The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Manhattan Dealers by Louis-Marie Rocques

Before Louis-Marie Rocques founded Silmarils with his brother André and Philippe Plas, he wrote a number of 8-bit games, mainly for the various Thompson computers, published by Loriciels and little known outside France. Manhattan Dealers, known in the USA as Operation: Cleanstreets, occupies a space somewhere in between. It was the first game released under the Silmarils label, but also the last game made by Louis-Marie Rocques alone, and it does not share some of the characteristics that would become typical for Silmarils games.

Manhattan Dealers (1988) was Louis-Marie Rocques’ first 16-bit game. He wrote it on the Atari ST and ported it to Amiga and PC. An 8-bit version was planned but never released, maybe not even started. Later on Silmarils would be the first French company to use VGA and Soundblaster for the PC versions of their games (Targhan, Metal Mutant, the Ishar series, Transarctica are a few examples), but Manhattan Dealers still uses CGA and speaker, as was common in France at the time.

The music is pretty horrible, but it is off by default anyway. The sound effects aren’t so bad, and the same can be said of the graphics. Manhattan Dealers is basically designed in monochrome (the PC port can run on Hercules), the colors just fill the empty spaces. The ST/Amiga version uses rather dark colors, which give a nice atmosphere, but CGA shows the details more clearly.

The protagonist of Manhattan Dealers is Inspector Harry (Dirty Harry? The back cover of the American box calls him Cleanup Harry), and his task is to beat up all the dealers in Manhattan and burn their drugs, which will give him additional hitpoints. At first glance this might look like yet another anti-drug propaganda piece like Williams’ contemporary Narc, but that the first drugs to be disposed of this way are nicotine and caffeine shows that it is more a spoof of these propaganda pieces.

The rather tongue-in-cheek collection of enemies (“vicious thugs, evil vamps, pitiless skinheads, maniac punks, cruel ninjas and invincible samurais” according to the European blurb) and the fact that on the European box cover (signed “Fouillet”) and title screen Harry runs away from a goon are more hints.

For the American “Operation: Cleanstreets” release (published by Brøderbund), this was replaced with a more conventional cop movie graphic. There are some amusing differences between the ST/Amiga and PC versions as well, a few trademarks were removed in the latter. I counted at least one Coca Cola and one Pepsi sign, and a poster saying “Catch Zork.” In the PC version, the former two are simply gone, and the poster spells “Heavy Metal” instead.

Technically, Manhattan Dealers is mostly standard French fare. It is flip-screen, no scrolling, the whole of Manhattan takes up only nine screens, five difficulty levels make up for that. Harry, like Bob Winner, is controlled with the number pad, he has six different attacks and can crouch, to dodge a blow or to pick up drugs.

Manhattan Dealers received mixed reviews. Some rejecting it outright for the absurd setting (a cop without a gun? Ninjas in Chinatown?) but the general tenor was that it could have been better if more effort had been put into it. I don’t think it sold very well, but some people have fond memories of it. The German Bundesprüfstelle however did not like it and put it on the index of media hazardous for adolescents.

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