Game Corner [Mickey Mouse Day]: World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (Mega Drive)


It’s November 18th, which means that it’s Mickey Mouse Day! Disney’s beloved mascot first debuted in Steamboat Willie (Disney and Disney, 1928) and has since become one of the most recognisable and influential cartoon characters in the world, the face of an entire multimedia conglomerate, and one of the most enduring and popular characters of all time, featuring in a variety of cartoons, videogames, and other merchandise.


GameCorner

Released: 14 December 1992
Developer: SEGA AM7
Also Available For: Mega Drive Mini

The Background:
As I’ve talked about a few times in the past, videogames based on popular Disney characters and licenses had quite the reputation back in the nineties and resulted in some of the best 8- and 16-bit action/platformers of the era. As Disney’s loveable and successful mascot, Mickey Mouse was obviously at the forefront of this but Disney’s foul-tempered fowl, Donald Duck, had his fair share of pixelated adventures over the years as well and what better way to guarantee a success than to team these two popular characters up in their own fantasy adventure. Taking inspiration from a variety of Disney’s animated feature films, most prominently Alice in Wonderland (Geronimi, Jackson, and Luske, 1951) and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Hand, et al, 1937), and, despite how easy the game was, it was both reviewed very well at the time of release and fondly remembered years later.

The Plot:
While practising for their magic show, Mickey and Donald discover a magical box that sucks them into a bizarre magical world. Now, the two must join forces to travel across five treacherous fantasy worlds, defeat the evil Magic Master, and return home safely.

Gameplay:
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is a 2D action/platformer in which, as you might be able to guess, players can pick between playing as Mickey or Donald or team up to play as both in simultaneous play. Whichever character you select, the game’s controls are basically the same and can be customised from the main “Options” menu; you can jump, hold down a button to dash ahead, and press down on the directional pad to duck. Although you cannot defeat enemies by jumping on their heads as is the standard of the majority of 2D platformers, Mickey and Donald can attack enemies with a swipe of their magician’s capes.

Attack with your magical cape and lend a hand to your partner to get through tight spots.

The cape produces a small flurry of magical sparkles, which can stun enemies if it grazes them or if they need more than one hit to defeat, and defeated enemies will be transformed into harmless forms (such as flowers or butterflies) when hit. There are actually some notable gameplay differences between Mickey and Donald as well; Mickey is able to crawl through small gaps but Donald gets his wide load stuck and will need pulling through with Mickey’s help. This means that, when playing as Donald alone, you’ll explore different levels compared to Mickey, which encourages at least two playthroughs of the game in order to see everything it has to offer. Additionally, when playing with a friend, you can help them out further by dropping a rope so they can reach higher level.

While not especially difficult, there are some annoying moments you’ll have to deal with.

Mickey and Donald’s vitality is measured in magical playing cards; you begin the game with five cards, meaning you can take five hits before you lose one of your three “Tries”. You can, however, pick up Candy and Cake to restore one of all of your cards and are gifted with unlimited continues. However, when you lose all of your Tries and choose to continue, you’ll have to restart from the very first part of the level you were last on. When playing with a friend, you’ll share a stock of six Tries; when your partner loses a Try, you can expend one to revive them and, when you only have one left, the last player to die can choose to continue solo.

Some tricky jumps are made clunky thanks to the game’s extremely slow pace.

World of Illusion isn’t an especially long game; there are only five levels to venture through, with each one split into smaller sub-sections and with some minor puzzles and hidden paths or areas that you can find by exploring a bit. While these generally just lead you towards Candy or other power-ups, other times you’ll find short sub-areas to playthrough for similar bonuses. Each level only has a handful of enemies and none of them are particularly menacing but they do respawn if you end up having to backtrack and can cause you to fall down a bottomless pit if you’re hit mid-jump thanks to a bit of knockback damage. The game is also extremely slow; the dash function helps with that but, still, Mickey and Donald move painfully slowly and the game is more about taking your time and enjoying the moment rather than blasting through at breakneck speed, which is fine but it does feel like playing underwater sometimes since everything’s so sluggish.

Donald has his own unique levels and hazards to contend with.

Your main concern in most levels will be dealing with the game’s platforming sections; mostly, this involves reaching the exit on the far right of the screen but other times you’ll be hopping from spider’s webs and web lines, floating leaves or clouds, and other similar platforms. These will invariably be large, small, moving, or even temporary; even solid ground isn’t safe in this respect as you’ll have to contend with floorboards cracking under your feet and dropping you to your death. Levels also contain a number of helpful gimmicks as well, though, such as see-saws, flowers, staples, and bottle corks that fling and spring you higher and further up the level and towards the goal.

Graphics and Sound:
Like all of the 2D Disney videogames, World of Illusion features large, colourful, and charming cartoony graphics. Mickey and Donald both have amusing edge and idle animations and little reactions that perfectly capture their distinct personalities. There’s also a very small number of voice clips in the game; Mickey and Donald will yelp and squeal when attacked and give a cry of “Alakazam!” when performing their magic tricks, which is a lot of fun.

The game definitely looks the part but can be a bit muted and empty at times.

Enemies are similarly colourful and instantly recognisable from Disney’s classic animated films, such as Alice in Wonderland. The game also draws aesthetic influences form Pinocchio (Sharpsteen, Luske, et al, 1940) and The Little Mermaid (Clements and Musker, 1989), with all three films (and others) likewise evoked in the levels you’ll journey through. However, while levels are bright and very fitting, they’re every short and also very bland and empty in a lot of ways. Levels can be a bit inconsistent like that; the chocolate-and-sweetie-filled level is bursting with colour and sometimes there’s large trees or vines or other elements in the foreground or little details in the background, but other times they’re just very barren a bit muted.

The story is told using a fairytale book and in-game sprites with brief dialogue boxes.

The game’s story is told through text in a storybook that can be skipped through, or entirely, at will; while these are only accompanied by static images, the supplementary music (and the music of the entire game) is suitably jaunty and uplifting (if nothing spectacular). After defeating the game’s bosses, a similar cutscene will play in which the characters learn their new magic and, at a few points, the game will use the in-game sprites and a speech box to convey dialogue. As is the case for many 2D videogames from this era, the cutscenes are most impressive for the opening (which pans through the theatre’s backstage area) and the ending (which differs for each character and in which the two perform their magic show before an auditorium full of Disney cameos) before heading off through the forest as the credits roll.

Enemies and Bosses:
While they draw inspiration from many of Disney’s most celebrated animated features, World of Illusion’s enemies aren’t really anything to shout or worry about. You’ll take on armoured bugs, avoid literal tiger sharks, swipe at carnivorous starfish, toy bi-planes, and spiders but none of them are really a threat as they come at you quite slowly and make for large targets. Eventually, you’ll have to contend with wild lightning striking at the ground and conjuring little flaming imps and come up against some more colourful and zany opponents, such as anthropomorphic biscuit men, sharks wielding saws, and rose-throwing playing cards from Alice in Wonderland.

While the spider boss couldn’t be simpler, the little dragons can be a bit tricky to land a hit on.

Each of the game’s levels culminates in a battle against a boss. The first of these is a giant spider that crawls down and across the webbing that is spreading across the background of the boss arena; sometimes it’ll crawl down harmlessly on the other side of the web and taunt you but, for the most part, it’s pretty easy to edge out of the way and swipe at it with your cape. The second boss you’ll face is a series of small dragons that resemble the one from The Sword in the Stone (Reitherman, 1963) or Pete’s Dragon (Chaffey, 1977); these little buggers will pop out from blocks, hop around, and spit fireballs at you but, again, it’s not exactly difficult to avoid them and it helps that they attack one at a time.

The sharks speed and unpredictability, and Mim’s erratic flight, make for challenging boss fights.

At the bottom of the sea, you’ll battle against a giant shark that rushes at you ominously beneath the floorboards of a sunken ship. When it charges towards you, jaws snapping, or leaps out from the ground to pounce at you, this is your moment to quickly attack and hop out of danger, but the shark’s speed and unpredictability actually makes this a somewhat challenging bout. Next, you’ll battle against Madam Mim, which was an amusing and entertaining surprise Mim flies about just above you on her broomstick and tosses flames down to the floor. You can easily jump up to attack her, though, and she stupidly drops down to the ground to taunt you, leaving herself wide open to reprisals in the process.

The Magic Master might be big and ugly but he’s sadly as simple as any of the other bosses.

Finally, you’ll take on not the anthropomorphic cloud beast seen in the game’s cover art but the Magic Master, who is a gigantic background sprite and greatly resembles Mickey’s long-time nemesis, Pete. Taking place up in the clouds, this battle features randomly rising and falling columns that you can use to get close to the Magic Master’s big ol’ head and swipe at him with your cape. The boss conjures smaller, ghost-lime doubles of himself that resemble the Grim Reaper and float around the arena for a bit to damage you but, otherwise, is a bit of a pushover (especially if you have full health, which you probably will as there’s a number of health-restoring items on the way to the final confrontation).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There aren’t too many power-ups to pick up in World of Illusion; as I mentioned before, Candy and Cake will partially or full refill your health but you can also earn yourself an extra Try by either finding a magician’s hat or collecting fifty-two playing cards. You can also occasionally find a firework that will shower the screen in explosions and destroy all onscreen enemies or a Silver Card for a brief period of invincibility.

Mickey and Donald learn new magic tricks to help them progress through the game.

After defeating each of the bosses, Mickey and Donald will learn a new magical ability to help them progress in the next level. The first of these is a magic carpet, which you can cause to ascend by tapping the jump button and ride through the skies avoiding tornados and buzzards. Next, you’ll get a magic bubble that allows you to slo-oo-wly navigate the underwater stage, again by tapping the jump button. The next spell allows you to teleport across the library when you’re shrunk down and is probably the least interesting of all of the magic tricks. Finally you’ll be able to cause specific playing card enemies to arrange themselves into platforms and bridges to help you get through the iconic garden and dining hall from Alice in Wonderland. All of these are performed in specific circumstances rather than at will and don’t really afford you any useful in-game benefits beyond allowing you to get to the end of the level you’re on, though.

Additional Features:
That’s about it for World of Illusion. The game uses a password feature that allows you to warp to later levels as either Mickey, Donald, or both if you have to suddenly top playing but that’s about it. I’m a bit confused as to why the game has this password system, though, as it’s not exactly difficult and easy to fly through it in about a hour or so.

The Summary:
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck certainly looks and sounds the part of a typical 1990s D16-bit Disney videogame; it’s bright, fun, and full of gorgeously animated sprites and instantly recognisable Disney characters and locations. Mickey and Donald are always two of the most versatile characters in videogames, I find, and excel when dropped into fantastical environments and tasked with getting through them using a number of gimmicks; while the attack range of their magic capes leaves a lot to be desired, I enjoyed the magical spin on their arsenal and, especially, the flying carpet sections of the game. Sadly, though, it’s just a bit too short and bland in a lot of ways; two of the five bosses are just generic, large creatures and the game is just way too slow and sluggish through and through rather than being action-packed and entertaining. It’s a decent way to send an hour or so and fun to be able to team up with a friend for simultaneously play; it’s pretty cool how you get a slightly different experience when playing as each character but it’s lacking in a lot of content and options, some of which (such as score and certain gimmicks) actually featured in Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (SEGA AM7, 199) which released three years earlier and stuff like that does bring the score down a little bit for me despite how striking the game’s presentation is.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think about World of Illusion? Where does it sit in your hierarchy of 16-bit Disney games? Which of the 16-bit Disney was your favourite, or least favourite, and who is your favourite Disney character? How are you celebrating Mickey Mouse Day today? Whatever your thoughts on World of Illusion, and Disney and Mickey games in general, drop a comment below and share your thoughts and have a great Mickey Mouse Day!

Game Corner: SEGA’s Mega Machine

SEGA’s Mega Machine

On 29 October 1988, SEGA released the 16-bit Mega Drive (known as the SEGA Genesis in North America); far superior to Nintendo’s 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and bolstered by both an aggressive marketing campaign and the eventual release of Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991), this release kicked off the “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties and changed the face of home consoles forever. This year, to celebrate this momentous occasion, I’m going to share some of my memories of this sleek, beautiful machine and the impact it had on my childhood. I was just a kid, something like six or eight, when I had what I am pretty sure was my first ever home console (and videogame) experience; I remember being at my aunt’s house and being introduced to the SEGA Master System II and, more specifically, Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time when I sat down to fumble my way through Sonic the Hedgehog’s (Ancient, 1991) Green Hill Zone. The colours, the sounds, and the user-friendly nature of the system clearly struck a chord with me and it wasn’t long (it was probably my birthday that same year) before my parents gifted me that very same machine and, as I recall, three titles: Spider-Man (Technopop, 1991), Trivial Pursuit: Genius Edition (Domark, 1992), and the aforementioned Sonic built-into the machine.

The Master System II served me well until I got a convertor unit for the Mega Drive.

For a long time, probably something like two or maybe even three years, the Master System more than met my demands; I amassed a pretty decent library considering money was a bit tight back in those days and wasted many hours playing a variety of 8-bit titles. One memory that sticks out for me in particular was when I had a friend come over to play games (this was, of course, back in the days when kids mostly only owned one machine so you had to actually go around someone’s house to play other consoles and games) and he was struggling to get past the Green Hill Zone boss. I took the controller from him and reached the last Zone of the game for the first time, which was quite the achievement for me at the time; though I distinctly recall not actually completing Sonic that day, I did eventually, and many times over. Another memory for me was when I discovered the elaborate method of activating Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s (Aspect, 1992) level select and actually being able to bypass the God-awful Sky High Zone. My love for videogames had well and truly began; I played the NES at a friend’s house, the PC at another friend’s, and enjoyed a handful of ZX Spectrum, MSX, and Amiga titles while routinely playing the Master System, reading Sonic the Comic (Fleetway, 1993 to 2002), and watching the likes of Captain N: The Game Master (1989 to 1991), Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993 to 1996), and GamesMaster (1992 to 1998).

The article I most attribute for selling me on the Mega Drive.

I bought videogame magazines from car boot sales, drooled over Master System games in the local game’s shop, and doodled pictures of Sonic and his friends at every opportunity. Then, one fateful day, I became aware of another SEGA console; one with far more detailed graphics, bigger, better games, and, more importantly, more Sonic titles. I can’t be exactly sure when I first became aware of the Mega Drive but I distinctly recall owning issue two of Mega (Future Publishing/Maverick Magazines, 1992 to 1995) which had a whole article devoted to the upcoming (or recently released) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992). I was awe-struck; the sprites were so big and colourful, the graphics so crisp and detailed. Unlike in the 8-bit Sonic 2, Miles “Tails” Prower was actually a playable character…and he followed Sonic around onscreen, too! I’m sure I must have seen other photos, articles, and gameplay footage of the Mega Drive across the other magazines and shows I watched but this particular issue of Mega really sticks out in my mind; I read that article over and over, each time more and more attracted to the power and superior graphics of the Mega Drive.

The Mega Drive was for sharing back when I first got it but that was fine by me.

Another memory I distinctly have is pointing the machine out to my parents in an Argos catalogue and trying to explain the benefits of upgrading to SEGA’s newer, sexier console. As I said, money was tight back then for us; we weren’t exactly poor and destitute but we also weren’t rolling in disposable income so I’m sure the decision to buy a Mega Drive didn’t come easily for my parents. Thankfully, however, unlike a lot of parents these days, mine were cleaver and, that Christmas, I received the coveted SEGA Mega Drive and two games (Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (SEGA, 1990) and my equally-coveted Sonic 2) on one proviso: it was to be a joint present for me to share with my older sister. I’m pretty sure that that gorgeous black machine, with its two control pads and those two fantastic games, was the only present either of us got that year, as well, but I didn’t care: I had it and that’s all that mattered.

The NES pretty much saved the videogame industry after it spectularly crashed in 1983.

In 1983, an influx of home consoles, poorly-made titles, and a vastly oversaturated market caused the videogame industry to crash in spectacular fashion; what had once been a booming, attractive business had crumbled under the weight of expectation, success, and a market inundated with machines and titles that retailers just couldn’t sell. A few years later, the industry began to recover thanks to the release of the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom); known as the NES outside of Japan, the machine was marketed not as a home videogame console but more as an “Entertainment System” (it wasn’t a “home console”, it was a “control deck” and the cartridges were “Game Paks” rather than “videogames”) to give it a better chance at selling in toy shops.

Super Mario Bros. catapulted Nintendo to mainstream success as the home console market leader.

Thanks to a lack of competition and the blockbuster success of Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985), 30% of American households owned the NES by 1990 and Nintendo absolutely dominated the slowly re-emerging videogame market after the NES sold over 35 million units in the United States, a number that was far beyond those of other consoles and computers. Videogames were back, and more popular than ever, thanks to Nintendo’s efforts and high quality titles, and the industry once again became lucrative and profitably so, naturally, others wanted in on the action. Enter SEGA; formally one of the top five arcade game manufactures in the US, the videogame crash and a decline in the popularity of arcades had seriously hurt the company and led to its purchase by Bally Manufacturing and an eventual restructure towards the home console market with the SG-1000, a precursor to my beloved Master System.

Though a superior console, the Mega Drive wasn’t initially the Nintendo-beater SEGA needed.

Though the console sold well in Japan, it barely made a dent thanks to Nintendo’s stranglehold on the market so, amidst growing competition, SEGA’s research and development team, led by Masami Ishikawa decided that the only way for SEGA to remain competitive was to incorporate a 16-bit microprocessor by adapting their successful SEGA System 16 arcade board into the architecture for a new home console. Mitsushige Shiraiwa led the team that designed the Mega Drive, drawing inspiration from audiophile equipment and automobiles, and the machine was purposely designed to appeal to gamers of all ages, rather than just children like Nintendo’s console. To impress customers with the system’s power, “16-bit” was slapped right onto the console itself in impressive, striking gold yet, despite shipping 400,000 units in its first year and producing a number of additional peripherals, the console’s launch was overshadowed by the released of Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo EAD, 1988) and the system was unable to surpass the NES in terms of sales or popularity.

Aggressive marketing and strong third party support also helped give SEGA the edge.

For the Mega Drive’s release in North America, the system was rebranded as the “Genesis” and SEGA of America CEO Michael Katz spearheaded an aggressive marketing campaign to sell the power and superiority of the console compared to the NES. While the Genesis certainly did do what Nintendo didn’t, it still wasn’t enough to topple or compete with NES or their podgy little plumber. Thus, when Tom Kalinske replaced Katz as CEO, he developed a four-point plan that involved cutting the console’s price, create a U.S.-based team to develop games specifically for the American market, continue and expand their aggressive advertising campaigns, and bundle copies of the Genesis with the one game exclusively developed to overtake Mario once and for all: Sonic the Hedgehog. For a time, this plan worked wonderfully; bundling Sonic in with the Mega Drive gave SEGA the edge it needed as gamers who had been anticipating the release of Nintendo’s own 16-bit console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), bought a Mega Drive instead just to play Sonic. Sonic’s popularity also led to the Mega Drive outselling the SNES during the 1991 holiday season and, but 1992, SEGA had wrestling 65% of the market away from Nintendo and overtaken Nintendo as the home console market leader for the first time since 1985.

Had SEGA focused on the Mega-CD, things might’ve been very different for them.

With a focus more on arcade-quality titles, a willingness to consider a greater variety of genres and videogames compared to Nintendo, and Sonic’s explosive popularity as not just a videogame icon but a mainstream icon, SEGA seemed unstoppable; a sleeker, more streamlined version of the Mega Drive released in 1993 and the company even produced a special convertor unit that would allow gamers (such as myself) to play their Master System cartridges on the 16-bit console. SEGA were ahead of the times in many ways; unlike Nintendo, they released Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1993) with its signature blood and Fatalities intact through use of a special code, showing the machine (and the company) to be the more mature and “edgier” of the two, and SEGA soon began to experiment in both CD-based games and 32-bit graphics with the Mega/SEGA-CD and Mega/SEGA-32X add-ons. Unfortunately, despite showcasing some impressive graphics, CD-quality sound, and the sheer potential of these peripherals, producing such expensive add-ons to prolong the Mega Drive’s lifespan ultimately proved financially disastrous for SEGA. When research SEGA and their tumultuous history for my PhD thesis, I was disappointed to see how the company squandered all their success with blunder after blunder in this way; to me, they had the right idea with the Mega-CD and should have stuck with that. Had SEGA simply made the little-known SEGA Multi-Mega the standard and ditched all plans for both the 32X and the SEGA Saturn, producing all the games that released for those console (and the Mega-CD) as CD-based games, the company may have fared better heading into the sixth generation of gaming. I don’t know if would have been enough to make the Dreamcast more competitive but SEGA would definitely have been in a much better financial position without wasting all that money making expensive add-ons and inferior consoles.

My Mega Drive collection is still a work in progress but has always had some quality titles.

Still, it is what it is and, for many years, even when I owned a Nintendo 64, I still returned to the Master System and the Mega Drive. My library of Mega Drive games grew respectfully as I continued to indulge my love of colourful, action-packed action/platformers like Rocket Knight Adventures (Konami, 1993), Marko’s Magic Football (Domark, 1994), The Revenge of Shinobi (SEGA, 1989) and, of course, every Sonic title released for the console. However, to say that I was a fan of Sonic was an understatement; I remember incurring the wrath of my mother for not pausing Sonic 2 right as I beat the game for the first time to go for dinner and I must have played that game endlessly, rejoicing every time I got to play as Sonic and someone else got to play as Tails for a change. I distinctly remember getting Sonic & Knuckles (SEGA Technical Institute, 1994) for a birthday and that I got the game before I owned Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (ibid). I’m not sure exactly how that happened but I remember being fascinated by Sonic & Knuckles’ unique “lock-on” technology and being able to play as Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic 2. Some time later, while at a game’s shop in Northampton, I picked up an unboxed copy of Sonic 3 for £9 and, after reading a guide in Sonic the Comic that showcased the awesomeness of Super Sonic, Hyper Sonic, and the Doomsday Zone, eventually made it my top priority to unlock these forms and reach this final Zone in a precursor to my newfound desire to obtain as many Achievements as possible.

The Mega Drive was pretty great for multiplayer experiences, too.

It wasn’t just about Sonic, though; the Mega Drive was a great two-player console and I lost a lot of hours playing T2: The Arcade Game (Probe Software, 1991), Captain America and the Avengers (Data East, 1992), and Mortal Kombat 3 (Midway Games/Sculptured Software, 1995) even while I was playing the likes of WCW vs. nWo: World Tour (Asmik Ace Entertainment/AKI Corporation, 1997) and Quake 64 (Midway Games, 1998). While not every title I played or owned for the Mega Drive was a smash hit, I still managed to find plenty to love thanks to the eye-catching graphics, catchy tunes, generally tight controls and gameplay, and the sheer attractiveness of those black boxes and cartridges. I even got a lot of enjoyment out of games that were short-lived in my collection, like Cosmic Spacehead (Codemasters, 1993) and The Aquatic Games Starring James Pond and the Aquabats (Millennium Interactive, 1992), even though they may not have necessarily been the easiest or most suitable games for my tastes at the time. Sadly, as I mentioned, money was always an issue in keeping me from having a truly expansive Mega Drive library; I borrowed a few titles I never actually owned, like Taz in Escape from Mars (HeadGames, 1994) and Street Fighter II’: Special Champion Edition (Capcom, 1993) but, while I played the likes of Golden Axe (SEGA, 1988) and Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension (Gremlin Graphics, 1992) on the Amiga, I never actually owned them for the Mega Drive back in the day.

My original mega Drive still sits proudly in the actual, physical game corner.

Thus, once we tore down our unused garage and had a little log cabin built and my dream of having an actual, physical game corner quickly became a reality, I knew what my first priority would be: to build a respectable library of physical, complete Mega Drive games to play at my leisure. It’s an expensive and long-winded process thanks to the fact that complete versions of Mega Drive games can be quite expensive but it’s a much easier prospect than collecting for Nintendo’s 8-, 16-, and 64-bit consoles as Nintendo favoured flimsy cardboard boxes for their games so the only Mega Drive game you really have to worry about having a battered or ripped box is Sonic & Knuckles. I first made my steps towards building this library when I finally bought a boxed and complete version of Sonic 3 a few years ago and, since then, the collection has grown slowly, but steadily. I’m prepared to play the long game when it comes to completing my collection as, while my Odroid console is great for emulating thousands of games and there’s plenty of ports or collections of classic Mega Drive titles available for modern consoles, there’s nothing quite like seeing a shelving unit full of those gorgeous, bulky, black or blue boxes and slotting a physical cartridge into that very same Mega Drive my parents gifted me all those years ago.

What are your memories of the SEGA Mega Drive? When did you first play or own one and which model did you have? Perhaps you preferred Nintendo’s consoles; if so, why and share your memories of those days? Do you also believe that SEGA might still be something of a competitor in the home console industry had they avoided the 32X and the Saturn or do you think their downfall was inevitable given how crowded and competitive the home console market became? What are some of your favourite Mega Drive titles? How are you celebrating this momentous day today? No matter what your thoughts, please feel free to share your opinions and memories of the Mega Drive and this era of gaming below.

Game Corner [Spidey Month]: Spider-Man (Mega Drive)


Easily Marvel Comics’ most recognisable and popular superhero, unsuspecting teenage nerd Peter Parker was first bitten by a radioactive spider and learned the true meaning of power and responsibility in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was first published in August 1962. Since then, the Amazing Spider-Man has featured in numerous cartoons, live-action movies, videogames, action figures, and countless comic book titles and, in celebration of his debut and his very own day of celebration, I’ve been dedicating every Wednesday to talk about everyone’s favourite web-head!


Released: 1991
Developer: Technopop
Also Available For: Game Gear, Master System, and Mega-CD

The Background:
Shortly after debuting in the pages of Amazing Fantasy, Peter Parker/Spider-Man graduated to his own solo title and quickly became Marvel’s most popular comic book character. Accordingly, Spider-Man was one of the first of Marvel’s superheroes to make the jump to videogames. In the early nineties, SEGA held the licensing rights to produce home console games based on Marvel Comics characters and one of the first, and most popular, of these was Spider-Man (also known as Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin), a game I first played on the Master System before switching to the 16-bit version after being won over by the superior graphics.

The Plot:
Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, has planted a nuclear bomb in New York City that is set to explode in twenty-four hours, distributed the keys to disarming the bomb to some of Spider-Man’s most lethal foes, and has even framed Spidey for the crime! And, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, Eddie Brock/Venom is stalking the city, further stacking the odds against the web-slinger.

Gameplay:
Spider-Man is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer with an emphasis on exploration and combat; given the nature of the plot, players have just twenty-four in-game hours to complete the game. Dawdle too long in the game’s locations and you’ll doom the entire city to destruction, which places a real anxiety into the gameplay which is, sadly, not reflected in the game’s mechanics.

Spidey’s webbing allows him to take out crooks and quickly traverse levels.

Obviously, you take control of Spider-Man, a clunky, stilted, and awkward character who displays all of Spidey’s trademark abilities: he can punch out goons with B, jump with C (be sure to hold the button for a higher jump), and cling to walls, ceilings, and backgrounds by pressing jump twice. He can also shoot webbing with A, which is perfect for taking out goons from a distance or up high as you can diagonally direct Spidey’s web; while you can’t shoot upwards, you can shoot a web out while jumping to swing along horizontally but, while this is great for covering large distances quickly, it’s not so great for the many instances of vertical movement.

Spidey’s webbing is super useful but you’ll need to earn cash from selling photos to refill it.

From the pause menu, you can select between two webs: a sticky web projectile and a web shield to help protect Spidey from damage. However, Spidey has a finite supply of webbing and, when he runs out, you’ll have to rely on your punches and jump kicks. After retrieving Parker’s camera from the Daily Bugle though, you can select his camera from the pause menu and take pictures of goons and bosses to earn cash and refill your webbing, but you only have a limited number of shots available so it’s best to save these for getting pictures of Spidey’s more recognisable enemies.

Control is sluggish and awkward, meaning Spidey lacks his trademark grace and agility.

Control is a major issue in Spider-Man; Spidey is slow moving, his punch doesn’t have a lot of reach, and not only is his hit box quite large but so are the ones of his enemies. You can get around this a bit with his webbing, jump kick, and crouching kick but, more often than not, you’ll clip through enemies and fly backwards when hit with attacks. However, the most frustrating thing about Spider-Man, and the game in general, is how janky the jumping and wall-climbing mechanics are; some levels, such as the city streets, easily allow you to climb walls in the backgrounds but others, like the caverns, don’t. In the warehouse and sewers, you’ll need to climb up vertical walls and ceilings to get through air vents and tunnels and navigate past crates and such, but you need to keep C held down to stay attached to the surface. Nowhere is the control more annoying than in the caverns level, a cramped and maze-like environment that restricts your movement and requires you to perform some tricky web-swings and jumps to progress, which can be frustrating to pull off as Spidey prefers to either just drop off ledges or bump his head on ceilings (or just get shot when he finally makes the jump).

Graphics and Sound:
Spider-Man is a bright and relatively detailed videogame; it was, however, an early release for the Mega Drive so it’s not exactly making the most of the 16-bit machine’s “blast processing” power. Spider-Man and his recognisable villains all look pretty good, especially Venom and Doctor Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus, but the regular goons and enemies leave a lot to be desired.

While sprites are colourful and detailed enough, the levels are noticeably lacking in detail.

Where the game’s graphics really fall flat, though, are in the environments; New York City looks pretty good and you can clamber up the sides of buildings, stop a random street mugging, and even encounter J. Jonah Jameson on the streets but the warehouse isn’t exactly exciting or impressive. Central Park is quite dynamic, with benches, trees, water fountains, and an intractable fire hydrant but, like all of the game’s locations, it’s surprising barren in the background and lacking in depth. The power station tries to make up for this but ends up being more of a mess of greys and yellows, though there are, occasionally, some interesting elements to some levels (debris floating in the polluted sewer water, for example).

A variety of cutscene styles are employed to tell the game’s story, though the music is pretty poor.

Spider-Man’s story is told through the use of various different types of cutscenes: one is simply the Kingpin making spurious claims through news reports, another is simply the Spider-Man sprite walking in a black void while text scrolls on screen, another uses comic book-like panels and text to show Spidey interrogating his foes, and another use in-game sprites and a bit of text. As you might expect, the comic book panels and sprite-based cutscenes are much more interesting to look at but, even for an early Mega Drive title, they’re very basic. The music is even worse, being bland and uninspiring and, overall, the graphics, music, and presentation were actually better on the Master System, which also featured additional characters and features.

Enemies and Bosses:
While racing to confront his rogue’s gallery, Spidey comes up against a handful of hired goons; these guys will shoot at you with handguns from a distance and try to knife you when you get up close and, later, switch to using sniper rifles. You’ll also come up against such cliché enemies as bats, snakes, dogs, and rats and, in the first mission, will be attacked be one of New York’s finest as well. Levels also feature more formidable and elaborate enemies as well as alligators and “Mutant Jumpers” await you in the sewer, electrified bats fly at you at the power station, laser-firing turrets and ED-209-like robots patrol the caverns, and a giant ape will randomly show up in Central Park!

Ducking and using your webbing is the key to besting both Doc Ock and the Lizard.

The only way to disarm the Kingpin’s bomb is to retrieve five keys from some of Spidey’s most notorious foes; you’ll know when a boss or more powerful foe is near because Spidey’s spider-sense will go off and the music will change. The first you’ll battle (once getting past a rampant forklift truck) is Doc Ock, who awaits you in a dank warehouse and attacks you with his trademark arms. In the Master System version, you could web up his arms to hold his attacks at bay but, here, I found that didn’t seem to work so I just crouched under his attacks to get closer and attacked him that way. In the sewers, you’ll encounter Doctor Curt Connors/The Lizard, who scrambles about the place and whips at you with his tail; however, he also has a tendency to just crouch there looking scary so it’s pretty easy to fire webs at him and jump kick him into submission.

You’ll need to watch out for, and use, the environment to defeat Electro and the Sandman.

As you navigate through the power plant, you’ll be attacked by annoying bolts of electricity that, as you might expect, come from Max Dillon/Electro; Electro flies about the place on a cloud of lightning and shoots thunderbolts at you but his true threat comes from his ability to electrify the girders that you’ll no doubt be standing on so…make sure you’re not on them when that happens! Easily the most unique of the game’s bosses, though, is Flint Marko/The Sandman, who emerges from a sandpit in Central park, turns into sand to avoid your attacks, and attacks with extendable arms and by shooting sand-fists your way. He’s also invulnerable to your attacks so you need to turn around and web-swing back to the start of the level and use the fire hydrant to douse him in water and put an end to him.

Venom shows up more than once to constantly dog your progress and cause you grief.

One of the game’s more persistent bosses is Venom; Venom often shows up at the worst possible moments, such as during other boss fights and at the beginning of the street level (where you’ll also have to watch out for Jameson, who berates you and hurts you if you get too close). Each time you fight Venom, they bound overheard, fire webs at you, and punch you in the face but, generally, the best method of attack is to let them jump over your head, fire your own webs, and punch them whenever they come close. These fights get more difficult as the game progresses thanks to the presence of other enemies and bosses but, in the caverns, I found Venom got a bit stuck on a ledge just out of reach so I could just finish the level without fighting them.

After defeating Hobgoblin, you’ll have to battle basically all of the bosses at once to get to the bomb!

The main enemy of the city level, though, is Jason Macendale, Jr/Hobgoblin, who flies around the rooftops of the city on his goblin glider and tosses a bunch of explosive pumpkin bombs down at you. Luckily, your diagonal webbing can make short work of Hobgoblin but his threat is magnified when you reach the Kingpin’s bomb, which is protected by all the bosses you’ve fought so far (with the odd exception of Doc Ock). Thus, you must battle the Lizard, Electro, Venom, and the Hobgoblin all at once, which is an impressive sight but extremely chaotic. It’s best to try and focus on one at a time, if possible, and take out guys like Hobgoblin and Electro because they can cause major headaches from the air.

If you’re able to keep M.J. from dying, you can batter the Kingpin into submission to win the day.

After defeating them all, you must select each of the five keys you’ve collected from the pause menu and insert them into the bomb in the correct order; each time you put a key in wrong, you’ll lose a chunk of time but, as long as you get it right and avoid a game over, you’ll be spared the constantly timer counting down. Next, you can pick up some health from the air vents and go one-on-one with a very squat and hunchback-looking Kingpin. This is easily the game’s toughest boss fight as the Kingpin deals massive damage with his big, meaty fists and it’s hard to tell when you’ve actually hit him. To make matters worse, Peter’s wife, Mary Jane Watson-Parker (who was kidnapped by Venom earlier in the game) is suspended over a fiery pit and you must web her chains to keep her from being lowered to her death. This is really tricky to do because your target is just off-screen and it’s hard to get the angle right to web her chains, to say nothing of the Kingpin’s persistent attacks. If M.J. is lowered into the pit, then it’s an instant game over…which is always fun.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Scattered throughout many of the game’s levels, you’ll find little Spider-Man icons which, when collected, will refill your health. From the pause menu, you’ll also see a little head icon; this is Peter’s head and selecting it will instantly teleport you to Peter’s apartment, where his health bar will slowly refill at the cost of your precious time. This is somewhat pointless as, when you return to the game, you have to start the level from the beginning again but you may have to sacrifice time for health in the game’s tougher moments since you only get one life to finish the game. You can continue if you fail but, again, this will cost you precious time. Otherwise, that’s it; the only way to refill your webbing is to take pictures of Spidey’s famous foes and there are no temporary power-ups or abilities available throughout the game.

Additional Features:
From the main “Options” menu, you can select from four different difficulty settings: Practice, Easy, Normal, and Nightmare. Be warned, however, as while these will, obviously  make the game easier or harder depending on your choice, you can’t progress beyond the sewers if you play on “Easy”. From the same menu, you can also set your stamina level and the amount of web cartridges you carry, which can be beneficial to keeping you alive and in the fight on the game’s more challenging levels.

Other difficulty modes and options allow for some replay value but there are better Spidey games.

Sadly, that’s technically as far as it goes; in the Master System version, you could perform a trick to have Spidey wear his black suit and even play a cheeky mini game but you can’t to that here so the only other benefit available to you are the cheats. While in the “Options” menu, place your cursor on the “Difficulty” option and hold Start on controller two; hold A, B, and C and controller one and press up/right and you’ll see a !!! icon appear in the menu. Once you start the game, if you pause the action and press A, you’ll completely refill your webbing; B will refill your health, C will grant you a few seconds of invincibility, and pressing A, B, and C will skip you ahead to the next level. This is useful to progress you through the game but means nothing if you screw up with the bomb or in the final battle as you’ll still fail the game if you don’t defuse the weapon or keep M.J. safe.

The Summary:
I really enjoyed the Master System version of Spider-Man; I never finished it in the years when I owned it and stupidly sold it some time ago but it was bright and entertaining with some detailed sprites and backgrounds. As a result, I was really excited to play the Mega Drive version of the game, having been won over by screenshots of the game’s superior graphics. However, graphical superiority doesn’t actually translate into a better game; yes, Spidey and his villains look great but the game is a slow, plodding, awkward experience. Climbing walls and navigating through the game’s unfortunately cramped areas is a pain, the lack of viable health power-ups and extra web abilities is disappointing, and the challenge on offer is artificially high and ridiculously unfair at times. It’s a shame as it wouldn’t take much to make the game a bit more enjoyable; upping Spidey’s speed a bit and giving him a vertical web shot would have been a big help but, in the end, it’s a decent enough title but there are definitely better Spider-Man games to play on the 16-bit consoles.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Have you ever played the Mega Drive version of Spider-Man? If so, what did you think to it? How do you feel it holds up compared to the other versions of the game? How did you find the game’s controls and mechanics? Which of the bosses was your favourite? Did you ever defuse the Kingpin’s bomb and save M.J. or did you fail at the last hurdle? Which Spider-Man videogame is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment down below.

Game Corner [Donald Duck Day]: QuackShot Starring Donald Duck (Mega Drive)


DonaldDuckDay

It’s June 9th, which means that it’s National Donald Duck Day! Disney’s foul-tempered fowl first debuted in The Wise Little Hen (Jackson, 1934) way, way back on 9 June 1934 and has since become one of the multimedia conglomerate’s most enduring and popular characters, featuring in a variety of cartoons, videogames, and other merchandise.


GameCorner
QuackShotLogo

Released: December 1991
Developer: SEGA
Also Available For: SEGA Saturn

The Background:
As I’ve said once or twice before, Disney had quite the reputation back in the nineties for licensing their popular characters and film franchises and producing some of the best 8- and 16-bit action/platformers on SEGA’s home consoles. Of all their enduring characters, Mickey Mouse, as the brand’s mascot, obviously featured in the majority of these titles but Donald Duck had his fair share of pixelated adventures over the years as well. Generally, Donald’s adventures were very similar to Mickey’s in that he would explore a fantasy world, generally trying to rescue his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and featured an abundance of jumping and platforming. QuackShot Starring Donald Duck was unique in that respect as, rather than bouncing on enemies and following a linear path from right to left, Donald becomes an Indiana Jones-type figure who travels the world in search of a lost treasure and the game featured a lot more backtracking and puzzle solving than most titles featuring Disney’s characters.

The Plot:
When flicking though a book in his Uncle Scrooge McDuck’s library, Donald stumbles across a map that leads to the lost treasure of King Garuzia, former ruler of the Great Duck Kingdom in ancient times. Alongside his three nephews, Donald hops in his biplane and heads out across the world to track down the lost treasure all while Big Bad Pete and his goons try to stop him at every turn and beat Donald to the treasure.

Gameplay:
QuackShot Starring Donald Duck is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer with a heavy emphasis on backtracking, exploration, and puzzle solving. Players take on the role of Donald Duck, decked out in an Indiana Jones-inspired getup, as he travels from Duckburg to Transylvania, to the South Pole and the ancient tomb of King Garuzia in pursuit of a lost treasure.

QuackShotControls
Run or slide to move a little faster and avoid a chargrilled butt.

Unlike other Disney titles, especially those starring either Donald or Mickey Mouse, QuackShot is a much slower, more methodical affair; Donald’s standard walking speed is painfully slow but, by holding down the A button, Donald will break out into what can best be described as a “spirited trot” for a few seconds, which really doesn’t speed things up all that much. When ducking, you can press the C button and Donald will slide forwards on his front, which is super handy for passing through small passageways and underneath spiked ceilings and can be a faster way of getting from start to finish.

QuackShotAttacks
Stun enemies with plungers or knock them out with popcorn.

Donald can also jump, as you might expect, but it’s more of a hop than anything else; Donald’s jumping height and distance is dependant on his momentum, angle, and the length at which you press the C button. Sadly, Donald cannot defeat enemies by jumping on them and is therefore entirely reliant on his special pop-gun to take out enemies. Donald’s gun can shoot out plungers to stun enemies so he can safely pass by or popcorn to permanently dispose of them; though he has unlimited plungers, Donald’s popcorn shots are limited and run out quite quickly as they fire in a spread. Plus, you know…enemies respawn after you leave the screen anyway so it’s better to just use the plungers.

QuackShotMap
Travel across the world using the map, checkpoints, and Donald’s handy-dandy biplane.

When you start QuackShot, you are presented with a map and can choose to travel to one of three destinations: Duckburg, Mexico, or Transylvania. Where you choose to go determines how far you can progress in the game; for example, if you visit Duckburg first, you’ll be soon stopped as you don’t have the ability to scale walls yet; if you visit Mexico, you’ll be told that you need a key to progress further; and, if you visit Transylvania first, you’ll need special ammo for your gun to progress further. In each case, a non-playable character (NPC) directs you to one of the other locations so you can get what you need to progress. Donald thus plants a flag (essentially a checkpoint) and you are able to call your nephews in your biplane to return to the map and travel elsewhere. Once you’ve cleared these first three areas, the map will expand and you’ll be able to travel to four new locations where the cycle repeats itself again; you can’t enter the temple in Egypt without retrieving the Sphinx Tear from the palace of the Maharajah and you can’t clear the Viking Ship of its ghost infestation without a special key from the South Pole, and so on. This partial progression and backtracking format makes the game much slower and requires a little more brain power than the average platformer; while NPCs always tell you where you need to go to progress in a particular level, if you miss that message and travel somewhere else instead, the only way to remind yourself of where you need to go is to hope that you remember where you just came from.

QuackShotTemper
Collect enough peppers and you’ll fly into a berserker rage.

Donald’s health is indicated by a small power meter in the game’s heads-up display (HUD); when attacked or otherwise hurt, Donald loses some of his power but can replenish his health by stunning or attacking enemies and picking up ice cream cones or a roast chicken (there’s something very disconcerting about a duck eating chicken to replenish its health…). Attacking enemies adds to your score, which is also displayed in the HUD, and you’ll be awarded with an extra life when you reach a high enough score; extra lives can also be found in levels as well and, if you die, you can grab these again to effectively have infinite lives but, should you exhaust all of your lives, the game has infinite continues so you can simply choose to restart from your last checkpoint. The HUD also shows Donald’s current temper; when he picks up enough red-hot chilli peppers, he flies into a berserker rage that renders him invincible for a few seconds and allows you to attack any particularly annoying enemies. These peppers are few and far between, however, so I didn’t find myself entering this state too often. Some levels feature bottomless pits and instant death traps (falling ceilings, water, or lava) as well so you’ll have to factor this in as you explore the game’s environments.

QuackShotPuzzles
Use the pause menu to change weapons and solve puzzles.

As you explore each area and speak to NPCs, you can access an in-game menu with the Start button. This is how you can call your aircraft (which can only be done when near to a checkpoint flag), use certain items (though these will only work when you’re right next to where they need to be used), and read things such as your map or other items to help you solve puzzles. The game’s puzzles are generally simple enough, requiring you to hop over moving platforms, stun moving blocks so you can progress, or hitch a ride on passing enemies. Probably the game’s more troublesome puzzle comes when Donald is about to be crushed by a falling ceiling and you have to hop on certain blocks in the right order in order to halt it and keep you from being flattened.

Graphics and Sound:
As a Disney title on the SEGA Mega Drive, QuackShot looks just as gorgeous and appealing as the rest of their titles released around this time. Disney’s games are always bright, vibrant, and eye-catching and QuackShot is no different, with Donald, Pete, and the game’s various enemies and environments popping out and full of charm. When you leave Donald idle for some time, he’ll tap his foot impatiently like a certain blue hedgehog and he is full of life as he waddles and hops along. Levels aren’t quite as varied and unique as in some of Donald’s other outings, or those that feature Mickey; instead, you’ll visit more real-world locations than fantasy environments, which will see you walking through the streets and jumping across the rooftops of Duckburg, exploring the haunted lower depths of a Viking Ship, and traversing dangerous jungles.

QuackShotGraphics
QuackShot is colourful and lively, if a bit by the numbers.

They’re all pretty standard locations for your average action/platformer and they’re not especially teeming with life or background elements but they’re serviceable enough and generally quite short; you’ll play half a level and then have to jet off to another location before you can proceed any further, making playing both short and sweet but also quite long and complex. The game’s music is equally fun and lively and catchy enough but nothing especially ground-breaking or memorable. The game’s plot is told through a combination of stationary cutscenes and in-game dialogue boxes between Donald and recognisable characters like Goofy and Gyro Gearloose; they’re large and cartoony, though, and perfectly in keeping with the cartoon aesthetic of the videogame and certainly a lot more in-depth than those of other platformers from the same time period.

Enemies and Bosses:
While Mickey generally had to deal with some fantastical and outlandish enemies, Donald is faced with more lacklustre and generic enemies sucu as vampire bats (that travel along a straight line and are easily avoided), incorporeal ghosts that cannot be harmed, and birds that drop wasp nests or bombs on you. Donald will also butt heads with a number of Pete’s goons who shoot at you or toss bombs at your head, Vikings who hide in barrels and try to shoot you full of arrows, kangaroos (complete with boxing gloves), evil cactus plants that break apart for added annoyance, and even skeletons who try to throw their heads at you.

QuackShotBosses
Bosses are big and lively but pretty simple to put down.

While exploring Dracula’s Castle, you’ll also encounter a giant ghost who floats just out of reach and cannot be harmed; every so often, he breaks up into smaller ghosts before reforming and, rather than try to damage him, you actually have to find a certain platform that will take you to the castle’s upper levels and out of harm’s way. You’ll also come up against a few bosses on your travels, none of which really pose that much of a threat as long as you have enough health, ammo (if necessary), and can avoid their simple attack patterns. Donald has to fight against Count Dracula (easily dispatched by standing beneath him when he opens his cape and shooting plungers upwards), a ferocious fire-breathing tiger (dispatched by firing bubblegum shots when it’s jumping), and a possessed suit of Viking armour that constantly shields against your attacks and can only be harmed by hitting its head.

QuackShotPete
Pete finds his position as the game’s final boss usurped at the last second…

Eventually, you’ll face off against Pete himself in a bid to retrieve the map; this battle sees Pete circling the area in a massive press machine and attempting to squash Donald into a fine paste. Pete’s goons are also stationed around the arena to make hitting Pete in the face that much harder as you climb higher and higher up the arena but, like all the bosses, this is simply a test of patience rather than being an exercise in frustration.

QuackShotFinalBoss
The game’s true final boss isn’t much of a threat…

Once Pete is taken out, Donald heads over to the Great Duck Treasure Island, where the tomb of King Garuzia lies, to do battle with the knight guarding Garuzia’s treasure. As final battles go, this is a bit of a disappointment; the knight basically stays in the centre of the screen, twirling his sword and trying to fling it at you, and causing blocks to fall from the ceiling. He leaves himself wide open for your attacks, meaning it’s pretty simple to dodge the falling debris and blast him with your plungers or other weapons until he finally gives up King Garuzia’s treasure.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
The only real power-up you can get through regular gameplay is the aforementioned red-hot chilli peppers; you can also collect bags of cash to increase your score, though, and find some cheeky shortcuts peppered through stages that lead either to stockpiles of items and ammo, extra lives and health, or hidden doors to progress further.

QuackShotWeapons
Donald’s plunger gets a few upgrades along the way.

As you explore, you’ll receive two upgrades for your pop-gun; the first changes your yellow plunger to a red one, which allows you to scale vertical walls with temporary platforms, and the second changes it to green and allows you to hitch a ride on flying enemies. Gyro also supplies you with bubblegum ammo, which allows you to break open walls and certain blocks so you can explore a bit more of the map and the game’s locations. These bubbles are quite slow and linger around the screen for some time, which can limit your firing speed (which is already quite slow to begin with).

Additional Features:
There’s not much replayability in QuackShot beyond playing through a perfectly acceptable action/platformer over and over. There’s no difficulty settings to choose from, no additional characters to unlock or play as, and there aren’t even any cheats or passwords to input. While this does mean you have to rely on old school gaming and memorisation to play through the game’s relatively short length, it also means that you can’t save your progress or jump to a later stage in the game if you have a power cut.

QuackShotBanner

The Summary:
Generally speaking, QuackShot Starring Donald Duck isn’t especially challenging but its pacing really ruins the many positive aspects of the game. Donald is so slow and clunky and the gameplay is so plodding and sluggish that there’s no real sense of urgency or agency to the game’s plot or action. QuackShot looks great and isn’t especially punishing or unfair but it’s nowhere near as action-packed or appealing as other Disney titles, even ones that also feature Donald Duck. Instead, you’re left with a perfectly average little title that looks and sounds great but doesn’t exactly leave you clamouring for more or especially excited.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think of QuackShot Starring Donald Duck? Where do you rate the game compared to other Disney titles of that era? Do you agree that it’s not as appealing as other Disney videogames on the Mega Drive or did you find it to be just as enjoyable? Which was your favourite, or least favourite, and who is your favourite Disney character? How are you celebrating National Donald Duck Day? Whatever you think about QuackShot, Donald Duck, or Disney in general, drop a comment below and have a great Donald Duck Day!

Game Corner: Taz in Escape from Mars (Mega Drive)

Released: August 1994
Developer: HeadGames
Also Available For: Game Gear and Master System

The Background:
Following his debut in “Devil May Hare” (McKimson, 1954) as a dim-witted and voracious foil to Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc), my absolute favourite Looney Tunes (1930 to present) character, the Tasmanian Devil (or simply “Taz”), became a recurring character in subsequent Looney Tunes cartoons before graduating to his very own show, Taz-Mania (1991 to 1995), as part of the Looney Tunes renaissance of the nineties. Although technically not tied into that cartoon or a sequel to Taz-Mania (Recreational Brainware/Various, 1992), and a fundamentally very different game altogether, Taz in Escape from Mars is emblematic of the character’s enduring popularity. Unlike the previous title, which I was inspired to play after enjoying the Master System version, Taz in Escape from Mars has always been a daunting prospect for me; the game’s reputation is somewhat mixed and I remember it being a tough experience the few times I borrowed it as a kid. However, given my love for the character, I was looking forward to sitting down and actually putting some real time into the game and seeing if I could overcome it after all these years.

The Plot:
Having amassed a collection of strange and wondrous alien creatures, Marvin the Martian comes to Earth to kidnap the insatiable Taz and cage him in a special zoo on Mars. Unimpressed at his predicament, Taz breaks free and goes on a rampage in a desperate attempt to return home.

Gameplay:
Like its predecessor, Taz in Escape from Mars (or Escape from Mars Starring Taz, as the title screen states) is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer which places you in the role of Taz, the ravenous Tasmanian Devil of Looney Tunes fame. Despite sharing many of the same sprites and fundamental mechanics as that game, however, Escape from Mars is a much bigger and more entertaining adventure with more interesting and varied mechanics, a faster pace, and much more freedom of movement (you can now freely move the screen’s camera up and down, for example).

Taz’s spin is a lot more versatile this time around and allows him to reach new areas.

As before Taz can pick up and use objects and use levers and other mechanisms with A, spin like a tornado with B, and jump with C. Unlike in the last game, Taz cannot defeat enemies or damage bosses by jumping on them but his spin attack is much faster and more useful this time around as you can use it to bounce Taz up narrow walls to reach higher areas. You can also hold down the B button to race across certain surfaces, including walls and ceilings, and to break through certain walls to avoid attacks and progress further.

Taz can temporarily grow or shrink in size in order to force his way onwards.

Taz, though still lacking in jumping and walking frames, also moves much faster and the controls, in general, are much tighter and more responsive. Best of all, Escape from Mars appears to be completely free of bottomless pits and instant death traps and has far more variety in the presence of teleporters, grow rays, and shrinking potions. When temporarily super-sized, Taz loses his spin attack but is invulnerable and can stomp his enemies into dust and, while shrunk, he can fit through smaller passageways (though he cannot attack or pick up items of food). Taz can also use his spin attack to tunnel through the dirt in Moleworld and you’ll notice that the game’s worlds and enemies are much more vivid, wacky, and memorable this time around.

A number of new mechanics and gimmicks help make the game bigger and more varied.

Not only is there more depth to the game’s environments, there are more interesting gimmicks in place, such as moving and temporary platforms, floating platforms, using mushrooms to ascend around spiked mazes, and jumping from cow to cow in the Mexican desert to say nothing of encountering more Looney Tunes characters, such as the Roadrunner and Yosemite Sam. You can also use Taz’s spin to go up and down spiral staircases in the Haunted Castle, traverse environments on floating cubes, and there are even some gravity-based mechanics at work in Marvin’s House. Taz can even enter an alien device and be duplicated a few times in this level and you’ll need to hop onto the doppelgänger’s head to reach higher areas. Having said that, though, the game manages to balance out all the improvements it makes on its predecessor with some annoying enemy and hazard placements (there are now two types of bombs, for example, that Taz will happily gobble down and get blown up for his troubles); some enemies, like the aforementioned Yosemite Sam, can’t be defeated and will attack you relentlessly. It can also be frustrating to enter the background through doorways only to instantly get stuck or become lost as you either can’t see where you need to go or there is nowhere to go, making the mechanic a bit pointless. By far the most annoying gimmick in the game are the lasers that instantly turn you to ash in Marvin’s House; you’ll have to desperately float and flail about using the gravity mechanics and attacking the laser generators from precariously small platforms in the hopes of reaching (and eating) the coveted exit sign.

Graphics and Sound:
Taz in Escape from Mars takes the charming, cartoony aesthetic from the previous game and expands upon it in every way. Taz’s sprite remains mostly the same except for a new coat of paint, which is a little disappointing as his jump is still lacking in frames and the developers didn’t even program him a new idle animation. They seem to have tried to make up for this by expanding and shrinking him, which is pretty neat, but these mechanics aren’t seen very often (I only grew big once in the entire game) so it would have been nice to see Taz’s sprites and range of motion expanded a bit more alongside his speed and abilities.

Levels are packed full with details and wacky cameos from Looney Tunes characters.

Taking Taz off-world, though, vastly improves the appeal of the game’s environments; big, colourful, and full of wacky enemies and elements, Escape from Mars’ levels are far more unique and appealing as Taz hops from planet to planet in an effort to get home. Taz’s journey takes him from Marvin’s zoo on Mars, to the purple sands of Moleworld, where he’ll be pursued by a giant drilling machine in a desperate auto-scrolling chase that is easily one of the more frustrating and nerve-wracking parts of the game. Planet X is one of the game’s more distinct locations; an alien, mushroom-filled world that features spiked walls and more than a few of those never-ending water slides that require you to jump off at the right moment to progress further. Eventually, Taz makes it back to Earth, specifically Mexico, where he has to jump across a stampede and then navigate through the maze-like city while bandits shoot at him, before ending up in what initially appears to be a quite out of place castle but soon transforms into a mad scientist’s dungeon.

Cutscenes make far better use of the in-game sprites and graphics and fit the game’s aesthetic.

Unlike the previous game, Escape from Mars skips using dialogue and awkwardly-drawn panels for its story and, instead, relies far more on in-game graphics and pantomime, which is all of great benefit as everything has a more cohesive and appealing aesthetic as a result. The music and sound effects are also much improved but, while you’re no longer bombarded with annoying sounds and weirdly-composed tunes, neither are anything particularly catchy or memorable, which is a bit of a shame as that was another area that needed much improvement.

Enemies and Bosses:
Another area where Escape from Mars out-does Taz-Mania is in the variety and appeal of its enemies; while no characters from Taz’s cartoon appear apart from Taz himself, the game makes up for this by swapping out bats and weird rock monsters for a handful of crazy alien foes who explode in a swirl of smoke when hit with Taz’s spin.

Escape from Mars is full of wacky alien enemies to help mix things up.

Marvin’s zoo and house, especially, are populated by weird alien frog-like creatures, robots, and his oft-seen minions, the Instant Martians, and his dog, K-9. You’ll also battle a variety of bandits, weird alien snails, raging bulls, and come across Yosemite Sam both in a gun-firing rage and protected by suits of armour. Witch Hazel even makes an appearance in the Haunted Castle, and what appear to be semi-cybernetic moles will blast at you with electrical bolts on Moleworld, and even Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote will damage you if you slip off your stampeding convoy.

Bosses are much bigger and more complex so you’ll need to use Taz’s new abilities to their fullest.

It’s all very surreal and this is reflected in the game’s bosses, which are much bigger and require a bit more that just spinning into (and jumping on to) them this time around. The first boss is a massive alien elephant thing that swings its trunk at you in a clockwise and anti-clockwise motion and spits spiked balls into the arena. Thankfully, as I mentioned, Taz’s spin will now carry him along walls and ceilings, which allows you to avoid damage and ricochet into the creature’s antenna-like eyes when they briefly appear in order to damage it. The second boss is a giant drilling machine which attacks you in free fall. Using small and otherwise precarious platforms, you must dodge its laser-like whip and missile attacks and spin into the pilot when he pops out from the cockpit. Thankfully, if you fall from your platform, the battle simply continues and I strongly recommend landing on a bigger platform to give yourself more freedom of movement.

It’s tricky to hit the worm’s tail but it’s even harder to time your jumps over Toto.

On Planet X, you’ll battle a gigantic worm-like creature than bursts out from the walls of the arena but sports a big, flashing weak spot on its rear end. Spin into this and you’ll destroy each segment of the worm, making it faster and more aggressive as the fight goes on until only the head remains for the final blow. Things take a bit of a turn for the worst in Mexico, however, where you’ll battle the posturing Toro the Bull; Toro charges at you in a rage and will send you flying into the air with its horns before stopping and posing but don’t think that this is your window to attack! Instead, you have to stand in place while Toro charges his attack and then dash away from him and jump over him right at the last minute so that he runs head-first into the walls of the arena, which can be really difficult to do as he moves very quickly and tends to simply stop right before the wall.

You’ll need to think outside the box and switch bodies with Gossamer to take it out!

Easily the most confusing and annoying boss comes at the end of the Haunted Castle, however. Here, you are charged at and punched by the big red furry monster Gossamer while a mad scientist blasts at you with laser bolts. Gossamer is completely invulnerable except for in the eyes; you must spin into its eyes a few times until it’s stunned and, hopefully, get it to collapse into one of the seats in the background. Once it’s sat down, dash over to the other seat and pull the lever and you’ll swap bodies with Gossamer, which will allow you to destroy the laser device and end this perplexing boss battle.

Marvin attacks in his giant mech and requires some tricky jumps to hit his weak spot.

The finale sees you taking on Marvin the Martian in a giant mech made in his image. The mech stamps around the arena and tries to kick at you but it also likes to stop and dance about with one of its massive feet. This is one of the trickier bosses as you must quickly jump up the platforms on its feet and legs and then launch a spin attack at the yellow plume on the “head” of the mech in order to damage it. Do this enough times and Marvin’s mech will collapse in a heap and Taz will finally be able to return to his peaceful life back in Tasmania.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As in Taz-Mania, Taz will automatically eat any items he comes across and you can blast them away with his spin attack. This means that he will explode if he eats bombs but will regain health if he eats junk food or first-aid kits and earn an extra life by chomping down on Taz icons. This time around, there seems to be a lot less health and far more bombs so, while there are a lot more opportunities to go blasting ahead, be sure to be mindful of your surroundings or you might miss some health when you need it the most. Also, don’t eat the cakes as they contain sticks of dynamite!

In addition to his fire breath, Taz can now spit rocks as well.

Taz can still breathe fire but, this time around, he has to gobble a can of gasoline rather than eating chili peppers. He can also eat boxes of rocks and spit a limited number of rocks at enemies as well, which is useful for taking out goofy aliens from afar and these projectile-based attacks are the only way of defeating some enemies, though there is no longer an invincibility star this time around.

Additional Features:
Unlike Taz-Mania, there are no difficulty options in Escape from Mars; what you see is what you get and you’ll just have to deal with it. However, like the last game, you can take advantage of a few cheats by holding A and B on controller one and B and C on controller two when on the SEGA logo screen. If you did it right, you’ll hear a bark and, when you pause the game and press A, a debug menu will appear that allows you to refill your health, skip to any level in the game, and activate “XY” mode that lets you move Taz around the level freely.

The Summary:
Taz in Escape from Mars is an improvement on its predecessor in almost every way; the core mechanics remain the same but expands upon them in just enough ways to make it a far more enjoyable experience. It’s funny because I distinctly remember this game being incredibly difficult back in the day but it was actually a lot more accessible than Taz-Mania, affording Taz a few new abilities and a greater range of movement and dramatically improving upon the level and enemy variety. Best of all, the game features no cheap deaths, bottomless pits, or instant death traps but it is populated by far more enemies and hazards. Sadly, a lot of the issues of the last game are still present and even made worse; sure, Taz is faster and more capable but he’s still a big, lumbering goof and levels might be more vibrant and interesting but they can still be frustrating and the music is still a let-down. Ultimately, Escape from Mars is a decent enough cartoony platformer to waste an hour or so on but it’s still a step behind other 16-bit games of the same genre and ends up being, in my opinion, about as enjoyable as its predecessor even with all the much-appreciated improvements.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Were you a fan of Taz in Escape from Mars? How do you think it compared to Taz-Mania and other 16-bit platformers? Were you a fan of Taz’s expanded moveset and the wackier levels and enemies of the game or were you disappointed to see the concept veer away from the Taz-Mania cartoon? Which Looney Tunes character and which of the old Looney Tunes videogames is your favourite? No matter what you think, leave a comment down below and let me know.

Game Corner: Taz-Mania (Mega Drive)

Released: July 1992
Developer: Recreational Brainware
Also Available For: Game Boy, Game Gear, Master System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

The Background:
My absolute favourite Looney Tunes (1930 to present) character, the Tasmanian Devil (or simply “Taz”) first debuted in “Devil May Hare” (McKimson, 1954) as a dim-witted and voracious foil to Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc). In the early- to mid-nineties, the Warner Bros. cartoons were undergoing something of a renaissance thanks to shows like Tiny Toon Adventures (1990 to 1992) and Animaniacs (1995 to 1998) and Taz became part of this resurgence in popularity when he graduated to his very own cartoon, Taz-Mania (1991 to 1995). To tie into this, several videogame adaptations of the show were produced; while the SNES version, which was more of a pseudo-3D endless runner, was unfavourably received, the Mega Drive title (which, like the others, was a traditional 2D sidescroller) was received very well. Since the Master System version (Technical Wave, 1992) was one of the first videogame cartridges I ever owned and one of my favourite action/platformers, I decided to pick up the Mega Drive version and see how the technically superior title holds up against others of its genre.

The Plot:
After being told a tale of a giant seabird that laid massive eggs capable of feeding an entire family for over a year, the ravenous and greedy Taz sets out in search of the Lost Valley and its legendary giant bird in hopes of satisfying his endless appetite.

Gameplay:
Taz-Mania is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer which has you guiding Taz across a number of locations (though, primarily, through jungles and Aztec ruins). While a variety of enemies populate Taz-Mania’s levels, your biggest enemies will be the controls and the numerous bottomless pits and instant death traps. Taz, though big and colourful and occasionally full of life, is a slow and clumsy character to play as; his jump is awkward, he can’t crouch or look up or down, and his hit box is ridiculously large at times.

Taz spins like a tornado and spits fire but has a large hit box and tends to destroy his own power-ups.

Thankfully, you can get Taz to move his big, useless butt by sending him into his trademark tornado spin; however, while this is great for blasting away most enemies, it also knocks away health and other power-ups when they’re onscreen. You can use the spin in mid-air for a boost but it’s a bit finicky and the game is structured less around letting you blast ahead at full speed and more around awkwardly jumping to platforms, working your way up or across, and making blind jumps across bottomless pits. Taz also has an “Action” button that will let you carry certain items to reach higher areas, activate switches, and breathe fire after eating chilli pepeprs, and can also defeat some enemies and damage bosses by jumping on their heads. Unfortunately, you’ll be spending most of your time struggling with the game’s sluggish controls and annoying platforming elements; in the Badlands, for example, you have to jump from jets of water to reach the exit but, if your jump is a little off (which happens more often than not thanks to Taz’s jumping being a bit stilted and floaty), you’ll get damaged by the water and the knockback will most likely send you falling to your death. Similarly, when you reach the Jungle, you’ll have to make blind jumps to platforms you can’t even see in order to progress and either fall to your death or jump right onto an enemy for your trouble.

Gameplay is slowed to a crawl as you pull levers and try to figure out annoying lift puzzles.

Taz-Mania is much more of a thinking game than the Master System version, which I remember being more of a standard, cutesy platformer; in the Acme Factory, you have to jump up conveyor belts and dodge lasers to pull a series of switches and keep a deadly robot from being assembled. Pull the wrong switches, though, and you’ll be chargrilled as punishment, which is a pretty fast way to burn through your lives. Later, in the Mines, you’ll need to use similar levers to activate lifts to reach new areas; unfortunately, some of these are booby trapped and will send you falling to your death while others are suspended precariously over a bed of instant death spikes or missing entirely (which will also cause you to die immediately). In the Ruins level, you’ll have to make some very tricky and awkward jumps between platforms and if you’re not absolutely pixel-perfect, you’ll simply pass right through your intended target as though it were intangible!

While hopping from logs isn’t too bad, the mine cart section is an absolute nightmare!

More than once, you’ll be tasked with jumping from log to log to cross some rapids; thankfully, you won’t instantly die if you fall or land in the water but you will be bounced out at the cost of some health. These aren’t particularly difficult sections but they become more troublesome when you have to move Taz up and down to the foreground and background, which makes positioning his exact landing point difficult to judge, and when you have to struggle upstream and avoid flying over the edge of a waterfall. By far the most frustrating and unfair section of the game, though, is when you must jump into a runaway mine cart; you can speed up and slow down by pressing left or right and press A to raise the cart up and avoid crashing headfirst into a bumper, but you also have to be careful not to collide with the ceiling, enemies, or to fall off the broken tracks. One mistake and you instantly lose a life, which is ridiculously unreasonable and makes the presence of a life bar almost completely redundant.

Graphics and Sound:
If there’s one thing Taz-Mania has going for it, it’s the graphics; sprites are big, cartoony, and colourful and the entire game evokes the look and feel of the cartoon. While the music and sound effects are extremely grating and poorly realised, it’s fun seeing Taz fly into an impatient rage when left idle and the little quirks he has here and there, such as eating the “S” in the opening SEGA logo.

Levels are colourful but not very varied and lacking in depth and complexity.

Sadly, this doesn’t really shine through all of the time and, for the most part, Taz is a very static and awkward character sprite. Similarly, the game’s backgrounds and levels aren’t all that interesting to look at; this game released almost a year after Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) and in the same year as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992) so there’s really no excuse for the environments being so bland and basic. Occasionally, you’ll see some foreground effects and have to pass through certain walls to reach new or secret areas but, for the most part, there’s not really a lot on offer in terms of variety as the game spends way too much time in barren wastelands and jungles.

Taz-Mania really should have relied on in-game sprites for its story and cutscenes.

By far the most visually interesting levels are the Acme Warehouse and the Iceland, a stage you only visit once yet you’re forced to endure the drab, dark mine and confusing mess of the Jungle for what feels like an eternity. Taz-Mania employs some very simple motion comic-like cutscenes and text to tell its story that, while featuring bigger sprites and including a handful of cameos from the show, featured extremely limited animation and it feels like they could have been swapped out for in-game graphics and sprites like the game’s ending.

Enemies and Bosses:
Taz’s journey is obstructed by a handful of enemies, such as bats, frogs, crabs, and anthropomorphic stone heads and man-eating plants that try to take a bite out of you. Your most persistent and annoying obstacle (apart from the controls) will be the abundance of instant death traps and hazards such as pistols, fans, jets of flame, and bombs that dog you at every turn. In Iceland, you’ll also want to avoid landing in the freezing water as you’ll be frozen into a block of ice that will slowly drain your health unless you mash buttons to escape.

A couple of Taz’s adversaries from the cartoon show up as bosses, which is nice to see.

Fans of the cartoon may be slightly disappointed by how few characters carry over into the videogame and, yet, a handful of them do appear. In many levels, you’ll encounter a number of spear-wielding Bushrats, for example, and the first boss you battle is against Bull Gator and Axl in their trademark jeep. If you’ve played Sonic 2, it’s basically the same thing as the Emerald Hill Zone boss; simply hop over it to avoid being crushed and bounce or spin into the truck a few times and they’ll be done. Similarly, at the end of the Jungle level, you’ll encounter Francis X. Bushlad, a red-headed archer who simply shoots arrows at you in a predictable pattern and is easily bested by hopping on his head or spinning into him after jumping over his projectiles.

Taz also battles a giant plant and a stone version of himself.

You’ll also battle against a giant, man-eating plant that the instruction manual encourages you to throw a bag of “No Weed” at but I’m pretty certain I defeated it by simply spinning into it without much trouble at all. In the Ruins stage, one of the many Taz statues will come to life and you’ll have to fight a stone doppelgänger of Taz, who has all the same moves and abilities as you and is thus ridiculously easy to take out by jumping over his spin attacks and hitting him with your own when he’s standing still.

A giant seabird fiercely protects her egg in the finale but a few smacks to the head will dissuade her.

The finale of the game sees you navigating through a stone maze of sorts and then walking, almost completely unopposed, to the giant egg that is Taz’s goal. The egg is, of course, guarded by a giant seabird that attacks you with its humongous wings and talons, both of which are surprisingly easy to avoid. When the bird’s head pops into frame, simply spin into it a few times and you’ll win the day…only to be denied your dinner as the egg hatches and the hatchling mistakes Taz for its mother and amusingly chases him back home.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
One thing Taz is known for is his insatiable appetite and, as a result, he’ll automatically pick up and eat objects and enemies that he comes across. This, however, can be detrimental to your health as Taz will swallow bombs if you’re not careful and get blown up in classic Looney Tunes fashion.

Aside from the bombs, you should eat everything you come across for health, points, and power-ups.

However, the rest of the time, Taz will eat all kinds of food, such as roast chicken, fruit, and water bottles but he’ll also eat smaller enemies to refill his health; you can also eat Taz icons for an extra life and a Star for a brief period of invincibility, though I found very few of these in my playthrough. Furthermore, as mentioned, you can eat chilli peppers to spit fire by pressing A for a short time.

Additional Features:
Taz-Mania comes with three different difficulty settings, Practice, Easy, and Hard but you won’t get to experience the full game on Practice and will receive the greatest challenge on Hard. If the game is too easy for you (which, honestly, it probably won’t be given how frustrating and unfair some parts of the game are), you can activate a number of…somewhat useful cheats by holding A, B, and C on both controllers on the title screen and pressing Start. After that, you can pause the game at any time and press A to refill your health, B to become permanently invincible, and A, B, and C to skip to the next level. The invincibility isn’t actually that helpful, though, as you need to activate it every time you die or start a new level and certain hazards (such as ingesting bombs and landing in water) will still damage you and all the invincibility in the world won’t protect you from an instant death trap.

The Summary:
I really enjoyed the Master System version of Taz-Mania; it was bright, simple fun and I was excited to finally get my hands on the Mega Drive version after being won over by screenshots of the game for most of my life. Unfortunately, Taz-Mania definitely looks a lot better than it plays and shines much more in still shots than it does in motion. The sprites, especially Taz, are great, very fitting, and cartoony but are noticeably lacking in animation frames and just a sense of character. Taz is one of animation, and Looney Tunes’, most expressive and bombastic characters but he’s depressingly pedestrian here. The emphasis on platforming, blind jumps, and unfair deaths instead of fast-paced action and adventure in the style of Sonic also seems to have been a mistake and, for all its colourful, cartoony appeal, Taz-Mania was an underwhelming and disappointing experience for me, especially compared to the technically inferior Master System version.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Were you a fan of Taz-Mania? How do you think it holds up today? Did the game’s controls, difficulty, and more finicky moments turn you off or is it one of your favourite 16-bit titles? Are you a fan of Taz and his cartoon? If not, which Looney Tunes character is your favourite and, by the same token, which Looney Tunes videogame is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Taz-Mania, feel free to leave a comment down below and be sure to check out my review of the follow-up!

Game Corner [Castlevania Marathon]: Castlevania: Bloodlines / Castlevania: The New Generation (Xbox One)


CastlevaniaMarathon

CVBLogo

Released: May 2019
Originally Released: December 1993
Developer: Konami Digital Entertainment/Konami Industry Co. Ltd
Original Developer: Konami
Also Available For: Mega Drive, Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation 4

The Background:
For the longest time, Castlevania was a series synonymous with Nintendo’s home consoles; handheld or otherwise, Castlevania was generally played on a Nintendo-branded product, meaning those of us (like me) who were playing SEGA consoles missed out on the chance to slay Dracula like those Nintendorks. Castlevania: Bloodlines (also titled Castlevania: The New Generation) changed that…or, at least, it would have except for the fact that Castlevania: Bloodlines is still one of the rarest and most expensive videogames these days. Luckily, the title was not only included as part of the Mega Drive Mini but is also available on the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, being only one of two 16-bit titles available in that collection following Super Castlevania IV (ibid, 1991).

The Plot:
It’s 1917 and the dark countess Elizabeth Bartley seeks to resurrect her uncle, none other than the evil Count Dracula. To facilitate his resurrection, she sends her minions across Europe to cause chaos and bloodshed, only to be opposed by two young vampire hunters: John Morris and Eric Lecarde.

Gameplay:
Castlevania: Bloodlines is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer and the first game in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection to not include one of the legendary Belmont family. Instead, players can choose to control either John Morris or Eric Lecarde right off the bat, making it only the second game in the collection to include another playable character and the only one where this character can be selected from the main menu rather than switched to mid-game as in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (ibid, 1989).

CVBMorris
Morris is a Blemont in all but name.

Choose John Morris and you’ll be in for a traditional Castlevania experience; like his forefathers, Morris wields the Vampire Killer to fend off the forces of evil. Morris isn’t quite as adept with the whip as Simon in Super Castlevania IV, though; he can only attack diagonally and upwards when jumping and can’t let the whip hang loose to freely aim it or block incoming projectiles. Similar to Simon, Morris can use his whip to swing across gaps but the mechanic is noticeably more clumsy and tricky to pull off here as, rather than swinging from hooks or metal rings, Morris dangles from ceilings and, while you can alter the length and speed of his swing, it’s far easier to just drop to your death than clear the gap.

CVBLecarde
Lecarde favours a lance-like spear over a whip for a slightly different playstyle.

Pick Eric Lecarde, though, and you’ll get a fresh, new Castlevania experience; Lecarde wields the Alucard Spear, giving him a greater attack range (if slightly reduced attack power). Lecarde can also attack in all eight directions, swinging his spear in a flourish to quickly attack enemies both in front and behind. Lecarde is also slightly faster and can leap higher thanks to his super jump, allowing him to reach platforms and levels Morris can’t, though I actually found him a bit clunkier and his attacks to be slower than Morris’s.

CVBJewels
Grab jewels to use your sub-weapons and gain end-of-stage bonus points.

Both characters have access to all the classic Castlevania sub-weapons (and even a few new ones), which are now used thanks to the acquisition of jewels rather than hearts. You have no idea how happy this makes me; like the hearts replenishing health in Castlevania: The Adventure (ibid, 1989), having jewels rather than hearts just makes so much more sense. Unlike Super Castlevania IV, there’s only one piece of meat available to replenish your health, but you can still upgrade each characters’ weapon by collecting orbs and even perform an “Item Crash” manoeuvre; this unleashes a more powerful super attack for each sub-weapon at the cost of a substantial number of jewels.

CVBPlatforming
Platforming is still a risky, tricky business…

Both characters are noticeably faster and more manoeuvrable than their predecessors but still fly backwards upon receiving damage, often to their doom. Thankfully, Castlevania: Bloodlines finally ditches the limit limit of the previous games and is light on the instant-death traps and spikes; often, when you jump or fall into water, your health will be slowly drained as you take damage (presumably to represent the character drowning) rather than immediately dying. That’s not to say that bottomless pits and instant-death spots aren’t present, or that you won’t find yourself just slipping or walking off a ledge when you meant to jump thanks to a slight (but glaring) delay in the game registering your button presses, or that you won’t be tasked with making some difficult jumps or awkwardly swinging across gaps while fending off projectiles or enemies.

CVBPlatforming2
Auto-scrolling is far less punishing than in other Castlevania titles.

After two games focused more on rope climbing, the staircases are back! And, what’s more, it’s super easy to climb up and down them, and to stop and attack enemies while on them; there’s no sudden dropping to your doom here…unless you’re stupid enough to jump through the staircases. Like Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania: Bloodlines also uses the power of its 16-bit hardware to render some impressive graphical mechanics; you’ll jump up rotating platforms, traverse the Leaning Tower of Pisa as it sways alarmingly, and hop across floating platforms as the screen auto-rises and auto-scrolls. Yes, auto-scrolling is a thing in Castlevania: Bloodlines but, for the most part, its far less stressful or annoying than in previous Castlevania titles; not only are there are more opportunities to save yourself from death and far less enemies to contend with, you also don’t die from touching the top of the screen, which is always useful.

CVBMap
Our heroes must travel all across Europe battling the forces of darkness.

Castlevania: Bloodlines operates using a simple six-stage formula; you progress across Europe via an automated map screen and, in each unique area, you’ll face different platforming requirements, obstacles, enemies, and, of course, a boss. Of all the Castlevania games I’ve played for this marathon, Bloodlines has the most variety in terms of its graphics, stages, and enemies; rather than simply ploughing your way towards, or through, a gothic castle, you’re exploring a munitions factory or exploring the ruins of Atlantis. Some of these locations have been hinted at before, or served as inspiration for the aesthetic and atmosphere of the Collection’s other games, but nowhere have they been more fully-realised than in Castlevania: Bloodlines.

CVBDifficulty
Stages are heavily detailed, which can make them punishingly difficult at times.

That’s not to say that the game is flawless though (but then again, few games are). Sometimes, the game takes its new mechanics and features a bit too far, asking you to jump across platforms while upside down or your vision is distorted by mirrors. While this wouldn’t be too bad, the developers also threw in erratic Medusa Heads and constantly-respawning skeletal demons to make these sections more frustrating. It doesn’t help that I found myself just as likely to simply walk off a platform to my death or pointlessly hop in place rather than make a successful jump, or that you’re seemingly destined to jump right into the path of an enemy or projectile if they’re onscreen but, thankfully, these sections are few and far between and, for the most part, Castlevania: Bloodlines is a crisp and visually impressive experience.

Graphics and Sound:
Super Castlevania IV set a high standard for the series, dragging it out of the 8-bit era and into the glory of full-colour, arcade-style 16-bit graphics and Castlevania: Bloodlines only builds upon that foundation. Sprites aren’t as big as in Super Castlevania IV but they’re no less detailed for it; both Morris and Lecarde stand out from the game’s many and varied detailed backgrounds, popping out at you thanks to their unique colour palette and sprite art, and enemies are easily spotted and fantastically animated thanks to the game’s 16-bit engine.

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The game’s reflection effect reminds me of Rocket Knight Adventures.

Simply put: there is a lot going on in this game’s stages. Not only do they slant or flip upside down, they’re also filled with some fantastic blood and gore as corpses and hanged victims litter the background of a lot of the stages. You’re also required to pull off some tricky jumps from rotating platforms, gears, and moving platforms and stages are filled with variety and teeming with life and danger alike. Konami borrowed a trick from another of their fantastic titles, the criminally under-rated Rocket Knight Adventures (ibid, 1993), for the water reflection effects seen in stage two, where (as in Rocket Knight Adventures) you’ll use the reflections in the rising and falling water to jump safely across the ruins of Atlantis.

CVBGraphics
Platforms crumble beneath your feet and spiral around you with detail and depth.

You’re also tasked with attacking the crumbling, ancient pillars to create new platforms and jump from others as they collapse beneath your feet and jumping from platform to platform up the swaying Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is a cakewalk compared to having to negotiate the small, annoying, rotating platforms in stage five. Given its more modern setting, you’ll also have to content with conveyor belts, pistons, massive gears, and razor-sharp circular saws in stage four, all of which only add to the game’s more steampunk-inspired aesthetic.

CVBGraphics2
Some enemies are a part of the environment and even use it against you!

The danger in the stages is compounded further by the way Bloodlines incorporates enemies into each stage; Minotaurs break parts of the marble pillars off and attack you with them in stage three, Fish Men leap from the depths below, Medusa Heads swarm around you as you hop from wooden platforms while the water level lowers, skeletons throw bones at you from behind a chain-link fence in stage four (they also jump over the fence and pop out of barrels without warning) and form (and re-form) from a bloodied water fountain in stage five, where skeletal monkeys wing at you from vines, tossing explosives at you and trying to cut you in half.

CVBGraphics3
The game mixes the traditional Castlevania gothic with a steampunk aesthetic.

The game returns to its gothic roots by the time you storm Castle Proserpina, the game’s final stage, which sheds the more steampunk-driven aesthetic for a traditional, stone castle familiar with anyone who has ever played a Castlevania before. All of these graphical and gameplay elements, while impressive, do lead to some noticeable slow-down in many areas of the game, however, which can (literally) drag down the otherwise thrilling experience Castlevania: Bloodlines has to offer. This is accentuated further by the game’s impressive and atmospheric soundtrack; the 16-bit games really did put all their power and benefits to the best use possible, allow this game to not only look fantastic but, thanks to Michiru Yamane’s fittingly gloomy soundtrack, sound amazing as well.

Enemies and Bosses:
Castlevania: Bloodlines offers one of the more diverse and varied bestiaries in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection; unlike many of the other titles, which simply recycled the same enemies with some minor tweaks or alterations, I felt like Bloodlines actually put some effort into really giving even the most basic enemies some life and vigour. Sure, all the usual suspects are here (skeletons, bats, ravens, the Pillar of Bones, etc) but even some of these have been spruced up to offer more of a threat. Skeletons wield swords, shields, and whips and there’s a variant that swings a massive axe and another massively annoying one that swings at you from vines.

CVBEnemies2
Knights shoot arrows and even have gatling guns!

You’ll also encounter Harpies (who attack unevenly from the sky with spears), Mummies (who both float their bandages at you and try to whip you with them), man-eating plants, plants that screw up your controls (which is always annoying), mace-wielding barbarians who leap right in your face, and charging Minotaurs. In keeping with the game’s more steampunk-inspired aesthetic, you’ll also face a wide variety of knights; there’s knights that sprint at you, ones that brandish swords (as well as that old favourite, the Axe Knight), ones that fire arrows at you in an arc, and even ones with giant mallets, gatling guns(!), and on wheels! The level of detail in each enemy is impressive and even the most small and seemingly-insignificant enemy can be a threat thanks to their placement, attack patterns, and the limitations of Morris’s whip.

CVBSubBosses
You’ll have to get past some monstrous sub-bosses to progress.

Castlevania: Bloodlines also stands out by its use of sub-bosses; you’ll face the likes of Hellbound (a bloodied, half-skeletal beast that haunts the ruins of Dracula’s Castle), two large, armour-plated heavies (one with an axe, one with a mace), sentient faces brought to life by some kind of poltergeist and even a Castlevania custom, Frankenstein’s Monster. Some of these are, honestly, a bit more creative and visually interesting than the stage’s actual bosses, such as the giant suit of armour that barely poses much of a threat at the end of the first stage.

CVBBosses
Some bosses are better than others but they’re all visually impressive.

Things pick up considerably once you reach stage two’s Golem, however; in this fight, you have to first whittle away chunks of the creature’s mid-section before you can attack its vulnerable head and actually do some real damage, all while dodging falling rocks from the ceiling. Stage three’s Gargoyle can also be a bit of a pain without the right sub-weapon (…unless you use Lecarde) as it buzzes around your head, trying to whip at you with its rock-like tail, all while the top of the tower you’re on (and the background) excitingly rotates. The mess of gears and cogs that acts as stage four’s boss is probably the wildest and most ill-fitting of all the Castlevania bosses I’ve fought so far; don’t get me wrong, I love a good bit of steampunk but this…thing…was not only kind of boring to fight (despite its multiple forms and attacks) but also needlessly frustrating. The Princess of Moss from stage five is marginally better but ridiculously easy even after she transforms into a giant…moth…?

CVBReaper
You’ll have to defeat all the previous bosses again before you can face Death.

Once you get to Castle Proserpina, the shit really hits the fan as you have to face a gauntlet of sub-bosses and bosses, each with different forms and attacks at their disposal. First, you’ll battle the Grim Reaper once again; this time, Death surrounds himself with tarot cards and, as you attack, you’ll either spawn a whole mess of health-restoring food, get attacked by a fireball, or be warped to one of the game’s previous bosses. Luckily, these guys are much weaker the second time around but, once you’ve defeated them again, you’ll have to face Death himself once again. Fortunately, Death isn’t anywhere near as formidable or daunting as in previous titles; he glides around above you throwing sickles at you, tries to rush you with his scythe, and sits in the corner throwing his scythe like a razor-sharp frisbee but all of these attacks are easily dodged or avoided and he’ll go down pretty easily (especially if you have the axe).

CVBElizabeth
Neither Elizabeth or her Medusa are much to fret about…

After that, you’ll battle Medusa; this isn’t like the floating, snake-haired head from previous titles, though. This Medusa is a horrific, snake-like creature that blasts at you with two different types of fireball, tries to whack you with its tail, and then awkwardly crawls towards you to try and throttle you. Each attack is predictable and relatively slow, meaning you can deal massive damage even while the Medusa is attacking, to say nothing of when she shuffles towards you like a slug. Once she’s dealt with, you’ll have to fight Elizabeth Bartley herself; ol’ Liz likes to teleport from one side of the screen to the other and throw a fireball at your head and, if you don’t damage her enough times (the number of hits is determined by the different elemental orbs she summons, though these can’t hurt you), she’ll unleash a powerful attack upon you. This shouldn’t happen, though, as it’s ridiculously easy to duck under her one projectile and hit her no matter which side she choose to spawn on, meaning she will fall without much bother at all.

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Dracula’s first form is a familiar effort on his part…

Finally, you’ll face Dracula himself who, despite your efforts, once again awakens from his coffin. Initially, Dracula attacks very similar to Super Castlevania IV, teleporting in through a column of light and tossing fireballs at you with a sweep of his cape. However, his teleport cannot damage you and, while you only have a small window to hit his head, it’s pretty easy to land a hit and still dispose of his projectiles without taking a hit.

CVBDracula2
Dracula’s second form is a pushover, especially for Lecarde…

After you’ve drained his health, Dracula transforms into a floating, cloaked sorcerer form and darts around the screen above your head in an inconsistent pattern. Being as he’s often just out of reach, this can be tricky with Morris as jumping to hit Dracula may cause you to make contact with him and take damage, so it’s best to keep a safe distance and use the axe. Dracula blasts two fireballs at both sides of the screen in this form (these travel down the screen and across the floor and can be tricky to avoid thanks to the game’s janky jumping physics) and drops columns of energy into the arena that can deal massive damage if you’re not standing in a safe area. Still, this form isn’t especially difficult and I found it more than doable to destroy him before he could unleash this more devastating attack.

CVBDracula3
Dracula’s final form is intimidating but his attacks are predictable and easy to dodge.

Once bested, Dracula transforms into his largest and more horrific form yet: a massive, Devil-like creature with a fanged stomach, huge devil horns, wings, and claws. As intimidating as it looks, though, this final form isn’t much of a threat; it lumbers around in a clear and identifiable pattern, first throwing sickles at you in a spray, then trying to roast you with fireballs that are easily ducked (in the far corner) or jumped over, and, finally, spewing bones at you. These can be tricky to avoid if you’re caught on the wrong side but there’s a clear gap between them you can dart into and, even with Morris’s difficulty in attacking upwards and diagonally, it isn’t long before Dracula is done in once more. What makes Dracula so difficult this time around is the fact that you have to face all three forms in a gauntlet, with no healing in between and only the health, ammo, and weapons you have on you.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
All is standard in Castlevania titles, you can upgrade the Vampire Killer and the Alucard Spear to increase their reach and damage output. When you fully upgrade the Vampire Killer, it takes on a glowing, plasma-like appearance that looks more like energy or lightning than the usual fire, while the Alucard Spear glows with an ethereal magical power. Sadly, though, you’ll lose an upgrade when you take damage, meaning that you may be left with you bog-standard weapon by the time you reach the stage boss.

CVBUltimate
Each character has their own screen-clearing attack.

As always, this means relying on the game’s items to help turn the tide when things get rough; you can grab 1-Ups on the rare occasions that they appear, briefly become invincible, and wipe out all onscreen enemies and grab one of the three sub-weapons: the axe (which travels in a high arc and is perfect for aerial enemies and bosses whose weak points are out of reach), the Holy Water (which travels along the ground in a fiery path), and the boomerang (here an actual boomerang rather than clearly being a cross, this time being razor sharp and travelling high and low to return to you, which is perfect for dealing additional damage). Additionally, as noted, you can perform an “Item Crash” with each of these weapons and each character has a specific “Ultimate Item” they can pick up: Morris has the Water Dragon (which fills the screen with a powerful, homing orb) and Lecarde has the Thunderbolt Spear, which unleashes a torrent of thunderbolts and lightning.

Additional Features:
Castlevania: Bloodlines features thee difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, and Expert) and the ending you get depends on which character you use and which difficulty setting you pick. Finishing the game on Easy takes you straight to the credits, while Normal only gives you a brief glimpse of your character’s ending and challenges you to try the game on Expert in order to earn a more complete ending. The game also employs a password system to allow you to return to the stage where you left of, jump to different stages with different characters, or start the game with extra lives.

CVBEndings
The game has different endings depending on which character and difficulty you choose.

Castlevania: Bloodlines has two Achievements tied to it; you get one for beating the game as Morris and another for beating it as Lecarde. With the features available in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection you can also save your progress at any time, apply different display filters and effects, and play with one of three different frames around the game screen as with the other titles available in the collection.

CVBConclusion

The Summary:
Castlevania: Bloodlines is easily one of the top three titles available in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection; you should purchase this collection for this game alone and see the others as a bonus as it really is a tight and well-crafted videogame. Despite some issues with slipping off platforms and mastering Morris’s awkward whip-swing mechanic, the controls are smooth and generally responsive; Morris and Lecarde both move at a far faster pace than their predecessors and, between the two of them, offer as much versatility as seen in Super Castlevania IV. Bolstered by its incredibly detailed graphics and atmospheric soundtrack, Castlevania: Bloodlines is probably the darkest and most foreboding title collection thanks to the inclusion of blood and gore. This really lends to the game’s atmosphere and the franchise’s tendency towards macabre horror that it is so often stunted by the localisation and restriction these early Castlevania titles had to endure. The steampunk aesthetic is married with the series’ trademark gothic styling which, while it does include in some weird and ill-fitting enemy designs, results in some amazingly detailed sprites and environments and makes Castlevania: Bloodlines a solid successor to Super Castlevania IV.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What did you think of Castlevania: Bloodlines? How do you think it compares to Super Castlevania IV? Were you lucky enough to own an original copy of this game back in the day or did you pay out through the nose to get a copy of it only to find it much more affordable in this collection? Whatever your thoughts on this title, and other Castlevania videogames, leave a comment below and pop back next Saturday for my review of the next Castlevania title in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection.

Game Corner: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Mega Drive)

GameCorner
CastleOfIllusionMDLogo

Released: November 1990
Developer: SEGA AM7
Also Available For: Game Gear and Master System

The Background:
As I’ve mentioned before, Disney had quite the reputation for licensing their characters for top quality videogames back in the nineties. These days, licensed videogames are often frowned upon but, back then, Disney’s movies and characters made for some of the most enjoyable action/adventure platformers on the SEGA Mega Drive and Super Nintendo. Mickey Mouse, Disney’s beloved mascot, received quite a few videogames for the Mega Drive, each one an enjoyable 2D romp capturing the whimsy and aesthetic charm of Mickey’s character and animated adventures. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse paved the way for Mickey’s subsequent adventures, both solo and alongside Donald Duck, who also had his fair share of adventures on 8- and 16-bit hardware back in the day. So influential is Castle of Illusion’s reputation that a remake was released in 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and various mobile platforms. Until now, this was the only version of Castle of Illusion I had played; while that was quite a while ago, I remember it being a fun little 2.5D romp so, when I started planning on expanding my Mega Drive library, I knew that Castle of Illusion would have to be on the list to see how the title holds up.

The Plot:
Mickey and Minnie Mouse live peacefully in Vera City but when Minnie is suddenly abducted by the evil witch Mizrabel, Mickey must journey into the witch’s Castle of Illusion to recover the seven Gems necessary to defeating Mizrabel and stopping her from switching bodies with Minnie.

Gameplay:
Castle of Illusion is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer in which players must guide Mickey through six Levels, each hidden behind doors within the titular Castle of Illusion. Rather than using a traditional map screen or a hub world, or simply transitioning from one level to the next, Mickey travels to each of the game’s Levels by passing through enchanted doorways in Mizrabel’s castle, which is a nice change of pace from simply navigating a basic map or automatically dropping into a Level.

CastleOfIllusionMDAttacks
Bounce off enemies with Mickey’s butt or toss items at them.

Mickey has two main forms of attack to defend himself against Mizrabel’s many and varied minions; he can either grab an apple or a marble and throw them at his enemies or bounce on their heads with his rump. Throw projectiles can be useful but, as a lot of enemies are shorter than the projectiles travel, you’ll most likely be making use of Mickey’s butt to defeat your enemies. However, if you don’t hold down the jump button, Mickey will take damage, which is annoying, so it’s worth holding it down every time you make a jump in case an enemy swoops beneath you. When you land on an enemy’s head, you can bounce from one to another to make short work of multiple enemies, clear larger gaps, or reach higher platforms. While Mickey’s arsenal of moves isn’t exactly the deepest, he makes up for it by controlling extremely well for the most part. There are times, however, when either he feels a little slippery or the surfaces he is standing on are oddly slippery and you’ll find yourself sliding off an edge and to your death or accidentally slipping into an enemy or down a bottomless pit. While instant death traps and obstacles aren’t too obtrusive, they are present in some of the worst areas, such as a section where Mickey must jump from small platforms while waterfalls threaten to drag him down a bottomless pit and to his death.

CastleOfIllusionMDSwing
Swinging from ropes can be a tricky mechanic.

As standard, Mickey has a fairly decent, semi-floaty jump that takes him quite far and far the longer you hold the jump button down and depending on how much momentum you have. His walk is quite sluggish, though, and he doesn’t really speed up beyond much of a gentle stride so the game’s emphasis is more on platforming and mild exploration and puzzles rather than fast-paced, high-speed action. Mickey can duck to avoid projectiles and enemies as they jump but, while he can swim without fear of drowning, he can’t actually attack any enemies whilst underwater, leaving him vulnerable. Certain Levels task Mickey with grabbing on to ropes, vines, and other hanging apparel; I found grabbing these to be troublesome, at best, as more often than not Mickey simply leap through the rope but, once you grab on, you can swing from rope to rope with the added bonus of automatically dispatching any airborne enemies as you swing along.

CastleOfIllusionMDExplore
Explore Levels to find items and bonus areas.

Mickey’s health is represented by a five-point power bar; Mickey loses a point every time he takes damage and loses a life every time his health is fully depleted by can replenish a health point by grabbing a Star item. He can earn an extra try by either grabbing some Mouse Ears or collecting first 40,000 points and then 50,000, awarded by defeating enemies, grabbing gems, and tallied up after you complete each Level. Some Levels require Mickey to do a bit of exploration; in Toyland, for example, you need to find a key in order to progress while in the Storm, you have to contend with a maze-like cycle of water jets and find the right path to the Level’s exit. While exploring the Library, you can jump into tea cups and swim through a few small bonus areas to grab extra projectiles or gems, and you’ll sometimes have to run away from a large rolling obstacle or try to not be swept away by rushing water.

Graphics and Sound:
Though later surpassed by its later 16-bit successors, Castle of Illusion is still a gorgeous little title; all the sprites and backgrounds pop with bright, colourful art and feature some interesting animations and elements. When left idle, Mickey has a charming little animation where he sways his hips to the game’s various whimsical tunes and he always looks full of life and vigour as he strolls, hops, and bounces along. His enemies aren’t quite as dynamically rendered but they’re interesting and wacky enough to fit the themes of the game’s various Levels.

CastleOfIllusionMDGraphics
Levels are varied and full of life and obstacles to overcome.

As you travel through the castle’s enchanted worlds, you’ll journey through a forest, a toy box, a giant library, and the castle itself. Each Level has various other layers to it, meaning you’ll hop across leaves and through spider’s webs, leap through a sweet and chocolate world, get stuck in sticky jelly, and even traverse a pyramid-like structure where damaging water threatens to wash you away. Once you reach Mizrabel’s castle proper, you’ll have to contend with far more obstacles and face your greatest challenge as giant boulders try to crush you, bridges crumble beneath you, and Mickey must leap from cogs and gears and swinging pendulum’s in the castle’s clock tower.

Enemies and Bosses:
Being that the game is, essentially, a jaunt through a magical, fairytale-like setting, Mickey comes up against a whole host of enemies in his journey that vary from the painfully generic to the bizarre. You’ll go from butt-bouncing on sentient mushrooms, spiders, toy soldiers, bats, and chubby little bookworms to contending with juggling clowns on unicycles (which race at you once they’re riders are defeated), skeletal fish, and extremely annoying, bouncing letters of the alphabet.

CastleOfIllusionMDBosses
The game’s bosses aren’t much of a threat.

At the end of each Level, Mickey has to face a large boss, known as a Master of Illusion. These range from an angry tree that tries to drop acorns on your head, a jack-in-the-box that tries to punch you with boxing glove, a totem pole that can only be knocked down by butt-bouncing on the enemies it spews out, and a giant sweet dragon.

CastleOfIllusionMDWitch
Stay away from Mizrabel’s attacks and you’ll soon have Minnie back safe and sound.

After defeating the Masters of Illusion and getting through Mizrabel’s castle, Mickey has to face off with the witch herself at the top of her castle, with Minnie held captive in a magical balloon. Fittingly, Mizrabel assumes the form of a youthful sorceress for the battle, which sees Mickey having to keep to the high ground to avoid the witch’s swirling spirits and butt-bounce on her head in the small window of vulnerability she has. While none of these boss battles are particularly difficult, as they all stick to a very predictable attack pattern, there’s not a lot of call for Mickey’s projectiles during these fights and even Mizrabel is bested with relative ease simply by staying on the upper platforms.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There’s not a lot on offer here apart from the standard trope of being awarded an extra life when you collect enough points. You can, however, pick up bags that will gift you with a whole bunch of projectiles to throw and use your butt-bounce to reach higher and out of reach areas to find additional health, gems, and ammo but, apart from that, there’s no much else available to expand your health or arsenal.

Additional Features:
The game has three difficulty modes: Practice, Normal, and Hard. In Practice mode, you start with full health and won’t have to face any bosses and only need to collect three Gems and can continue four times after you exhaust all your tries but you won’t get the game’s true ending; in Normal and Hard, you start with three or two health points, respectively, and have to find all seven Gems and can continue two times in Normal but have no opportunity to continue in Hard mode; you also lose all items you’re carrying after losing a try, adding a level of difficulty to the game and requiring you to exhibit more skill than in its 8-bit successor.

CastleOfIllusionMDConclusion2

The Summary:
It’s easy to see why Castle of Illusion is so beloved; it’s a fun, charming little adventure that looks and feels just like you’re playing a cartoon. Mickey has always been dropped into this bright, colourful fairytale adventures, even when he made the transition to 3D titles, and these worlds are surprisingly fitting for Disney’s cheeky little mascot. Offering just the right level of challenge to keep you coming back for more, Castle of Illusion set the standard for Mickey’s subsequent 8- and 16-bit adventures, most of which deviated very little from this game’s core gameplay and mechanics. It might not be the best action/adventure platformer on the Mega Drive, or the fastest or most action-packed title, but it’s still a charming, whimsical romp that looks, plays, and sounds fantastic and is well worth your time.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think about Castle of Illusion? Where does it sit in your hierarchy of 16-bit Disney games? Did you ever play the remake from a few years ago? How do you think it compares to the original? Whatever your thoughts on Castle of Illusion, and Disney and Mickey games in general, drop a comment below and share your thoughts.

Game Corner: Global Gladiators (Mega Drive)

GameCorner
GlobalGladiatorsLogo

Released: 1992
Developer: Virgin Games USA
Also Available For: Amiga, Game Gear, and Master System

The Background:
You…you’ve heard of McDonald’s, right? The highly commercialised fast food chain founded in 1940 that, despite having the best milkshakes around, is (in my opinion) subpar to Burger King. Oh, sure, the Happy Meals are fun (especially back in my day, when they had far better toys and treats) but Burger King does this fantastic cheese and bacon burger that has the crispiest bacon, the gooiest cheese, and their meat actually tastes like it’s real meat and not some mass produced, watered down piece of off cuts.

GlobalGladiatorsAd
Unlike Sonic, Mick and Mack tried a bit too hard to be “cool”.

Anyway, McDonald’s was such a powerhouse back in the day that they ended up being behind a handful of videogames, including the unsubtly titled M.C. Kids (Various, 1992), a shameless rip-off of Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo EAD, 1990), introduced gamers to the titular “M.C. Kids” themselves, Mick and Mack, who had to travel around a magical McDonaldland collecting the restaurant’s iconic Golden Arches and helping out their now long-retired mascot, Ronald McDonald. Although released in the same year, the M.C. Kids saw a dramatic redesign in Global Gladiators, a pseudo-sequel that I actually first played on the Amiga and which carried a heavy emphasis on recycling and environmental responsibility. Both characters slimmed down, stuffed chewing gum into their mouths, armed themselves with Super Soakers goo-shooters, and, since “attitude” and being “cool” was all the range for platformers after the release of Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991), were reinterpreted as hip pre-teens who cared for nothing more than comic books, McDonald’s, and…protecting the environment. Because, yeah, sure, me and my friends were all about environmental awareness…especially when we ate at McDonald’s…

The Plot:
One day, while reading a Global Gladiators comic book in McDonald’s, Mick and Mack are magically transported into the comic’s pages by Ronald McDonald. Armed with goo-shooters, they journey across four worlds fighting against pollution and to protect the environment, all while collecting McDonald’s arches.

Gameplay:
Global Gladiators is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer with strong run-and-gun elements. From the “Options” menu, you can select one of three difficulties and also choose to play as either Mick or Mack. Functionally, they are exactly the same, but palette swapped (Mack is the Caucasian kid…), so it really doesn’t matter which one you pick; the game is only made for one player as well, which is really weird considering even Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (SEGA, 1990) had a turn-based two player mode…and that only had one playable character!

GlobalGladiatorsControls
Global Gladiators has two speeds: clunky and slow and uncontrollably fast!

Anyway, despite being young kids in the prime of their lives (and probably hyped up on McDonald’s food), Mick and Mack seem to have some difficulty in deciding whether they want to be fast, loose, and slippery or slow, heavy, and clunky. They start off at a painfully slow walk that soon turns to a trot and, eventually, a full-on sprint the longer you hold the direction; the faster you go, the more momentum you carry when you jump and the more likely it is that you’re going to crash head-on into an enemy. Luckily, the game’s jump is very useful; your character leaps quite high and you can control their direction in mid-air, but the game’s fast-paced, shoot-‘em-up action is mired in the fact that the titular Gladiators either plod clumsily forward and slip off of platforms or go rocketing away straight into a bottomless pit or a bed of spikes.

GlobalGladiatorsAttack
Blast enemies with goo but watch out for that recoil…

Each character wields a goo-shooter, which sprays some unidentified substance that generally eliminates enemies in one hit. The goo travels in a slight arc and you can only shoot in the direction you’re facing, meaning you’ll have to jump and shoot to hit higher enemies and duck and shoot to hit lower enemies. Considering the screen immediately scrolls down when you duck, this can make it difficult to properly aim at your target but, for the most part, the goo is quite a useful tool in your limited arsenal…provided you’re not standing too close to an edge. When you fire the goo-shooter, your character is knocked ever so slightly backwards thanks to the weapon’s…recoil, I guess?…which can be enough to nudge you into a pool of water or toxic waste, and to your death. If you shoot whilst running, this same recoil will stunt your momentum, which can be useful for avoiding damage but, more often than not, simply killed my momentum when I actually wanted to sprint ahead.

GlobalGladiatorsPoints
The more Golden Arches you collect, the more bonus points you can score at the stage’s end.

As you battle your way through the game’s handful of levels, you’ll collect different coloured Golden Arches; if you’re thinking that you need to collect a certain number of these to beat the game’s worlds, well, you’re in luck because you don’t. You are free to jump, sprint, and blast your way to each world’s goal (literally Ronald waving a flag) without collecting any Golden Arches, but you’ll miss out on the points they provide and the bonuses you get from collecting them at the end of the stage. If you collect seventy-five Golden Arches, you get to take on a Bonus Stage (which you can also practise from the game’s “Options”), which sees you avoiding anvils and recycling materials for bonus points.

GlobalGladiatorsItems
Grab a Continue Arrow or a Heart to increase your odds.

Global Gladiators only has four worlds but, like Sonic, each world has three stages, each of which is surprisingly big. There are many paths to take in each world; the higher path is usually fraught with more enemies while the lower path has pits and other instant-death traps (spikes, water, toxic waste, and bottomless pits). Continue Arrows are dotted around each world’s map, allowing you to respawn further into the stage when you die and, even better, you won’t lose the Golden Arches and points you’ve collected and the enemies you’ve destroyed stay dead; no respawning enemies here! Mick and Mack have a health meter at the bottom of the screen, which is represented as an arrow (conveniently, this arrow is also pointing right, which is the direction the goal is located). If you run into an enemy, they’ll be destroyed (which is good) but you’ll take damage (which is bad); most enemies spit or throw projectiles at you, meaning you’ll have to work around the game’s clunky controls to avoid being hit, and some stage hazards can result in instant death. Luckily, though, you can pick up a Heart to replenish your health and, like the Continue Arrows, these aren’t exactly plentiful but also aren’t exactly rare, either.

GlobalGladiatorsItems2
You’ll need those 1-Ups thanks to the abundance of instant-death hazards.

As with seemingly every single videogame of the time, you’re also working against a clock; when the timer reaches zero, you lose a life, but you can extend your time by picking up a Clock and, if you’re really lucky, you can grab a 1-Up or  earn an extra life by accumilating a high enough score. You can also find Continue Coins that will allow you to continue playing after all of your lives are exhausted, which is easily done considering the amount of enemies and hazards packed into the game’s worlds.

GlobalGladiatorsStages
There aren’t many levels and you’re not asked to do much in them.

Mick and Mack travel to three worlds in Global Gladiators: Slime World, Mystical Forest, Toxi-Town, and Arctic World. Each is themed around some kind of environmental message; the first, obviously, deals with pollution and the cleaning up of toxic waste, the second is deforestation, the third is centred around industrialisation and industrial pollution (kind of ironic given that McDonald’s restaurants wouldn’t be the powerhouse they are without industry…), and the fourth is, I guess, commenting on global warming? Honestly, it kind of falls apart the further you get away from Slime World, where you’ll battle slimy monsters and even destroy polluting machines; you might think these machines are crucial to clearing the world’s stages but they’re not and similar mechanisms don’t seem to appear in other worlds and, by the end, it just seems like you’re blasting generic enemies with your goo while hankering for a second-rate cheeseburger.

Graphics and Sound:
Global Gladiators is a visual treat; the game immediately blasts you right in the face with bright, colourful, well-animated graphics and sprites when you teleport into Slime World. While the game’s other stages aren’t quite as visually appealing in their presentation, Slime World does a great job setting the tone for this game; stages are dense, packed with colours, and different layers that can make other worlds, like Toxi-Town, a bit difficult to navigate as, not only can you take multiple paths, your way is often obstructed by foreground elements. Stages do change it up by changing season or colour palette as you progress, and there are often hidden paths or invisible blocks to jump across to reach more Golden Arches, Clocks, Hearts, or 1-Ups, which encourages exploration and experimentation.

GlobalGladiatorsGraphics
The game is bright and colourful, if a bit cluttered at times.

Sprites are large and full of life; Mick and Mack both incessantly chew on gum when left idle and sprint and hop around with a fluidity that makes it feel as though you’re playing a cartoon or comic book. The game’s enemies are equally large and well-animated but often blend in with their surrounding; Slime World, for example, is largely covered in green slime that is the same colour as the stage’s enemies and many of Mystical Forest’s stationary creatures tend to merge with their backgrounds.

GlobalGladiatorsCool
When a character describes themselves as “Awesome”, you know they’re awesome!

As soon as you shove in the cartridge, Global Gladiators blasts your ears with a loud, rap-inspired main theme that also doubles as a stage theme by the time you reach Arctic World. Luckily, the other worlds have themes that fit their aesthetic rather than being a distorted mess of synthesised sound bites and “hip” music. As you collect points and bonuses, your character will also spew out exclamations such as “Awesome!” and “Cool!” just to remind you that these environmentalists are radical and have attitude. Remember how Sonic just was cool and hip without having to literally shout about it (in the videogames, at least)? That is how you know a character is cool, not yelling it out while sporting a knock-off Super Soaker and saving the environment on behalf of McDonald’s.

Enemies and Bosses:
Each of Global Gladiators’ worlds is filled with enemies unique to their theme; there’s no recurring enemies here, which is nice, and each world has slightly different obstacles to overcome. In Slime World, for example, most of the enemies are globs of toxic waste that spit projectiles at you but, in Arctic World, you’ll contend with more aerial enemies and be navigating more platforms rather than dodging projectiles.

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Some enemies are more interesting than others.

However, Global Gladiators loses some of the distinctiveness of its enemy design once you get to Mystical Forest. From then on, you’re battling the likes of sentient axes, man-eating plants, living fireballs, and (of course) bats. Luckily, these appear alongside such weird creatures as garbage-throwing anthropomorphic trashcans, log-throwing beavers, and sliding polar bears.

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Global Gladiators features a grand total of…one boss…

What isn’t so great, however, is the fact that Global Gladiators features a grand total of one boss. Yep, four worlds, with three stages each, and you’ll only battle a boss at the end of Arctic World…and it’s two angry faces set into blocks of ice, one on the left-side of the screen and one on the right. Each only attacks you when it’s on screen, and even then all they do is spit bats at you or cause icicles to fall from the ceiling. The most difficult part of this boss is not falling into the instant-death spikes and actually hitting their weak spot, which is their just in-reach eyes; you also have to defeat each face in turn and you’ll know when you’ve done it because the game abruptly ends and wraps up its paper-thin story.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Disappointingly, Global Gladiators doesn’t feature any power-ups at all. There’s no speed up, no invincibility, no way to improve your goo-shooter, and no smart bomb to clear out all onscreen enemies. Honestly, I find this very surprising considering when it was released but, when you’re playing Global Gladiators, the best you’ll get are extra lives, extra points, extra time, and the chance to play the Bonus Stage if you collect enough Golden Arches…where you can earn more points and extra lives.

Additional Features:
There aren’t any.

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There are Bonus Stages…for what it’s worth…

Oh, sure, you could play through the game as Mack instead of Mick, or take on one of the other difficulty settings but there’s very little incentive to do this beyond attaining a better high score and, I guess, bragging rights. You can input a few button combinations from the pause menu to gain one extra life or skip the stage you’re on, but I wasn’t able to access the supposed cheat menu so I can’t say if there’s more to be gained from blasting through Global Gladiators with cheats enabled.

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The Summary:
Global Gladiators is quite a cumbersome little title; the controls are very stiff and awkward but, once you get used to them and the way the game handles its momentum and physics, it’s a lot of fun. The game is gorgeous to look at, well animated, full of life and vigour, and has a very catchy and upbeat soundtrack but it can’t be denied that there are better colourful run-and-gun platformers from that time available. It’s easily the best of the McDonald’s-branded videogames, though, thanks to its more action-orientated approach; perhaps if it were longer, had more bosses, and allowed (at least) a turn-based two-player mode it would have been better but, as it is, it’s a decent enough way to waste an hour or two and nothing more.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever play Global Gladiators? Which of the two titular characters was your favourite? Where do you rate it in the surprisingly long history of McDonald’s videogames? When you visit McDonald’s, what do you tend to order? Do you also prefer Burger King? What is your favourite Mega Drive title? No matter what, drop a comment below.

Game Corner: RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Mega Drive)

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Released: May 1994
Developer: Virgin Games USA
Also Available For: Game Gear, Master System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Game Boy

The Background:
One of the greatest things about comic books published in the nineties was that the sky was, seemingly, the limit for plots, crossovers, and all kinds of stories to be told. Thanks to Dark Horse Comics snapping up the rights to some of the biggest science-fiction/horror franchises of the time, we got to see not only the likes of Aliens vs. Predator but also the cybernetic clash you always wanted to see in a movie but never got, RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Miller, et al, 1992). Given that the comic was written some time before Frank Miller flushed his reputation down the toilet with The Dark Knight Strikes Back (2001 to 2002), the RoboCop Versus The Terminator was relatively well-written, action-packed fun. The general premise was that RoboCop’s artificial intelligence (A.I.) formed the basis of the world-killing Skynet, which sent Terminators back through time to protect him and ensure its survival. Cue a time-line hopping, reality-bending story that sees RoboCop reduced to his digital consciousness, construct a fully robotic body, and travel back in time to destroy Skynet once and for all. It’s a pretty mental comic but, like Aliens vs. Predator, a fantastic concept that, apparently, had enough legs to warrant a videogame released on a number of consoles. I had owned and played the Master System version for years but, once I set my literal come corner up in my cabin, I knew that I had to track down the superior Mega Drive version.

The Plot:
Unwittingly responsible for the creation of Skynet, RoboCop must battle from the streets of Detroit, to the offices of Cyberdyne, to a war-ravaged future eradicating the Terminator threat and freeing hostages as he goes to ensure a future free from Skynet’s influence.

Gameplay:
Like the majority of videogames based on the RoboCop (Various, 1987 to present) and Terminator (Various, 1984 to present) movies, RoboCop Versus The Terminator is a side-scrolling action shooter with light platforming elements. Unlike the Alien vs. Predator (Capcom, 1994) arcade game, this is a strictly one-player experience that sees the player control RoboCop, who must blast his way through about ten levels taking out the likes of regular street thugs and Terminator alike. As much as I love RoboCop, he’s always a terrible character to control and play as; even in the excellent RoboCop (Data East, 1987) arcade game he was a slow, plodding hunk of metal and it’s more of the same here. RoboCop lumbers his way through levels at a steady pace, hopping half-heartedly to platforms (and, amusingly, monkeying his way across lines and pipes) and struggling to dodge incoming fire. While this is obviously a realistic way to portray RoboCop (who, despite being a massive efficient combat shooter, has never been the most versatile of sci-fi cyborgs), it does mean you can’t just plough ahead guns blazing.

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RoboCop has a real weight to him.

Instead, it’s best to hang back and keep an eye on enemy projectiles, ducking and hopping out of the way as best you can considering RoboCop’s massive hit box. Thankfully, many of the game’s environments are destructible and will yield all kinds of goodies, from baby food that will restore Robo’s health to extra lives and weapons. There are also loads of secret rooms to be found that hold similar rewards, encouraging exploration. RoboCop is armed with his trademark Auto-9 handgun and can fire in multiple directions; this alone is more than enough to take out most of the enemies he’ll come up against but, if you get up close to enemies, you can also punch them, and you can acquire bigger, better weapons as you make your way through the game’s levels. You can switch between these with a button press but, once your health is drained and you lose a life, you’ll lose one of your weapons until you return to the default Auto-9. the good news is that RoboCop can take a fair amount of damage and will return to action right on the spot where he fell, but the bad news is that it doesn’t take much to drain Robo’s health and there are a few occasions where environmental hazards (like vats of toxic waste or flaming pits) will instantly kill RoboCop.

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Rescue hostages to refill health and score points.

While RoboCop is generally given simple objectives (like cleaning up the streets or destroying the Terminator threat), some levels will see him having to rescue a number of hostages. Upon being rescued, a portion of Robo’s health will be restored, which is helpful; also helpful is that it doesn’t appear to be a requirement to clearing the level to rescue these hostages; when you see them, you can touch them to rescue them but I never reached the end of a level and was told I’d failed or was forced to go back and save any hostages I’d missed, so it’s more about gaining health and points than a level-clearing obligation. Yes, like pretty much every videogame ever made, there’s a nice little score tally at the bottom of the screen that’ll increase as you take out enemies, rescue hostages, and collect items. Earn enough points and you’ll gain an extra life, which you’ll need as the game ramps up in difficulty as you progress from the thug-infested streets of Detroit to the robot-infested headquarters of the killer A.I. known as Skynet. It’s around this point that you’ll struggle a bit with RoboCop’s controls, hit box, and clunkiness; Terminators of all shapes and sizes (from the traditional T-800s, to the robotic endoskeletons, to spider-like drones and wall-and-ceiling-mounted cannons) will unleash a hailstorm of projectiles your way and you’ll need all of your best weapons and skills to make it through the game’s bullet sponge of a final boss.

Graphics and Sound:
Coming off of the Master System version (which, honestly, isn’t too and compared to some Master System ports), RoboCop Versus The Terminator boasts some gorgeous in-game graphics. RoboCop and his various enemies are big, fantastically-detailed sprites; while this does mean they have large hit boxes, it makes for some impressive, arcade-quality graphics.

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Come for the cyborgs, stay for the gore!

One of the most enjoyable things about RoboCop Versus The Terminator is the copious amounts of gore it contains; when you blast away thugs, they explode in a bloody mess and it’s absolutely glorious. You’ll miss these effects once the Terminators begin to take precedence as the game’s primary enemies but, even then, you’ll see the T-800’s skin degenerate until only the endoskeleton is left, which is a nice addition. Alongside a few choice sound bites from the first RoboCop movie, the game features a techno-inspired soundtrack with a lot of beats and rocking bass; there’s some odd choices, like a sultry voice blurting out “Terminator!” every ten seconds or so but, while the game doesn’t feature either of the iconic themes from the two franchises, its techno-inspired beats seem heavily inspired by both.

Enemies and Bosses:
RoboCop will initially face little resistance from the street thugs of Detroit; they’ll shoot at him, sometimes from behind windows, and get in his way but they’re small fry and easily dispatched with a single shot.

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The T-800’s façade can be destroyed, revealing the robotic endoskeleton.

At the end of the second level, though, RoboCop comes face-to-face with a T-800 Terminator modelled closely on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appearance from the end of the first film and the majority of the second. As a boss, this guy obviously takes more hits, degenerating from a fully clothed and skinned appearance to the iconic Terminator endoskeleton as the battle progresses. After this, similar Terminators will begin to appear as regular enemies; the Arnold models will take around three hits to put down (one to blast away the façade and two to destroy the endoskeleton) while the endoskeletons will take around two. Smaller Terminator drones also show up to spew projectiles at you as you journey deeper into the future and Skynet, but you’ll also encounter red Terminators, which are endoskeletons that take even more hits to put down.

You’ll also battle some classic RoboCop enemies, though Skynet is a giant floating skull…

You’ll also battle some iconic RoboCop bosses, such as ED-209 and (rather inexplicably) RoboCop 2 (or “RoboCain”), each of which are guarding the facilities and offices or RoboCop’s megalomaniacal creators, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). Once RoboCop travels to the war-torn future, he’ll battle bosses such as Terminator-controlled gatling guns, super-powered endoskeletons, and Skynet itself. Skynet is represented as a giant floating endoskeleton head that tosses small drones and projectiles at you while endoskeletons march in from either the left or the right side of the screen. This final battle is, honestly, a little underwhelming (though, honestly, most of the game’s bosses are after the first few and you’ve finished with RoboCain and Ed-209); you’ll have your work cut out for you to dodge all of the projectiles it throws at you and to unload enough bullets to finally do it in but I can’t help but feel the game missed out by not including a T-1000 battle or a final boss more reminiscent of the giant liquid metal T-1000000 spider from T2-3D: Battle Across Time (Cameron, Bruno, and Winston, 1996).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned, there are a variety of power-ups RoboCop can collect as he explores (and destroys) each level; baby food will replenish his health, little RoboCop heads will grant an extra life, and shields will grant RoboCop a generous period of invincibility.

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RoboCop can even fire ED-209’s arm cannon!

Most notably, though, RoboCop can acquire a variety of bigger, better guns which will dramatically increase his odds of survival; we’ve got everything from a traditional three-way spread to a grenade launcher, to homing missiles and a laser pistol. You can also grab one of ED-209’s arm cannons from a rapid fire burst, which is a pretty great little bonus; you can grab one of these during the boss battle with ED-209 but they do crop up in secret rooms and other areas of the game, too,

Additional Features:
There are three difficulty settings to pick from, each one carries a different set of lives, continues, and affects the amount of damage RoboCop can take. If you play on the hardest setting, enemies will be much more aggressive and the arrows that show you the way to go will also be missing. Aside from that, the only real incentive to replay again is to find all the secret rooms. As with all great old school games like this, there are a variety of cheats you can input that will grant you a whole bunch of lives and let you pick from all the available weapons. Unfortunately, though, you can only play as RoboCop; the narrative is geared in a way where Robo is the hero and the Terminators are the enemy but it might have been nice to see a mode where you play as a reprogrammed T-800.

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The Summary:
RoboCop Versus The Terminator is a blast to play; while RoboCop is a clunky and cumbersome videogame protagonist at the best of times, you really get the sense that you’re playing as RoboCop and his quick-firing weapon and variety of additional armaments more than makes up for his heavy, stilted control. It also helps that there’s not many cheap deaths here; projectiles can come at you quickly but each enemy has a specific pattern that you can learn and exploit and, given the generous amount of health and power-ups on offer, there are instances when it’s okay to plough ahead guns blazing. Some levels can be a bit of a maze but, other than that, it’s worth it for the gore and the joy of seeing RoboCop punch a Terminator right in the face.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think of RoboCop Versus The Terminator? What is your favourite RoboCop or Terminator videogame? What did you think of Frank Miller’s comic book? Do you think we missed out on seeing these two sci-fi icons clash on the big screen? Whatever you think, feel free to leave a comment below.