MOONWALKER / U.S. Gold / PC
The version of Moonwalker released for home computers only predates the Sega Genesis and arcade releases by a little more than a year, yet it feels like something still stuck in the mentality and limitations of Atari 2600 game design.
This one was handled by U.S. Gold (notorious for crap computer re-interpretations of arcade games) and has no relationship to the Sega games, it's completely different. It starts out with MJ apparently being stalked by the Big-Headed Mafia and some random furry. You're then dumped on some sort of a movie set with no explanation as to what's going on.
The white dot on the Soliton radar is you, Michael!
The deal is that MJ apparently is being stalked by crazed fans who cause him to spin around and explode when they touch him. His only defense is a dodgy sprint button, the rules and duration of use of which I'm still not totally clear on, but it does like to flake out sometimes at key moments. You have a rather large radar at the bottom - yellow dots are crazed fans, and the green dots are items you need to pick up. You have to pick up the items in some finicky sequence, however, and the ones you are allowed to pick up at the moment sort of flicker, while the ones that can't be picked up yet are a solid green. But the flickery ones don't appear on the radar until you're fairly close to them for some reason. The eventual goal is to put together a disguise for Michael, but first you have to get some film, a key and a camera or something for some reason too.
The fans come in three varieties that I've seen. The slowest is the jaundiced tourist with a camera, who barely moves faster than Michael's normal walk speed and is not much threat. The next step up is the fat guys on those little motorized cart things, they're a little too fast to stroll away from, but Mikey's sprint still vastly out-paces them. The ones to watch out for are the completely random cowboys riding horses. I don't know if they're out to break Mike's back or they're just out to lasso him up before he can invite their kids over, but their normal movement speed is equally as fast as Mike's sprint, and when they come after you they'll out-flank you like Patton until you're roped.
The first level is a horrible, over-long chore and most people will probably give up right there. If a cowboy doesn't rustle you up, you can also get hung up on terrain somehow (amazing for a 2D game) and completely freeze, forcing you to restart the game. There's some amazing weirdness in the later levels that is almost worth grinding through to see, though (or just looking up a video.) The second level is more of the same sort of thing as the first, except Mike is on a motorcycle now, and the goal is to find and run over packets of cocaine randomly lying around in the streets. This one is even longer than the first and is even more of a pain to play because Mike's movement is faster but more jerky, and now there's mob dudes with guns shooting at you too, if you drive parallel to them it's almost an instant kill. But it's also hilarious in that you can run down the mobsters and they die in a gruesome pile of bloody guts that stays on the screen for the rest of the level ... seemingly you can run down everyone else you see too, even though some just look like bystanders out for a stroll or security guards. Tables are turned now, suckers!
I couldn't be stuffed to get past that but apparently the final two levels abruptly transition into weird run-n-gun/platformer/target shooters. The third level takes place at Club 30 or whatever and looks kinda like the first level of the Genesis version except it's all on one flat plane, you don't climb stairs to multiple levels. And instead of rescuing kids you can stop and control a crosshair that you use to gun down mobsters popping up in the background. And in the final level you're in some heavily armed turret shooting down guards that keep popping in through doorways while, bizzarely and hilariously, the first few bars of "The Way You Make Me Feel" loops in the background.
From a gameplay perspective the game is completely terrible and clunky and worth no one's time. It's an interesting curiosity in how violent it is past the first level. All the other MJ games have Mike taking on humans but they just kind of disappear or he dances them to death. Here he's running people over gruesomely and toting around a machine gun like Rambo. I wonder if he even saw anything past the first level of this game and personally signed off on it. I just can't see how him or his handlers would approve something that violent, and he seemed to be really hands-on with the video games he was in, so I wonder if he wasn't just shown the first level or something.
Anyway, the version we looked at here is the PC version, which comes in only 16 colors and has awful bloopy PC internal speaker music. If you really have to play this the Amiga version seems to be both the best looking and best sounding.