Rescue: The Embassy Mission is a pretty cool idea, certainly ambitious by NES standards. A lot of gameplay hinks and just a general lack of content keep it from being a great title, however.

Driving cars into / shooting up crowds is what terrorists tend to do these days, but back in the 1970s the hotness for them was taking over various embassies and taking hostages. There were something like 50 embassy takeovers around the world during that decade, the biggest of which was the Iran hostage crisis in Tehran in 1979. An unfortunate state of affairs, but also probably the reason we have Die Hard. Anyway, that whole period is what the game appears to take its inspiration from.

You're in control of a special forces squad as they stealthily bust up into the embassy and give them terries the bounce boogey and bump. The game unfolds in stages, but you have 18 minutes of real time to complete the whole thing.

The first stage is getting three snipers into position in buildings around the embassy. They'll have to hoof it through the dark streets, which are watched by terries with roving spotlights. Get in a spotlight and you've only got a second to roll away or get under cover before you get machine gunned to death automatically.

Problems are already on display here. The spotlights have what one might call a "generous hit box", as you'll be spotted and shot at when you're just in their general vicinity. This isn't immediately apparent and usually requires at least one unfair death to discover. And that's just a minor irritant in the grand scheme of things. A bigger challenge is that your duders are somewhat finicky about getting under cover, sometimes needing to be right on some arbitrary pixel before they'll comply. You also can't be too Sneaky Snek in this segment, as that 18-minute timer is running and you'll need the bulk of it for the actual assault on the embassy.

Once the snipers are in place (or one is in place and the other two are dead, which is the more common result), you've got one more phase before you're actually in. You can switch between the snipers you've placed, attempting to pick off some of the terries as they walk by windows. This part was initially confusing, however, as it's all just silhouettes in the windows - might you be shooting hostages? But no, apparently anyone you see in there is a tango and you're helping your own cause by waxing them.

Three more of your guys are dropped on the roof, and you rappel them in through the windows. This is the hardest part of the game, because rappelling is counter-intuitive and weird. It turns out that you have to alternate tapping down and up carefully; press down for just a little too long and you'll fall off the rope and die.

Anyway, these three guys are basically your three lives to try to clear out the embassy from the inside. Once in, the game becomes a primitive FPS using a re-purposed version of the engine from Kemco's Macventure game ports (Shadowgate, Deja Vu and The Uninvited). This part is actually the easiest, because you have a mini-map showing where all the terries are and they don't kill you or actualize until you're facing them and have a chance to shoot them. They also don't kill you the split second they open fire on most of the difficulty settings, so you have a fair chance to shoot them. And if your dood dies, you can rappel the other two in for two more tries (as well as go back to the snipers to see if they can do some more work from the outside).

It's definitely an interesting game and has a kickin' soundtrack (by whoever did the great music for Shadowgate and Deja Vu), but little blips of severe difficulty spikes and non-intuitive control (the rappel being the absolute worst example) really weigh it down. I only got through it by spamming save states a few times and taking breaks to look stuff up on the internet; I can't imagine how many frustrated kids gave up on it in the early '90s when that wasn't an option. And once you do get the hang of it, it's already over.

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