Genre: Platformer Developer: Headgames Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1992
That popular Tasmanian Devil that we all know as Taz is sitting at home one day listening to a family member tell a compelling story about how the land of Tazmania was once ruled by giant prehistoric seabirds. We all know that Taz is among the biggest of fans of eating almost everything in sight and upon hearing the story, he just can’t wait to run, or spin, as fast as he can out the door to find one of these giant eggs to greedily satisfy his ever-growing hunger.
Back when I had just received a Sega Genesis for Christmas and still didn’t have any games other than the great Sonic The Hedgehog, I remember seeing a certain commercial of Taz-Mania countless times on TV. Its graphics were unbelievable, it looked a lot like a real cartoon, and I absolutely had to have it! I bought it the first chance I got with my own money.
All the adventures of Taz-Mania take place in Tasmania, the island country that’s right off the south eastern coast of Australia. There are several different kinds of terrain and climates that Taz must venture through en route to finding and seizing his luxurious snack. Not-so-deserted deserts with quicksand that will eat anything stuck inside, frozen landscapes packed with slippery ground and water that can freeze a Tasmanian Devil to death in seconds, and hyperactive jungles with steep, deadly cliffs are only a few of the places that Taz must get past in this action-packed 2-D platformer.
The gameplay is just like that of the typical platformer, for the most part. While making your way through the various landscapes, you’ll be doing a lot of jumping from platform to platform, collecting items for energy and extra lives, and so on. Of course, you can get rid of certain adversaries by jumping on top of their heads, but Taz’s main nemesis-defeating tactic will be to use his whirling attack in which he literally spins so fast that he looks like a real-life tornado. There are, however, a few fun parts to experience in Taz-Mania. You’ll have to ride an underground mine cart and use a switch to make the cart ‘stand up’, so to speak, to avoid crashing into stationary parts of the tracks that are in the way. In the ice level, you can stand on floating pieces of ice and they will instantly sink from your overbearing weight. Most of the time, this will result in your touching the below zero temperatures of the water and literally being frozen into an ice cube if you stand on it too long, but stand on one certain chunk of floating ice and you won’t fall into the water. Instead, Taz will fall through a hole and instantly be underground amongst a bunch of tasty, energizing foods, and maybe even an extra life or two. I like that.
Taz will encounter several different kinds of enemies throughout his quest. Walking creatures made of stone open their mouths and try to touch Taz with their tongue; grey octopi that seem to be stranded on dry land continuously jump toward you and packs of pink jungle rats stand upright on two legs throwing spears at you as though your head were a bull’s eye. After you complete a few levels, you’ll come face to face with a boss, such as a Taz clone or the bushy-haired, shirtless boy that you’ve probably seen many times in the cartoon series.
Even more dangerous than the enemies who are alive and kicking are the natural hazards that Taz must look out for in each level. Quicksand can swallow you whole in a matter of seconds, and water seems to be Taz’s most hated obstacle. You’ll see what I mean when you play the level in which you must make your way across short pieces of land and floating logs in the water. Touching the water makes Taz jump straight up as if he were springing off a trampoline, and it takes away energy too. Taz no swim! Taz-Mania isn’t really a difficult game to beat, but most of the levels are pretty big, and you will die quite a few times while you’re playing. It would suck to have to start all the way from the beginning every time you die, so it’s fortunate that there are a lot of checkpoints.
While playing and enjoying Taz-Mania, you’ll notice that, like he did in the watchable cartoon series, Taz has an attitude in this game, and it can be fairly amusing. For example, let Taz stand still for a few seconds without pressing any buttons. After awhile, he’ll spin around in anger, tell you to hurry up, and then begin stamping his feet to the new music.
You will also see that Taz-Mania’s graphics are done very well. Whether it’s the dried up river bed in the background of the desert, the ”Now that looks just like a real cartoon!” thoughts that will pop into your head as you watch the intro to the game, or the superb animation of Taz and the majority of the enemies, Taz-Mania more than gets the job done in the graphics department. On the other hand, the sounds could’ve been much better. When you hurl Taz’s spinning body into an enemy, eat something, or die, you’ll hear sounds that are convincing, but not exceptional. The same goes for the music. It’s decent enough, but none of the tunes stand out from the crowd as being great, or even memorable.
It can sometimes be tough to land exactly where you want to with the controls, but after several plays, controlling Taz shouldn’t be much of a hassle. The biggest fuss I have with Taz-Mania is the fact that you have to take a lot of ”leaps of faith.” For instance, there’s a level in which you’ll mostly be jumping from elevator to elevator. You’re standing in an open elevator that is slowly moving left and right at a constant pace. To your right, you see another elevator that is moving extremely quickly in a sort of circular pattern. You must jump and land inside that elevator. It might sound easy, but it’s not, because as you’re jumping, that elevator is off the screen. In one of the jungle stages, you’ll reach the edge of a certain cliff that’s way up in the air. When you look in all directions around you, you don’t see where the hell you need to go. You assume that since this is a side-scrolling platformer that you need to jump to the right and that you’ll hopefully land on firm ground. Sometimes you will, but sometimes you won’t.
Apart from that and the fact that it’s only a one-player game (this isn’t a biggie, but two-player capability would’ve been nice), I have no real problems with Taz-Mania. It has great graphics, decent enough sounds and controls, and there’s just something about it that makes it addicting. I find myself coming back to the game and playing it from start to finish often, and I always enjoy it, except for two or three levels.
Taz-Mania may not quite be a classic, but if you’re a fan of platformers, it’s well worth adding to your Sega Genesis collection.