blue ball of energy. Catch the orb as it snakes its way upward and your hero gets a welcome boost of strength, bulking up his muscles while adding similar heft to his attacks.
Snatching all three orbs also brings the stage to a merciful end, and prompts a showdown with Neff. The sneering villain, looking very much like Robert Englund in his Nightmare on Elm Street prime, transforms into a screen-filling monster in a last-ditch effort to send your hero back to his grave. You can see the strain on the art staff as the game progresses… while Neff’s first form, a tower of rotting human debris with bones and skulls buried in its foundation, ranks up there with R-Type’s Doppleganger as one of gaming’s most visually stunning bosses, things quickly go south from there. Your next fight is with a watermelon packed with eyeballs. A few stages later, you challenge a plump crocodile with a glowing belly, which looks like a Care Bear Cousin that didn’t make it past focus testing. It’s like the boredom that swiftly sets in when you play this game eventually got to the designers themselves.
Beer would have been really helpful for this review,
I'll tell you that.