The sequel to the highly-acclaimed Renegade, Target: Renegade follows a similar premise: you fight your way through the mean city streets for a revenge showdown with crime boss "Mr. Big" (not the rock band), who's responsible for the death of your brother.
Unlike its prequel, Target: Renegade isn't an arcade conversion. However, like Renegade, there are 128K enhancements, which in this case give 128K Speccy owners some mournful-sounding AY music, and no annoying level multi-load that 48K owners are lumbered with.
Incidentally, there have been some remarks about the magazine advert (and also inlay art) bearing a striking (ho ho) similarity to the cover of a book by Joe Lewis:
Onto the game then, where you have to kick, punch, knee, and generally pummel your way through FIVE stages, with Mr. Big waiting for you at the end of the fifth stage.
You'll mostly have to knock your opponents down a few times before they disappear, and you have an energy bar and a number of lives. A timer encourages you to try to defeat opponents quickly; you need to make sure you're making constant progress through the level - there's no hanging around.
Each stage brings its own denizens and hazards, with a brief description of each appering in the inlay instructions. Each part ends with you answering a ringing public telephone... Presumably telling you the next location to head for. Not sure.
"Here you will meet a gang of motor cyclists who will attempt to either run you over or strike you with their weapons. The mounted cyclists must first be kicked off their bikes, but this will only render them unconscious for a very short time. Beware too, of the members of the gang and their friends who will creep up on you unawares in their attempt to smash you."
As warned on the inlay instructions, your first opponent flies at you on a motorbike, forcing you to learn and perform a well-timed flying kick right from the get-go.
This level has 3 floors that you descend using lifts at the end of each floor; this means on the middle level you're traversing screens right-to-left for a change. Which is nice.
The biker gang is fairly easily dealt with, especially once you pick up the sledgehammer. The hardest part is the time limit, which feels quite tight on this level compared to the others. Fortunately hitting the limit doesn't end your game; it just loses you a life.
Stage difficulty rating: 6/10
"You will be confronted by the "ladies of the night" who will try to beat you in the most unladylike manner. Additionally, the lady's (sic) "boss" will be on hand to make sure you are not victorious. Armed with a gun, and a limited number of bullets, he will attempt to shoot you and you must take evasive action until his ammunition has run out, then you can attack him man to man."
This level always feels fairly short. Despite the ladies doing their best to pummel and knee you within an inch of your life, the main hazard is the fella appearing on the left with a gun.
Despite the risk of immediately losing a life if you get hit by a bullet, it's easy to line up your opponents so that his bullets hit them instead.
Within a screen or two you can obtain a spiked mace, and once your gunslinger runs out of bullets it's a fairly leisurely stroll to the end of the level.
Stage difficulty rating: 5/10
"Here, a number of undesirable skin-heads will attempt to beat you to pulp. Pure punching, kicking etc. is the only way you will be able to progress to the next level. Using weapons that can be found an the ground you must fight your way through to the final confrontation."
Another fairly short one, but your enemies start getting slightly cleverer here. As the inlay describes, you need to be careful as it's easy for you to be punched, kicked, grabbed or headbutted by your violent opponents.
However, you can acquire (what looks like) a tomahawk on this level and proceed to whack them over the head with it (I don't remember THAT particular Bruce Lee move...).
Stage difficulty rating: 7/10
"The Beasty Boys are in town and some of their most ardent fans have congregated in the shopping mall, aware that your progress towards Mr. Big has almost reached its conclusion. Together with their canine friends they will attempt in a variety as ways to make sure this is your last level."
Fortunately the gnashing doggies only require a single flying kick to despatch, but like the previous level, your opponents start to get canny, ducking your flying attacks and combining well to attack you.
On paper this looks like a straightforward and short level, but the lack of a usable weapon is very noticeable - particularly on subsequent run-throughs, where your attackers don't leave you many effective attack options.
In fact, this is the level that tended to do me in most of all... The key is mastering the timing of the back-kick and pummelling your opponents when they're on the floor when you have the chance. But it really feels like a slow slog through this stage.
Stage difficulty rating: 9/10
"Before you are allowed to confront Mr Big on his home ground, you must first subdue his vicious bodyguards who will stop at nothing to ensure you do not threaten their leader (Warning - when you do manage to overcome these thugs, Mr. Big himself is a major force to be reckoned with)!"
Two things to know about Mr Big's henchman - they'll do quite a bit of damage shaking you if they grab you, and they will happily duck your flying kicks.
Fortunately grabbing the pool cue lets you make short work of them, and there are no other hazards on this very short level.
Stage difficulty rating: 8/10
Once you defeat Mr Big's henchmen, you confront the boss in the back room of the pub. Your first few goes at this boss are likely to result in him brushing aside your attacks and throttling the life (or lives) out of you.
By this stage though, if you've got the pool cue and mastered your swing, it's not too bad. If you haven't got the cue, it's still possible to beat him but you need to use perfectly timed back kicks. Any slight mistake can cost you a life.
Stage difficulty rating: 9/10
Once completed, there's a brief congratulatory message, and you're plonked back at the start of stage one. Next time round, enemies are more aggressive and evasive; your flying kick and punches become much less effective.
Simply put - Target: Renegade is a great game - Mike Lamb has programmed an absolute 'beaut'. I found it easier to complete than Renegade, but subsequent rounds get progressively more difficult.
The game is enhanced by the introduction of a two-player option, where you and a friend can play co-op - a great feature, which also adds entertainment value as it's possible to hurt each other, either accidentally or intentionally.
The key to mastery of the game is manoeuvring into good positions to attack your opponents (who don't move diagonally in the same way), and timing your attacks. If I had one criticism, it'd be that your regular punch/knee combo attack becomes fairly useless once you clock the game once. But this didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the game as a whole.
Graphics are smooth and slick, and you have a good variety of attacks as well as a nice weapon selection. The 128K level soundtracks are quite solemn and mournful... In fact too much so, according to some critics, though I like them.
Controls are easy to pick up but slightly more difficult to master. And there are some nice satisfying crunch sound FX as your attacks connect with opponents.
For me, this game is the pinnacle of multi-screen/gang beat 'em ups on the ZX Spectrum, and a very worthy successor to Renegade. Let's just all agree not to mention the third game in the series... We'll just pretend it never happened...