Developer(s): American Laser Games
Publisher: Capitol Multimedia
Who Shot Johnny Rock? is a shooting gallery from the people that brought you Mad Dog McCree. Like that game, you can play it with the Peacekeeper gun controller (and I did), but unlike that game you have the option to turn on a targeting reticle, making the actual play experience infinitely more manageable. The presence of the reticle highlights the controller’s flaws, providing some explanation as to the issues Mad Dog McCree suffered under, while also giving you the feedback needed to overcome them. It helps you see just how much the accuracy of the Peacekeeper drifts the longer you go between calibrations, as well as adjust for the slight lag between you moving the gun and the game recognizing you did so.
What Mad Dog McCree was to westerns, Who Shot Johnny Rock? is to noir detective fiction. You play as a P.I. investigating the murder of a nightclub singer named Johnny Rock. You must visit (and murder many men at) four locations to gather clues, then proceed to Johnny’s mansion to find the final piece of evidence to prove who did it. The tone employs the same camp silliness and overacting that you either love or loathe in live-action FMV games, but at least they put some effort into a few setpieces, including apparently blowing up a car.
While I wouldn’t exactly call it a great mystery, there are randomized elements in each playthrough — beyond what order the enemies pop out from behind a bunch of crates — that mimic the detective process. The clues you receive from the enemies vary and must be noted down, as eventually you will have to input them back in the order given to get a combination, which also must be noted down and re-entered into a safe. Once the safe is open, it will show you an object (like a pool ball or a pair of dice) signifying who the murderer was (this time), so you can confront them, shoot like fifty more dudes, and complete the game.
Instead of lives, in this game you have money, which goes down when you get hit or shoot a bystander. You can also spend money to buy more ammo, and you earn money by successfully completing scenes. Occasionally your secretary will call you and advise stopping by the casino or the pool hall, and if you do so you have a chance at some additional income if you can remember and shoot your “lucky number” (found in Johnny Rock’s hand in the opening sequence, also randomized). Try re-visiting an area you’ve cleared without prompting and you’ll instantly be killed. As far as I can tell, changing the actual difficulty setting just makes each scene last longer (and start to repeat enemies) before it moves on to the next one.
And in the end, it’s that randomization element that I appreciated the most in Who Shot Johnny Rock? They could have easily made this a straight shooting gallery, but attempting to infuse it with some detective flair helps it stand out a bit more. It also adds some replay value to an otherwise short game, as there are at least four possible endings (though, of course, you don’t control which one you get). Mix that in with some silly dialogue and aggressively campy performances and you’ve got a nice way to spend the afternoon.
Graphics – 8
You can’t get realer than real
Sound – 8
The dialogue is clear, which is good, as there are no subtitles
Gameplay – 7
The shooting is entirely functional, though there is still room for improvement
Value – 7
Randomized elements and multiple endings extend the life of this otherwise short game
Reviewer’s Tilt – 7
I like campy FMV games and I like noir detective stories, so this combo mostly worked for me
Final Score – 7.3