IRON HORSE / Konami / Arcade

Iron Horse is like a weird early version of Sunset Riders crossed up with the "in the base" levels of Contra, with even some elements of other games like Rush N' Attack and Castlevania blended on in. It's got all the Konami arcade qualities going for it - sharp (for 1986) graphics, a kickin' soundtrack, new and creative gameplay style - and yet it has languished in obscurity. My thesis is that this is mostly due to being overly difficult and having poor/cheap level layout.

You play as a cowboy thwarting a gang of train robbers, but apparently you also help yourself to any loose loot that happens to be around, which seems to confuse a lot of people online into thinking that you're the one robbing the train ... oh well. Each game begins with a choice of weapon to bring into the fray ... whip, pistol or your bare manly fists. Initially this seems like a no-brainer, but the pistol is actually pretty bad and has terrible range, being outperformed by the length of the whip. The whip also has the benefit of bad collision detection and knocks guys over who haven't even been touched by it. Vampire Killer tbqh. The punch is also surprisingly effective - it's kind of slow and has the shortest range, but any dood you hit with it goes flying back a ways and acts like a projectile knocking over anyone behind him.

The game initially seems a bit easy, but it pretty quickly gets frantic after the first level. You die upon contact with pretty much anything except loot, and the game likes to throw a shit ton of enemies at you to mill around randomly in your vicinity while long-range snipers take potshots at you from the other side of the screen. And don't even get me started on the Ankle-Shooting Mexicans who constantly pop out. Anyway, the game gets pretty frustrating pretty fast. There's checkpoints throughout the levels that you respawn at when you die, but lose all three lives and you have to start the whole game over again from the beginning. I'm guessing the high difficulty and lack of continues is what contributed to this one's early exit from many arcade rosters.


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