Heavy Barrel (Data East) 1987
An army of terrorists have seized control of a nuclear missile facility and players must infiltrate the heavily defended base and face an array of soldiers armed with cutting edge military gear. Heavy Barrel is a one or two player co-operational, scrolling shoot ‘em up. It was one of the few games which featured a rotary (or dial) joystick, allowing the player to shoot in eight directions while moving.
Heavy Barrel has a great soundtrack and cool sound effects that create an immersive game environment. You hear the electronic grunts of enemy soldiers as they are hit with machine gun fire or sizzled by your flame thrower. Another interesting element which was probably borrowed from Gauntlet is that when you kill certain soldiers they drop keys which can be used to unlock chests containing weaponry or rotating shields. These chests also contain parts to build the special supergun called the Heavy Barrel. Whichever player collects the final piece of the six parts would be awarded the massive gun; at this point the game excitedly shouts ‘Heavy Barrel!’ The gun lasts for 30 seconds and wipes out most foes with a single shot and if used strategically, can be assembled before an end of level boss to make winning the fight easier.
This was one of my favourite games from the era and a real step forward in graphics with its colourfully rendered science fiction imagery. Game Designer Koji Akibayashi also went on to create Midnight Resistance (1989), one of the last rotary joystick games and another excellent run and gun shooter. This game ramped up the amount of keys players could gather and even featured alternative endings depending on how many prisoners you released.