Genre: Platformer Developer: Codemasters Publisher: Codemasters Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
Platform games compose a large part of the Genesis library, so it’s quite easy to miss one here and there. When a particular title only stays in a single region, it can be years before the rest of the world actually gets a chance to experience it. Man Overboard: S. S. Lucifer most likely fell into that category, as it never made its way to American shores.
I like to view Man Overboard as a thinking man’s Flicky. The basic premise of shepherding defenseless friends to a predetermined exit is the same, but here it’s taken up a notch. Whereas Flicky‘s challenge stemmed from the enemies that relentlessly pursued you and your little flock, Man Overboard pits the levels themselves against you. Since your mission is to rescue crewmen from sinking ships, you’re going to have to find safe routes around flooded sections, loose wiring, fire, and other disastrous obstacles typical of such a situation. Unfortunately for you, these crewmen are like lemmings, in that they move in a single direction only. The only way to make them alter their movement is by activating conveyer belts, letting them pass by a ladder and by opening passages.
The last method is what makes things tricky. Bulkheads can be blown open using your handy bombs, but staying too close can take you along in the ensuing explosion. Furthermore, if you blast open the wrong path, the single-minded crew will barrel helplessly on to their deaths. The key is to know which doors and obstacles to blow out of the way, and sometimes you might even have to use them to your advantage, as opposed to destroying them. For example, when faced with a vat of freezing water, you can manipulate the conveyer belts to drop blocks of ice into it, creating a bridge for your troop to cross safely. The problem with this is that if you leave the crew unattended, they might end up dead. Success requires a delicate balance of keeping an eye on them and learning the lay of the land.
Luckily, you have an infinite number of bombs, and there’s a handy password system to let you pick up again when you need a break. The game isn’t overly hard, but it can become pretty challenging in the latter stages (as all good puzzle/platformers should. Are you listening to me, Crater Maze?). You’re not required to save every single crewmen, but you score some great bonus points if everyone makes it out safely.
The simplicity of the gameplay is pretty much complimented by the presentation. The visuals have the same special Euro-Genesis feel the James Pond series featured, and they’re really very clean and colorful. There’s some occasional parallax scrolling, but overall, Man Overboard gets the job done graphically.
The same can’t be said for the music though. Tinny and repetitive, you’ll be thankful for your stereo’s mute button. I feel that a great soundtrack is key to this type of game, as demonstrated by such classics as Bubble Bobble and Solomon’s Key. If you’re not going to impress visually, you could at least try with the music. The same could be said for the sounds, which are practically non-exisitant. Why not give me little cries of help as the crewmen run for their lives? How about a Operation Wolf-like “thank you” as they reach the exit? C’mon, throw me a bone here!
Even so, I think most people will enjoy Man Overboard. In the tradition of Wani Wani World and the aforementioned Flicky, it offers a good combination of fun platforming action with good visuals and a decent challenge. As long as you have something to listen to while you play, you should be fine. U.S. gamers will most likely have to check eBay for a copy and should be able to find one cheap enough. While not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, Man Overboard: S. S. Lucifer is a good way to kill an afternoon.
SCORE: 6 out of 10