ONE MUST FALL: 2097 by Diversion Entertainment

Published & Distributed by Epic MegaGames

Reviewed by Gerry Kaufhold

Also Reviewed by Hank Leukart
           Computer        Graphics  Memory                     Disk Space
Minimum   80386SX-20         VGA      4MB (550K conventional)     20+ MB
Max/Rec   80486SX/DX-40     SVGA.     8MB (550K conventional)     20+ MB

Control: Keyboard, Analog Joystick, Digital Gamepad (recommended)
  Sound: PC Speaker, SoundBlaster, Ad Lib, Microsoft Sound System
  Notes: Will run with Microsoft Windows Version 3.1 and OS/2.

Recommended to be run in DOS 5.x (or higher) with minimum of 550 KB of
conventional (low) memory available.

Reviewed version on: 80486DX-33, ISA SVGA, 8 MB
Reviewer recommends: 80486 SX25 or faster CPU * Shareware and CD-ROM
                     versions available plus a Strategy Guide

(1) Background -

ONE MUST FALL: 2097 is a brand new game by Diversion Entertainment. Special thanks are mentioned for Brothers Rob & Ryan Elam for graphics, animation and game design, Josh Jensen for sound code and assembly, and Kenny Chow for the music soundtrack. One Must Fall: 2097 is essentially a martial arts combat game.

However, instead of being a human super-stud (or studette) with rippling muscles and a square jaw, contestants are pilots of 90 foot tall battling robots. Sort of like riding inside the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers machine and battling a giant ink-spitting squid, only more fun.

A key feature of this game for parents is that it has NO BLOOD. The battling robots kick, punch, flip and otherwise commit mayhem, but the pilots inside are always safe to fight another day.

Epic MegaGames is the leading multimedia PC game publisher/distributor on the east coast. Their catalog contains dozens of titles. It can be easily downloaded from Compuserve.

(2) Overview --

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to do a "hands on" test of One Must Fall: 2097 - the new multimedia PC combat game from Diversions Entertainment. After extensive workouts with myself and my youthful games wizard, we unanimously proclaimed One Must Fall to be the uncontested new "King of the hill" and champion over the reigning hot game - Doom. Pretty amazing conclusion, but here's a round-by-round analysis of how it happened.

(3) Summary --

One Must Fall: 2097, is a computer multimedia one-on-one martial arts combat game that uses colorful 90-foot tall robots which the player pilots, and ONE MUST FALL!

One Must Fall is very definitely a combat game. The Big Plus for concerned parents (and sensitive game reviewers) is that no blood gets spilled. However, since the combatants are 90 foot tall mechanized robot behemoths, there's a lot of non-living robot body parts that fly off of opponents as result of martial arts and special weapons combat. A really neat feature is that after each fight, a TV-style sports commentator gives analysis and shows replays of key hits. According to Robo-Robert, my 12-year old consumer game testing wizard, this is "way cool" and less gross than the payoff in Mortal Kombat. (You know that one - the winner rips out the loser's spine in a blood curdling mess.)

Lots of Player Options

Where One Must Fall really shines is the number of options available to the game player. At the start of the game, you choose one of ten robot pilots (each has differing skill levels and specialties) or you can create your own customized pilot. Then you put your pilot into a robot and the fightin' begins.

In the full release version there are 11 different robots. Each robot possesses three specific special moves, plus twelve standard features such as power, agility, speed, endurance, etc. By winning bouts and earning prize money the standard features can be increased by up to ten times. By my calculations, each robot can have over 100 variation in its make-up and performance abilities.

Compare this with most other combat games (including Doom) - the main character can buy bigger guns and score health or ammunition points, but he never gets faster or stronger. He can't even get a change of clothes. In One Must Fall, you can paint your robot a new combination of colors after any fight. Or trade robots and change the characteristics of the entire game.

Several Modes Of Play

In addition to features for one-on-one robot combat, there are full-blown tournaments wherein you test yourself (and your 'bot) against up to ten computer-driven opponents. When you win a tournament by beating all ten competitors, you get big prize money which permits you to upgrade your metal monster and move up to an even more exciting set of contests. When competing in a Tournament, the game provides a Simulation mode that lets you practice against an opponent so that when it comes down to the "real thing" you have some advantage. Robo-Robert really liked this feature, because it takes a while to learn the special powers possessed by each robot and plan an effective counter-strategy. By practicing in Simulation mode, you make better use of your chances of success in the real (dollars and cents) arena.

Special Abilities For Each Robot

Each robot has three special moves or abilities. In our actual tests, we practiced with the Jaguar robot in Simulation Mode to perfect the Jaguar Leap, learn how to operate the Concussion Cannon and effect the Overhead Throw - these being the three special abilities of the Jaguar robot.


In tournaments against the other monsters, we discovered that Jaguar's special abilities were overwhelming against some opponents, good to have against others, and not much use against one or two robot "hard cases."

After gaining a little experience against the competing robots, we were able to win money battling lesser foes, and upgrade the Jaguar (or simply trade it in) until we could master all the foes in the tournament. As I recall, this took nearly all day Saturday - an excellent way for parent and child to spend some quality time together. On Sunday, Robo-Rob got up early and wasted enough opponents by noon that we were able to get him out in the yard raking leaves. (Surprise: He told us it was a good idea to get out and rake, so he could work out the kinks in his back from running the joystick!)

(4) Output --

The color animation in One Must Fall: 2097 is equivalent with high-end games you are likely to find at video arcades and movie theater lobbies. The robot characters are creatively designed, colorful and look really good in their various animation movements and battle stances. Backgrounds provide high contrast so it is easy to see the details of the action even on a 14 inch diagonal computer screen. The background for the North American Tournament is a futuristic power switching center. The robots battle in a ring that has high tension electrical wiring on each side. An effective move is to throw your opponent into the wires. Sparks sizzle and the sound crackles. The opponent robot acts dazed for a few seconds, giving you extra time to attack. But the pilot inside is fine, thank you. Only the robot is shaken up.

Action and interaction between the battling robots is shown on- screen with enough frames of high quality artwork to give the feeling of true motion - at least on the 80486 DX-33 we used.

Jumps, punches, kicks and throws all came off smooth. When a particularly effective score is made, the trajectories of broken robot parts were consistent with where your eye expected them to go. Whenever a robot falls, the entire image on the video monitor shakes, giving a movie-like special effect. This level of accurate detail is becoming the new standard for high-quality multimedia PC-based games.

Right when you first start up One Must Fall: 2097, you'll be startled by the loud carrr-rrack! that occurs as a bolt of lightening sparks across the screen with the opening logo. Then the music begins building an appropriately ominous feeling. The music occasionally seems to be out of sync with the action on the screen, but it doesn't distract from the game action.

(5) Interface --

Using a non-digital joystick seemed to work just fine, though the manual recommends using a digital controller such as a Gravis Gamepad. A variety of kicks, punches, jumps, spins and special movements can be controlled, but you have to practice to get the joystick positioning and button pushing coordinated. We found the excitement level to be faster moving and more satisfying than any other PC-based video game we've tested this year - which is really saying something.

(6) Activities --

When the game starts, the player can choose a pilot and a robot. After practicing in the Simulation Mode, you go into an arena. At the beginning of each fight, a referee's voice intones "Ready," and "Fight." Using the joystick (or keyboard, if you don't have a joystick) you move your robot to gain advantage over your opponent, and then push down a Punch or Kick button and manipulate the action to be one of up to 16 different moves or fire one of several special weapons.

The special effects are so good they add a third dimension to some of the scenes. For example, when robots punch each other, the "klunk" sound has been fine tuned to resonate the way your ear expects it to sound when two 90 foot tin cans collide. Great job!

(7) Evaluation --

One Must Fall: 2097 is a lot of FUN! Not only is the action fast, but the number of options and variety of opponents appear to be adequate to provide literally months of enjoyment. Each fight has a clear ending. A Power Bar graphic at the top of the screen shows how much energy you have left, as well as how much your opponent has. Excitement builds with each punch as you see immediate results on the Power Bar. If it looks like you are going to lose, you can play defensively to prolong the fight and sometimes manage to outlast your fellow combatant.

At the finish of each fight, the winning robot strikes a victory pose, and the sports commentator makes appropriate comments. After each fight, you are free to spend your winnings on upgraded abilities, special weapons, "more power," or to trade up to a better robot.

One Must Fall: 2097 is exciting and satisfying to play with lots of immediate perks and rewards to keep you interested and entertained.

(8) Miscellaneous features --

In the on-line, shareware version of One Must Fall, the downloadable users manual is not only an excellent explanation of the features and "how to play" - it is enjoyable. Obviously, a lot of time has been invested into making this game a high quality entertainment value.

The Double Play mode is designed to support either two players with joysticks, or one player with a joystick and one with a keyboard. This system works well, but if you are going to try Double Play mode seriously, make sure you have two joysticks and a fast CPU.

(9) Fulfilled potential --

One Must Fall: 2097 is a lot of fun, it isn't bloody, and there are enough features and options to provide a lot of replay time. I thought it was as good a PC multimedia game as any I have tried this year. An excellent value.

The only criticism we had was that we couldn't figure out how to block the moves of the computer-driven opponents, though they were definitely able to block some of our best moves. I suspect that the Strategy Guide holds the keys to learning how to block.

*Things We'd Like To See:*

While One Must Fall is fast paced, fun and non-bloody, three improvements would help insure its long-term success.

First, we expected to get at least a glimpse of the inner workings of the robots. From the initial blurb, I thought One Must Fall would actually put us in the driver's seat of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers giant machine. It would be really nice if an add-on kit that gave an insiders "tour" of at least the Jaguar robot would be made available. The view looking out and down from a 90-foot height should provide some slick opportunities for the graphic artists and animators.

Second, while One Must Fall is as good a two-dimensional martial arts game as you might find in a Video Arcade, we would still like to see some effort put in toward adding a third dimension of depth to the playing area. Moving robots up and down and side to side will eventually limit what the game can do. With software available from AutoDesk (3D Studio and Animator Pro) and other game tool companies, One Must Fall needs to look toward a pseudo 3-D gaming arena in the future.

Finally, after hours of use we noticed that the headlines and text for the Sports Cast/Replay that followed each fight began to repeat. There needs to be more attention paid to mixing up the messages on the Replay so that it doesn't give the impression that the animation/graphics/sound guys were so involved with the "way cool" stuff that they neglected the simple text stuff. The reason this text in the Sports Replay is getting my inputs is because Robo-Robert was hyped to see what the Replay announcer had to say. In other words, Rob was READING the text. What a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to throw in some real sport description words and upgrade a kids vocabulary. Then, when the text in the Sports Replay window started to repeat, young Robert commented that it made for one less "payoff" after a successful bout. More words, better words, and non-repeating words, please!

*Installation Hints and Kinks:*

Before first installing One Must Fall, it's probably a good idea to clean up your hard disk drive, defragment it and set aside about 20 MegaBytes of space. (You may have to remove DOOM, but that's okay, you won't miss it!). Run the MEM program that comes with DOS. You'll need at least 550 kilobytes of Conventional RAM available, plus at least 2 Meg of expanded memory. After checking disk space and memory available, we found DOS-based setup and installation as provided by Epic MegaGames to be just fine. Since a lot of business-related stuff is done on my PC (with Windows) I am in the habit of using some old 5 1/4 inch disks and creating stand-alone Boot disks for the games. This does two things - it keeps the game players (translated: Children) out of the business stuff and it controls which games they have access to. I add some lines at the end of the Autoexec.BAT file on the Boot diskette that limits their choices.

The Config.SYS file of the Boot disk sets up only those devices needed for the game and reduce the likelihood of a system crash during play.

(10)Conclusion -

Move Over, Doom, for One Must Fall: 2097 is a Sure Winner! Like I said at the top of this story - One Must Fall has plenty of action, no bloodshed, and lots of options that will keep the game playing fresh for hundreds of fun filled computer hours. I believe that One Must Fall will become the Next Big Thing for multimedia computer gameware.

I recommend you try the Shareware version, but for I strongly suspect you'll quickly be contacting Epic MegaGames to purchase the complete package.

This review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Gerry Kaufhold for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.