What kind of rubbish name for a game is "Rush 'n Attack" anyway? Released at the height of the media's obsession with the Cold War threat of global thermonuclear war in 1985, such titles made teenage boys giggle. The rest of us just simply preferred Green Beret - the name it was released under in certain other parts of the world. Far more dignified, in a fairly oblique kind of way.
In Europe, at least, the game was hugely popular thanks to the splendid home conversions released by Ocean's Imagine label - especially the Spectrum version, and for many, the game's arrival on Xbox Live Arcade will give them the chance to play the arcade version for the first time.
As ever, the game is a simple side-scrolling 2D platformer, where you must guide a US spec ops soldier from left to right and kill everyone who dares to get in your way. The premise is, predictably, that you've stormed a Soviet military complex in order to rescue the POWs - but don't let that get in your way. This is storming, relentless, old fashioned platform-combat fodder that was hugely fashionable at the time, and now long since forgotten.
So much so, in fact, that playing it again for the first time is a massive culture shock - as so many retro games can be if you've left them in a dark cupboard for decades. From all sides, enemies storm your position, leaving you a gibbering wreck and staring blankly at a Game Over screen before you've even traversed halfway across the first of the four levels in the game.
Your move-set and lack of a gun as default (now that's plain careless) leaves you with no choice but to flail in all directions with the knife. But, slightly counter-intuitively, you can't run with the knife [I approve - CS-loving Ed], leaving you to slash left and right of your position and edge your way forward whenever you've got a clear window of opportunity.
Like all side scrollers of the era, you could climb ladders and bound between different parts of the level, so part of the fun of Green Beret was funnelling your enemies towards you, and laying in wait for them to pour lemming-like to their knife-based doom. It's a very silly, comical-looking game, but somehow a lot of fun at the same time. The best bit, though, is killing the guys with weapons, giving you the rare luxury of wiping out an entire swathe of goons in one fell swoop. The flamethrower, even 22 years on, is as satisfying as hell.
The frustration of the game, though, runs rampant thanks to the finicky one-hit-kill nonsense and lack of continues. Coming as it did on the cusp of when games introduced health bars, continues and saner difficulty curves, the game suffers because of the legacy of its dedication to stealing loose change from your pockets, as opposed to keeping you entertained. That said, it's such a short game (it can be completed in around ten minutes, if you're good) that you don't mind starting from the beginning every single time. Well, a bit, but there you go. Unfortunately, unlike the Namco games, you can't even restart from the last stage you got to, so if you really want to play through all four levels, you've simply got to play it over and over again.
The problem with that, is, well, playing the same level you've already completed repeatedly is not a huge amount of fun. As such, Green Beret isn't a game you'll spend an especially long time with once the initial "ooh I played this when I was 12" feeling wears off. Enemies become hilariously tough to avoid, spraying bullets, floating in unpredictably, and generally kicking your arse from all angles. It's like Metal Slug, only about 400 times more unforgiving, and about one tenth of the size, so it's not even good value, either.
Technically it's a gruesome-looking game too, stuck somewhere between the simple retro charms of the early '80s efforts and the slick cartoony look of the early '90s. It's gaudy, unsubtle, and artistically grim, and made infinitely worse by ham-fisted two frame animations that look initially ridiculous when you see then again these days. Somehow you get used to it, though, and it doesn't detract from your overall enjoyment in a matter of minutes.
Set rose tint to full
And, in keeping with Konami's other XBLA releases to date, you get the chance to 'enjoy' the game in enhanced or original format, with the ability to toggle both the graphics and sound to how you prefer to remember the game. Just like all the others, though, the enhancements are reasonably subtle (unlike the recent Double Dragon debacle) and do make the game look almost acceptable even when played on a big TV. The flamethrower and explosions, for example, are miles better, and - for once - you won't necessarily want to go back to the original graphics once it's apparent how awful they really look on a big screen.
There are the usual Konami bolt-on extras like competitive or co-operative multiplayer over Live, but, being score-based, it's hardly worth bothering with. Maybe if you're drunk or lonely. Or mad. Takes all sorts. As ever, leaderboards and achievements bolster a fairly lightweight package, but can't exactly make up for what is one of the shortest games on Live. Maybe it's time Microsoft started considering 100- and 200-point tariffs to make lightweight gems like this more attractive. Until then though, this is worth downloading for the trial version, but that ought to tell you everything you need to know right there and then.
So that's Green Beret. Charming little platform riot, but not a game that has aged well at all. Perhaps one for curious Spectrum owners to download - if only to check out what the original looked like.