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Disney's Dick Tracy game for the NES was released at the height of Dick Tracy's popularity, the year the Warren Beatty film by the same name was released. In the game, the player has to solve 5 cases by collecting clues and interrogating suspects, working his way through the underworld before zeroing in on the city crime kingpin Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice.
Using his well-recognized yellow car to get across the city's grid-like map, Tracy dodges rooftop snipers and mad drivers in an effort to find the next clue. The driving portion of this game has a noticeable likeness to the original Grand Theft Auto series and could be quite frustrating to drive from point A to point B due to the lack of differences between one part of the city to the next as well as the constant sniper fire that is nearly unavoidable. Your car could stop on a dime and turn, with an annoying screeching sound, for easier navigation of the roads or to avoid the other reckless drivers on the road that will damage you if you touch them; nevermind that this game has one of the worst driving mechanisms to ever see the light of day - you are doomed before you even get to the first crime scene.
Tracy was able to get on foot during the driving portion. This was useful mostly to:
A.) Shoot rooftop snipers
B.) Enter buildings.
After entering a building, Tracy punches, shoots, jumps and dodges his way to the coveted clue or suspect. This was done in a side-scrolling view. Punching enemies was really interesting because it would cause enemies to kneel down and spin around endlessly on the map until they finally spun off of the screen. Shooting enemies was annoying because the game forced you to be a good cop. You were not allowed to shoot unarmed men or you would lose health. This was great in theory but terrible in practice because more often than not you would go to shoot an armed enemy and an unarmed enemy would somehow find their way into your line of fire.
The game consists of 5 cases. To solve a case, Tracy has to collect all 5 clues in the case, and then find and arrest the person they point to. The cases are:
- The Bogus Bucks - Track down the source of a fake $20 bill.
- Torchsong Tale - Prove Lips Manlis burned down the nightclub.
- A Bang Up Job - Find who sent Det. Sam Catchem a mail bomb.
- The Kidnap Caper - Find the person who kidnapped the diplomat.
- Banks Alot - Track down the bankrobbers.
The game gave you no extra lives so when you died it was for good - no continues. This game does have a locked safe at the title screen that acts as a password system via a three-digit code. Dick Tracy is notorious for its unforgiving difficulty via seemingly cheap mechanics that work solely against the player with no real counter to the problems it presents.