From the ads of the past, games of yesteryear – Beach Head II

The Dictator living it up while on the run! I’m guessing that this ad was staged to look like an 80s action piece like MegaForce. The screenshots showed off the stages of the game while allowing Access to boast about the first Beach-Head and the controversial, but fun, Raid Over Moscow.

The Carver Brothers of Access Software went back to relive their favorite moments from war films with a sequel to Beach-Head two years later in 1985.

It was set up just like the first — multiple arcade mini-games stringing together a story picking up right after the first game. The nefarious dictator, now referred to as “The Dragon”, has managed to escape and rebuild his forces after WW2 while taking Allied prisoners. Now it’s up to J. P. Stryker and his forces to finish the job they started in the first game once and for all. And this time, players can actually go head-to-head in 1 vs. 1 battles with one taking control with the keyboard and the other on the joystick. Solo players could also choose to score as either the do-gooder or the Dictator.

The game starts off with “Attack” where a helicopter flies at the top of the screen, dropping off soldiers who hide behind walls while at the bottom, the Dictator tries to gun everyone down in a Normandy-like knock-off as the troops try to make their way down.

The next stage is a shooting gallery where the Allies now control the machine gun while the Dictator’s forces try to kill prisoners attempting to escape by walking across an open courtyard. They’ll be attacked with stuff thrown down from the prison wall, tanks that want to crush them,  a moving trapdoor with a mine planting guy, and a truck. Like with the “Attack” part, the machine gun has no sights — the only way you could gauge where it was shooting was from the bullet holes it left.

Assuming that prisoners actually escaped live, it was time to fly them to freedom. As the Allies, players chose how many prisoners would be packed into a helicopter before taking control and flying them through a vertically scrolling, arcade obstacle course of tanks, buildings, and doors that close and open blocking off wall openings at random. The chopper could also fly high or low to the ground to slip through wall openings since it couldn’t fly over them for some reason with only its shadow to guess at just how close it was to kissing dirt.

Now for players going up against their friend, here’s where it gets a bit cheeky. The “Dictator” gets to choose what level their buddy will fly through and how quickly it scrolls, setting it up to be as tough or as easy as they want it to be while hoping that they don’t see what they picked. The Dictator also gets to control the tanks onscreen to try and shoot their friend down. If it’s being played solo, though, Dictator fanboys will be forced to play as the Allied chopper but at least their score gets tacked onto their total.

The final battle takes place on two platforms separated by water as Stryker and the Dictator throw sharpened poonta sticks at each other to wear each other down and finally end the battle — after so many rounds. And after that, the free world is safe once again!

The game also boasted voice samples using technology by Electronic Speech Systems who had also helped with 1984’s Impossible Mission from Epyx and Access even included a rendition of the hymn for the USMC for the title screen…at least on the Commodore 64 version. The game was also ported over to a number of other platforms which didn’t feature speech or music, like the Apple II and ZX Spectrum, but still rocked with plenty of sound effects and decent graphics.

Beach-Head II was a great arcade styled follow-up to the first game, a sequel that did pretty good for what it brought to the table back in the day. It also challenged players with a clever variety of concepts tackling each piece of the main story, something that a few games today try to do in order to break up the one-track approach of each individual formula from first-person shooters to action adventures.

Fun stuff and a solid, early attempt at pitting players against each other in a classic two-player setup where one was the hero and the other, the bad guy who also controlled the difficulty level for that chopper stage.

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