Games time forgot: Lucky & Wild

I must be completely honest and admit that I owe this week’s forgotten game almost entirely to cblogger Excremento, who highlighted it in his Top Ten Arcade Gun Games article.

Apparently, Lucky and Wild was so damn forgotten that I’d actually managed to erase every last trace of it from my memory, up until Excremento mentioned it and sent hours of driving, shooting fun flooding back into my consciousness.

An experience which, sadly, can’t really be replicated through NOT emulation, Lucky and Wild combines the joy of a 16-bit racing game with a light gun shooter. Ripping off its meager plot almost entirely from Tango and Cash, this arcade title sought to recreate the feel of an over-the-top 80’s buddy cop flick — and to my mind, it succeeded.

Hit the jump to learn more about a fantastic game you’ll probably never get to play.

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Story:

You play as Detectives Lucky and/or Wild, two Cops On The Edge who’ll do Whatever It Takes to rid the world of Criminal Scum. Though coming from different backgrounds and policing styles, Lucky and Wild learn to live with each other and, eventually, team up to rid the world of drug dealers and save Teri Hatcher.

That’s probably the plot, anyway. There’s really not that much actual narrative delivered to the player outside of “Lucky and Wild are cops who hate the mob and have car and a two guns now go to the with them and be killing the drug lords,” or something equally coherent and, ultimately, irrelevant.

Lucky and Wild are also hilariously blatant ripoffs of Tango and Cash, respectively, which should tell you a lot about where this game’s tonal priorities lie. They could have ripped off Dirty Harry or  any number of darker police dramas, but they chose Tango and friggin’ Cash, a film where Kurt Russell dresses in drag and both cops drive a bulletproof, futuristic assault Humvee into Jack Palance’s evil lair at the end of the film. Mean Streets this ain’t, and it shows in the HUD: in addition to the speed of your car and your points and everything, you can also see Lucky and Wild’s faces in the rearview mirror as they scream, cringe, and laugh with every explosion and gunshot.

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Gameplay:

The average Lucky and Wild arcade game would consist of a sit-down cabinet like the one seen above, complete with a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, and best of all, two dashboard-mounted light guns. While Lucky and Wild (or “L-Dub,” as I like to call it) can be enjoyed by a single player who both drives and shoots, the experience is infinitely more enjoyable with a friend. A partner can either handle the rightmost dashboard gun and focus solely on shooting while his partner drives and uses the other pistol, or (as per Excremento’s suggestion) the driver can focus solely on his wheelmanship, while the passenger gets to dual-wield the pistols and become a sort of automotive Chow-Yun Fat.

Each level follows a predictable, but still awesome, format.

1. Lucky and Wild drive onto a street where a known drug dealer’s car has been seen.

2. The drug dealer (with a bright, neon “BOSS” sign pointing directly at him) spots Lucky and Wild and shoots out their windshield before driving away.

3. The drug dealer’s cronies pull up in black cadillacs and begin shooting at Lucky and Wild.

4. Lucky and Wild must shoot their way past the boss’s guards, chase the boss down, and destroy his car before the level ends.

In other words, it was goddamn awesome. It really doesn’t take much time to explain what’s so great about Lucky and Wild: it’s an on-rails arcade shooter, except, instead of rails, you’re given an effing Lamborghini. The driving is fun and responsive (though there aren’t as many obstacles to dodge as I would have liked), and the shooting controls are on par with most other light gun games (I’m pretty sure you never had to reload, either).

All told, Lucky and Wild is probably one of the most enjoyable cooperative arcade experiences I’ve ever had.

Why You Probably Haven’t Played It:

When was the last time you went to an arcade? Better yet, when was the last time you went to an arcade which carried badass, multi-genre Namco games from the early 1990’s?

There’s your answer.

I honestly can’t understand why more games didn’t at least attempt to integrate arcade genres in the way Lucky and Wild did — there’s really not much to L&W outside of its linear shooting and driving, but it’s fun as all hell. Why didn’t anybody ever rip this off?

I only ever saw Lucky and Wild at one arcade during my childhood, and I only got to play it two or three time; ever since then, I’ve searched for an L&W machine in every single arcade I’ve had the opportunity to enter. No luck, though. It appears that Lucky and Wild is destined to remain a distant memory of gameplay bliss for me, and for so many others who can’t find a sit-down cabinet of this wonderful title anymore.

As mentioned before the jump, NOT emulating this game is basically an exercise in futility; if you can’t play Lucky and Wild with a steering wheel, two light guns, and a close friend, then you aren’t playing Lucky and Wild.

Sure, you can always spend a couple thousand dollars to buy a probably-broken Lucky and Wild arcade cabinet of your own, but let’s be realistic — for most of us, we probably won’t have a chance to experience anything like Lucky and Wild ever again.

Until Zombie Massacre comes out for the Wii, anyway.

Anthony Burch