Genre: Beat-’Em-Up Developer: Software Creations Ltd. Publisher: Fox Interactive Players: 1 Released: 1994
Ah, The Tick. I’d never heard of its comic genesis (no pun intended) prior to being animated, but I quickly fell in love with it, and it was by far my favorite Saturday morning cartoon when it was on for its three-season tenure. The long overdue live-action follow up suffered a quicker extinction but inherited many of the qualities of the cartoon version and had much potential. So naturally, when a video game version of my beloved nigh-invulnerable arachnid was in the works, I jumped with glee. Unfortunately, much like swimming with jellyfish, pain set in quickly and repeatedly. Then I remembered that licenses based on cartoons and movies are very hit and miss; this one missed the broadside of the barn.
It starts off straightforward enough. As the Tick, you traverse the city, dishing out justice to all the evil that plagues it. You’ll face ninjas, The Idea Men, Chairface Chippendale, and many more of his classic enemies. Rooftops will be leaped (and in a ballet graceful style, to boot), streets patrolled, lairs traversed, and Moon-altering machines shall be destroyed. Along with your sidekick Arthur (whom you can call for in emergencies), as well as the occasional double-team with hardened veterans like American Maid, Paul the Samurai and Die Fledermaus, you can dish out four-fisted righteousness with each others’ backs protected. Will the Tick save the day? Only you can know that.
Too bad the game is crap. No, really. It is the epitome of lazy programming, minimal budget, and quick turnaround craftsmanship. It caters to the lowest common denominator for being a beat-’em-up. The all powerful Tick has two basic attacks, punch and kick, and with punch having less range it is the less desirable of the two attacks. You can jump kick as well, but it won’t do you much good since no enemies jump. Furthermore, combos are here in a very limited sense. For example, mashing on the punch or kick button multiple times will yield you a knockdown of the enemy, and if using punch, you get to see a handful of seemingly random animations, like the Tick flicking the enemy back with his index finger.
Team ups, you say? Well, again, it is hardly such. Grab a clenched fist icon and another regular superhero comes in, and you both face back-to-back. Did I mention that you can’t turn around now, only “walk backwards”? What about the single-digit animation that your teammate has? One frame for punch, and one for kick; they don’t even get a combo, just the same single frame over and over. After that area is cleared, they disappear. Bah. Oh, and Arthur? He’s sort of a desperation move where he flies in and destroys all enemies on screen for you. This is the extent of his use, and hardly seems justified. The Human Bullet? He will randomly fly in and land face first on the ground, seemingly missing everything. Don’t be in his path or expect pain. He seemed much more like an afterthought, and if you’re not a fan of the series you won’t recognize who or what, he is.
If this doesn’t put you to sleep, then the level progression will. You have two main stage layouts: rooftops and city streets, and they only progress from left to right. A small handful of stages mix up the pattern a bit, but they’re hurt by the muted colors, static backgrounds, and minimal imagination into the layout. Swarm after swarm of enemies — mainly ninjas for the first part of the game — come out, you beat them up, and progress a bit more. This is the pace for the whole game. They all have weapons that are dropped when you first attack them, which is the extent of tactics that you will require. The music used in the game is all from the series, which is a nice touch, and Tick does his “Spoon!” battle cry on occasion, but they, too, don’t do enough to lift the game up from mediocrity. Boss battles, if they can be called that, are equally shallow. Save for Chairface’s battle, each showdown is pathetic in structure. Hit, dodge, hit, dodge, repeat as necessary. No skill necessary.
After all is said and done, the game is nothing more than a great theme in a poor game. While the SNES also received its own version, it was more or less a clone of what we received, so no advantage there. If you’re a fan you’ll get mild enjoyment out of it, but if you can survive the countless hours of punch, kick, and walk; then you’re a better person than I am.