This game is hard to describe, not in a Toejam and Earl kinda way, just that it is odd and I like it despite not being able to come up with a tangible reason for liking it.
Gain Ground is a strange strategy top down 3/4 perspective with Super Smash TV style multi directional shooter run and gun…
You take on the role of heroes trying to escape an area filled with enemies. You start at the bottom, and have to work your way to the exit on a single screen. If you kill all the enemies you move on to the next stage. Or you can skip enemies and head straight for the exit, but if you do that, you need to get your other team members to the exit too (or the kill the enemies) all within a time limit.
There are 5 levels on the Megadrive which differed from other versions since the Megadrive/Genesis version got an extra level (level 4), and each level had TEN stages, with the 10th acting as a boss fight. Though if you play on Easy you only get 4 levels.
There really is a lot of strategy going on, and different tactics you can employ in Gain Ground. This isn’t immediately apparent, as you could play the game and not notice the survivors you’re able rescuing, and the game mechanics are fairly simplistic. But lying under this simplistic veneer is a pretty robust strategy game.
Some levels will have a new team mate available for rescue on the screen, if you get to them, and take them to the exit you get them until they die. Also, if you die, the next person to go can rescue the last team mate to die meaning you do get a second chance. If you do rescue somebody then you have to get to the exit as if you kill everyone with a rescuee in tow, you don’t get actually rescue them, which isn’t clear on a first playthrough.
There is bloody loads of team mates you can rescue, i missed loads, but the 12 or so I had varied massively. Be it movement speed (some are slow as hell), or varying levels of epic weaponry. Each character plays differently, and learning the differences between each character is key to your success.
On top of the differences in speed, power weapon type each character gets a primary and secondary attack. The Special weapons vary between shoot a straight shot, multiple homing missiles, to arc’d shots that allow you to shoot over walls.
While the main weapon allows you to shoot in a 360 degree circle around yourself. Furthermore, each character has a different range, meaning some characters can snipe bosses outside of the danger zone while some need to get upclose and personal.
It means each character will be better in different situations, though some are TOTES OVERPOWERED.
AND YOU’RE DEAD
That one guy that looks like Rambo who fires arrows in an arc is totally overpowered, but one hit, and he dead. So you could keep using him, but if he dies, he gone for good if you don’t rescue him his corpse. Characters do respawn on later levels, but they are easily missable and susceptible to RNGESUS spawn rates.
The risk vs reward scale here is amazing, I honestly started to care for certain members, and would have a backup speedy person to try and rescue people like Not-Rambo.
I honestly had a tonne of fun playing Gain Ground. It has a strange RNGesus to it, the difficulty is pretty intense, but the shear level of strategy is simply immense for a 1991 Megadrive game. I have not cared this much for a throw away character since Jools in Cannon Fodder, and I love me some Jools.
The fun will no doubt wear off, and I appreciate this is an acquired taste but Gain Ground is worth a play.
It can be expensive to buy an original, but you can find it on most Megadrive collections.
Pros: 50 levels, 20 unique characters, fair difficulty curve, caring too much for Not-Rambo
Cons: Not-Rambo dying. Caring to much for Not-Rambo. I guess the game can be misconstrued as being simplistic
Back in the day:
Reviews for Gain Ground were somewhat split, scoring as low as 44% with “MegaTech” and 92% from “Raze”, as well as a 10/10 from Sega-16.