I won’t lie to you, I had concerns when it was announced that Ocean was bringing Konami’s popular arcade game to home computers. Up until that point I’d only ever played Combat School with a trackball in the arcades, and as my Amstrad and my mate’s Spectrum didn’t come with one, so I failed to see how it was going to be an accurate conversion.
Shortly after drooling over the various adverts in Crash and Amstrad Action I was eventually able to find out how the controls panned out when my friend Paul Elkins received the game for his birthday. It didn’t work out very well at all…
Okay, so that’s not exactly true, but it was a nightmare to play on anything other than a joystick. For you see, unlike other joystick wagglers of the time Combat School required you to use all four directions instead of just left and right like Ocean’s popular Daley Thompson’s game. I’m not sure why this choice was made, but it made it an absolute bugger to play if you were stuck with the keyboard. In fact the only way to play it fairly in two-player mode was to swap turns. Ultimately, even that wasn’t ideal, meaning we’d simply play it single player and take it in turns, which was kind of against the whole spirit of the game.
Strange waggle choices aside, Combat School was a very fun conversion, with the Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC versions all being very entertaining to play. The Amstrad outing had the best graphics, while the soundtrack on the C64 was superb, kicking off with a funky rendition of I Wanna Be Your Drill Instructor. It was the Spectrum version I would most often play though, a slick piece of coding with bold well detailed sprites and great reinterpretations of the arcade’s numerous events.
It’s the opening obstacle course that most gamers remember though, simply because it’s the first event you face and is an absolute pig to. You’ll stick with it though, because there’s something about the testosterone-fuelled gameplay that brings out your competitive side. In fact you should have heard the cursing and name calling when we were playing it today!