Genre: Action Developer: Sega Technical Institute Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1995
Ah yes, Sega Technical Institute. At one time probably the best development team within Sega (along with Sonic Team naturally), Sega Technical Institute was responsible for awesome Genesis games like Kid Chameleon and Comix Zone, while varying members of the team also had their hands in games like Sonic Spinball and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. They were also behind The Ooze, an inventive and surprisingly original action/puzzle game that was released in the waning days of the Genesis’ life cycle.
The story of The Ooze goes something like this: Dr. Caine is a scientist that discovers his employers are going to release the toxic gases he himself created on the population, in an effort to get filthy rich since they hold the cure. Upon being discovered, Caine is seemingly killed by said toxic waste, only to be reborn as a moving, functioning puddle of slime (yes, you read that right). Now he’s on a mission to get revenge on his former employers, as well as try to find a way to bring himself back to his human form in the process.
You control Caine as this sentient puddle of green slime and traverse some dangerous areas and solve some puzzles. You can attack enemies by either stretching a slimy limb to attack, or spit little slime pellets which decreases your size. The size of your Caine-puddle also depletes as you get hit or otherwise take damage, which will happen quite a bit on your journey. Yes folks, The Ooze is one challenging game to be sure. In all the years I’ve played this game off and on, I have only ever beaten it once, and I didn’t get the good ending either. That’s right, there is a good ending, and a bad ending. To get the good ending you must collect all 50 strands of DNA sprinkled throughout the game’s stages if you have any hope of being returned to your normal self. I didn’t get that ending because I just didn’t pay enough attention to what all was going on around me. That’s the key to getting far in this game; you have to pay attention to everything going on around you, and if you don’t, you may as well just pop the cartridge out because you’re not going to get very far. Environmental hazards pop up aplenty, from falling off the edge of a ledge or getting sucked down a drain, so you must constantly be aware of your surroundings. This game is no joke, and it can be quite frustrating to boot.
Graphically speaking The Ooze looks good. A number of late-in-life Genesis titles featured some great graphics that surprised many, ranging from Comix Zone, The Lost World, and more besides. The Ooze is one of these games as well, offering colorful characters and sharply defined environments throughout. The game also features some great music and sound effects as well, which was really a staple of the products that came out of Sega Technical Institute at the time. In fact, a lot of what The Ooze has to offer are staples of what made the STI such a beloved inner-division of Sega at the time. Games that featured quality graphics and even more quality gameplay that kept gamers coming back again and again. It was because of games like The Ooze and the aforementioned Comix Zone and other Sega Technical Institute gems that helped extend the life of the Genesis probably longer than it should have gone on for.
While The Ooze isn’t quite a classic of the Genesis/Mega Drive library, it is one of those not-so-well-known little gems that can be found if you look hard enough. The game is easily found enough on eBay and other places online to warrant checking it out for yourself, which you should wholeheartedly do. Keep in mind, however, that this is one challenging, and occasionally frustrating game that really does deliver the goods in terms of what we all look for in classic 16-bit Genesis gaming. It’s a shame that Sega Technical Institute as we all knew it didn’t stick together for too long as the years after the release of The Ooze crept along (I for one would have loved a sequel), but this game alone is just a sample of the impact that they had not only on the Genesis, but on Sega’s legacy as a whole.